Ten years ago, eating at vegan and vegetarian restaurants in NYC meant flavorless seitan “steaks” and dry veggie burgers that fell apart as you tried to take the first bite. Today, meat-free diners can go anywhere from authentic Israeli falafel joints to star chef’s Jean-Georges Vongeritchen’s newest opening, all without fear of chicken broth or beef burger contamination. The city’s best vegetarian-friendly restaurants aren’t trying to hide the fare behind meat substitutes. Rather, they’re celebrating and elevating the vegetable to a point where even your most carnivorous friends can come along without fear of missing the best BBQ dishes. Read on for New York City’s best vegetarian restaurants.
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Best vegetarian restaurants in NYC
You haven’t had falafel until you’ve tasted chef Einat Admony’s superb variations. In addition to the traditional preparation made with parsley, cilantro and mint, there is also a Tunisian-spiced version and a rich Kalamata olive. Wolf them down in a pita sandwich that’s spiked with tahini or nestle them in a platter with hummus, Israeli salad and tabouli.
The name means “fine day” in Japanese, and at this understated Murray Hill boite, diners will surely be delighted by the rare shojin cuisine that’s on offer. The fare has its origins in Zen Buddhism and while there’s no meat or fish, many call it the purest form of Japanese food. Be warned: The plating during this kaiseki meal is so beautiful, you almost don’t want to eat it. Almost.
In a neighborhood filled with cool-kid hangouts, this Nolita spot still draws lines around the block. And for good reason: the sun-drenched dining room feels more like Manhattan Beach than Manhattan. Brave the wait for brunch, where you can feast on seven-grain French toast piled high with fruit or bean bowls made with sunny-side-up eggs and wild purple rice. No time to sit? Grab one of the excellent smoothies to go.
Is one of New York’s best burgers really meatless? Its adoring fans—both carnivores and vegetarians alike—will tell you: yes. The hearty patty, especially when topped with a slice of melted muenster, is just as satisfying as any beef burger. The chef’s pedigree is also not to be overlooked: Brooks Headley was the James Beard Award–winning pastry chef at Del Posto before trading in veloutés for veggies.
Don’t look for tofurkey at this Michelin-starred eatery in Greenwich Village. At the place run by celebrated chef John Fraser, vegetables get the meat treatment, like the braised cabbage “shoulder,” which is served with potato puree and shaved winter truffles. The cocktails are equally intricate; most are concocted with fresh fruit purees and herbs, resulting in tipples that are refreshing and very unique.
The grande dame of nouveau vegetarian restaurants, this perpetually buzzing Lower East Side joint was one of the first to make no meat way cool. Don’t miss the Insta-famous and ultra-healthy Brussels sprout tacos, which are served on a sizzling stone like fajitas and wrapped with lettuce leaves. Fun fact: Dirt Candy was the first restaurant in NYC to eliminate tipping.
An offshoot of a Mumbai chain that has been in operation since 1952, this Curry Hill spot has samosas and other chaats (savory snacks) down to a science. And while a full meal can be made of just ordering nibbles from the chaat bar, you’d be remiss to not try one of its creamy paneer entrees. Our favorite is the paneer bhurji, made with grated cheese and redolent of its proprietary spice blend.
One of 2017’s most hotly anticipated openings, this airy spot from Jean-Georges Vongerichten completes the ABC trifecta near Union Square. It’s worth being late to the office for its breakfast offerings, especially the vanilla chia bowl served with dates, cacao, brazil nuts, hemp and fruit. Wash it all down with the unique selection of herbal, mood-enhancing tonics and elixirs, or try the delightful house-made kombucha.
Generations of loyal fans cheered when this stalwart reopened after the 2015 East Village gas explosion. After all, this sliver of a kosher restaurant and dairy has been churning out crispy fried pierogi and gooey grilled cheese on challah since 1938. There aren’t many establishments left like this one, and judging from the crowds at peak hours, New Yorkers are thrilled to see its return.