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The best healthy restaurants in NYC

Forget limp lettuce—these resolution-friendly menus at healthy restaurants cut the calories but keep the yum

By Time Out contributors

We get it: Keeping New Year's resolutions can be tough. Hell, choosing so-called healthy plates over decadent dishes and snackable cheap eats is downright torture. But this year, we found the best New York restaurants to keep your goals on track so you can ditch the kale salad and chow down on better-for-you brunch or border-crossing take-out instead.

RECOMMENDED: See all of the best restaurants in NYC

Best healthy restaurants

Ethiopian restaurant
Photograph: Erica Gannett

1. Bunna Cafe

Restaurants Ethiopian East Williamsburg

From wandering vegan pop-up to Bushwick brick-and-mortar, this veg den from Ethopian expat Liyuw Ayalew serves diet-abiding combos of five ($11) or seven dishes ($15). Opt for duba wot (sweet pumpkin cubes plunked in spicy berbere), yatakilt alicha (turmeric-spiced cabbage and potatoes) and enguday tibs (meaty portobello mushrooms sautéed in garlic, rosemary and ginger), but ask for extra injera, the supple sourdough flatbread, to sop up all those luscious sauces. 

2. Souen

Restaurants Japanese Soho

Not strictly vegetarian or vegan, and definitely not raw, Souen offers natural, organic foods with no dairy, wheat, sugar, chemicals, preservatives or meat in a clean, bright and peaceful setting. The Asian-influenced menu is extensive: teriyaki or ginger-steamed fish, broccoli tofu and stir-fried soba noodles with vegetables. But don’t be distracted from the chalkboard specials, which reveal the freshest fish choices and other interesting twists on the basics. Servers seem oddly eager to see you leave (guard your plate if you’re not finished or want to take home leftovers), so do them and yourself a favor and skip the bland desserts.



Restaurants Vegetarian Flatiron

Though the ABC brand has always been taken with hyperfresh produce—no doubt buoyed by the complex’s proximity to the Union Square Greenmarket—ABCV is Vongerichten’s first meat-free spot, and his first ABC project without Dan Kluger in the kitchen. (Kluger left the group in 2014 to open Loring Place.) Instead, chef de cuisine Neal Harden (formerly of the prominent raw-food restaurant Pure Food and Wine) oversees the burners and challenges vegetarian eating’s bland, Bikram-yogi connotations with bold flavors and global zest. Beluga lentils thrum with black vinegar ($13), carpaccio-thin slices of

4. Ladybird

Restaurants Vegan East Village

New Yorkers are well past the days when it was surprising that vegetarian food actually tasted good. We’ve had Superiority Burger’s mashed-bean patty, umami-loaded with roasted plum tomatoes and melted Muenster; Dirt Candy’s crackly, brazenly battered broccoli; and Nix’s potato fry bread, gorged with white cheddar and sour cream. This isn’t just vegetarian food that’s good—it’s vegetarian that’s exciting, unadulterated and worth jonesing for. Ravi DeRossi threw a log on that metaphorical fire when he opened Avant Garden last September, an East Village veg outfit where potato cannelloni are filled with rich pine-nut ricotta and beet tartare is paired with the creamy comforts of guacamole. That restaurant garnered strong reviews (I personally gave it four stars), and DeRossi responded by transitioning many of his venues to vegetarianism, including his 12-year-old, fondue-loving Bourgeois Pig, which shuttered to make way for his plant-based tapas bar, Ladybird. At Ladybird, the room alone—a jewel box of white marble, emerald velvet and gleaming gold—can distract you from the fact that there’s no meat on your plate. But executive chef Daphne Cheng, who veganified the Mother of Pearl menu and is doing the same for DeRossi’s bar Cienfuegos, does considerable work in making vegan eating as easygoing as shareable tapas. A satisfyingly thick chardonnay-splashed “fondue” is served with crunchy rounds of focaccia and a slate of fresh vegetables ($28); you’ll be too busy dunking purple c

Candle 79
Photograph: Kate Mathis

5. Candle 79

Restaurants Vegan Upper East Side

This upscale vegetarian spot is ideal for anyone who loves food or animals. The intimate, bi-level townhouse possesses an ambience that gourmet-minded vegetarians crave but rarely encounter. Best is the food itself—fresh, creative and considerate (a separate gluten-free menu keeps celiacs sated). Delectable dishes include the seitan piccata, crisp medallions in a light bath of lemon butter and capers, and the saffron-flavored paella, studded with seitan sausage and seasonal veggies. Service is knowledgeable and attentive, and the desserts—one layers chocolate and peanut butter mousse inside a dark chocolate shell—impossibly rich.

6. Loving Hut

Restaurants Vegan Williamsburg

Bring your vegan friend to Loving Hut, a plant-based restaurant in Williamsburg, and watch their brain explode over the many, many menu options. You could go the Asian route with dishes like alfalfa rice rolls with jicama, bean curds and assorted veggies ($5), curry udon noodle soup ($8), pad thai ($8) or General Tso’s tofu delight with baby broccoli ($14). You could also get a vegan burger topped with “facon” and vegan cheese ($9), butternut squash risotto ($11) or an artisan flatbread topped with arugula, olives, sun dried tomatoes, portobello, crimini, oyster and shiitake mushrooms ($10). There’s even a whole section of the menu devoted to vegan mac and cheese with chipotle peppers, mushrooms, caramelized onions or creamed spinach (all $8). Loving Hut also makes fresh juices ($6 for a small, $7 for a large) and smoothies ($5) on site and don’t forget to save room for vegan desserts like carrot cake ($7), cheesecake ($5) and a selection of donuts that changes daily ($3).

Slow-cooked salmon with pistachio pesto
Photograph: Courtesy Franklin Becker/Rodale Books

7. Little Beet Table

Restaurants Contemporary American Flatiron

Franklin Becker’s follow-up to his health-minded midtown spot pulls all wheat from the docket, offering gluten-free but still-rich plates like slow-cooked salmon smothered in nutty pistachio pesto and briny black olives ($26). Fellow hearty oceanic eats include sea bass a la plancha dressed with fennel-and-scallion pebre ($27) and tuna tataki over millet and avocado ($15), while vegetables go from garden-variety to gussied-up: grilled zucchini punched with pickled currants and tangy feta ($12), and white-bean–kale soup crowned in salty Parmesan ($9).

Seared tuna nicoise
Photograph: Liz Clayman

8. Dimes

Restaurants Californian Chinatown

The lineup at this SoCal-inspired café can change weekly, turning out colorful plates with equal parts Japanese, South American and Mediterranean influences. While produce shines in dishes like a bonito-chili–spiced black-rice bowl loaded with sweet potato and eggplant ($15), local meats via Pat LaFrieda include braised chicken in stick-to-your-ribs apricot couscous ($17) and broth-bathed lamb meatballs alongside Swiss chard and gremolata ($18). 

Beyond Sushi
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Garrett Zeigler

9. Beyond Sushi

Restaurants Japanese Gramercy

Former caterer Guy Vaknin doles out vegan sushi at this diminutive Gramercy spot. At three wood tables, diners choose from colorful rolls packed with fruits and vegetables from nearby Union Square Greenmarket. Combos include the Crunch N’ Munch (alfalfa, baked tofu, English cucumber and kiwi) and La Fiesta (avocado, pickled jalapeño, chayote and cilantro), or nigiri topped with slivers of carrot, mango and snow pea. Vaknin also crafts a line of vegan pastries, such as black-sesame avocado cookies, sweet-potato black-bean brownies and a date-and-nut bar.

10. Hangawi

Restaurants Korean Midtown

Be sure your socks are looking good: You’ll have to surrender your shoes upon entering this Korean vegetarian’s paradise. Carefully crafted dishes include thin leek, kimchi, mushroom and mung bean pancakes, and maitake mushrooms sautéed with asparagus. The scene is serene, but the Zen detachment may not suit all tastes—the quiet waitstaff can seem as chilly as the delicious dessert of chocolate-tofu ice cream.

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