On my recent trip to New York, I had planned to keep my food budget as low as possible – an effort that was quickly abandoned when I arrived, wide-eyed and hungry. New York is a sea of restaurants and unique places to eat and definitely doesn’t lack in the area of plant based options. I tried everything from quick bites, fancy brunches, sweet treats and sit down meals. I’ll also add a few of the places I didn’t get to at the end so you can check them out!
This is a 100% plant based “sushi” restaurant with six locations in Manhattan. The menu consists of rolls, soups, salads, noodles, dumplings, wraps, desserts and more. Although most regular sushi restaurants usually have lots of vegan options or customization’s, the plant based options are always a small percentage of the menu. Being able to order rolls and dumplings to my hearts content was a great way to kick off the NYC vegan food crawl.
At the 56th street location, I ordered the “Smokey Tom” dumpling and the “Sunny Side” sushi roll. The “Smokey Tom” dumpling consisted of a smokey, flakey, sundried tomato inside covered in a tahini sauce and topped with sautéed onions. The filling was delicious, and although I thought tahini was kind of a strange choice of sauce for that particular dumpling flavor, all in all it was good. The Sunny Side roll was amazing: avocado and sundried tomato rolled in black rice and topped with butternut squash and a dollop of almond pesto. I’m all for adding something sweet in a sushi roll so this was a home run for me. My favorite part was the combination of the almond pesto and the butternut squash. I’m not sure how they prepare the butternut squash but it was soft and juicy like a peach or mango. Would definitely return.
This was another instance where I was very happy I decided to stray from my original eat-as-cheap-as-possible plan. Not that Terri is a splurge, but I had planned on keeping breakfast cheap and loaded with carbs by getting two dollar Starbucks bagels all week. So my slight deviation from the plan lead me to the Terri in Chelsea (60 West 23rd street) with a “Bacon, Egg + Cheese Muffin” in hand. Basically this is tofu scramble, bacon, cheddar and hollandaise sauce on a super fresh whole wheat english muffin. My experience with plant based breakfast foods was limited to my home cooking up until this point so it was super exciting to have a vegan grab-and-go option.
The tofu scramble was quite plain, almost like a real scrambled egg would be. But the bacon and cheese make up for it. The bacon was smokey and salty like real bacon would be and had a chewy texture like jerky. Based on the texture, I don’t think it was tempeh or tofu based. I’m not sure what it was but it was delicious. I also wish I asked them what cheese they use or if it was house made because the cheddar cheese tasted exactly like the real gooey cheddar of your childhood grilled cheese dreams.
(Non-vegan, with vegan options)
I stumbled upon this place when I was down by Union Square and went in for a tea and discovered they actually had a few vegan options aside from teas and coffee/espresso. I got a chocolate chip cookie, but they also had some vegan muffins. The cookie was good, nothing special but nice to have a vegan grab-and-go option at a non-vegan place none the less. To my knowledge there’s about 7 of Argo Tea locations in Manhattan so I would pick this over Starbucks if you’re close to one because there’s more plant based snack options to get with your coffee/tea!
(Non-vegan, with vegan options)
I stopped in at the Hell’s Kitchen location to grab a quick bite before a class because I heard they had tofu cream cheese among other vegan options. Wanting to keep it simple, I ordered the tofu scallion cream cheese on a whole wheat bagel. The bagel was the freshest I’ve ever tasted and the cream cheese was amazing. It had a light, whipped texture like real cream cheese but more airy. And the flavor was great, since tofu is so plain you tasted the full scallion flavor. They also have plain tofu cream cheese, a tofu vegetable cream cheese and I believe they had a vegan tuna salad or egg salad option.
Bake Shop (or 995 Flushing Avenue Food Company)
(Non-vegan with vegan options)
In true Williamsburg hipster fashion I cannot find a website or Instagram page for this place, and I’m not even sure what the name of it is but I can tell you the address: 995 Flushing Avenue, Brooklyn. I came in here looking for a coffee and ended up grabbing an oat milk matcha latte and discovering they had quite a few vegan options. This was my first time trying oat milk which was very earthy tasting in the matcha latte. I actually liked that because usually I find them too sweet. Aside from coffees etc. these were some of their vegan options: Cream cheese and bagels, “lox” toast, “tuna” salad sandwich, “chicken” salad sandwich and baked goods to name a few. It’s also a super cute place to sit and spend time.
My roommate and I stumbled into the West Village location on our last night in New York right before closing to grab a small dessert after a late dinner. I got a maple bacon chocolate cupcake and Matteo got the peanut butter and jam cupcake. The maple bacon was delicious. The maple flavor in the icing was definitely prominent but I wish there was more “bacon” to balance it out. There’s multiple by CHLOE locations around New York and other cities like Boston and L.A. – Sweets by CHLOE. is an extension of by CHLOE.
(Vegan, gluten-free options)
I had a major donut craving in New York and was pretty hell bent on finding a vegan donut shop so with much googling and a quick subway ride, I ended up at the Cinnamon Snail. From what I can tell, they have two store locations and a food truck. I went to the one in The Pennsy which is a food hall in Penn Station. Their donut selection was super creative and everything looked delicious. They had quite a few gluten-free donut options too. Alongside the pastries they have sandwiches, salads, burgers and sides. I ordered the white chocolate glazed donut with hazelnut bourbon ganache and it was life changing. You 100% would not be able to tell that it’s vegan, it was so decadent. I also ordered Chilli cheese tater tots because there’s no way I was getting something that sugary without something savoury to back it up. This was also delicious and consisted of black bean chilli, scallions, jalapeño queso, bread crumble and fresh jalapeños.
As a self-proclaimed fine dining vegan restaurant, Candle 79 brings culinary artistry and a chef-driven menu to the world of plant based dining. With daily chef specials and organic, high quality, natural ingredients their menu and experience alike are a standout. We made a reservation through Open Table and were placed at an intimate table beside the window looking out on to a quiet 79th street on the Upper East Side. Our reservation was for Brunch, but they do have Lunch and Dinner menus.
We settled on the Brunch Prix-Fixe ($32 USD) which includes a drink, brunch item and dessert. It’s two dollars extra for a mimosa so obviously we indulged. Our server brought out some fresh mini muffins before our entrée, the Benedict79. I’ve been wanting to try vegan benny for the longest time and I have to say, this one probably set the bar way too high for all future bennys. Savoury tempeh bacon sat on top of cauliflower hollandaise covered polenta cake and zucchini hash. All that on top of a bed of sautéed greens. It was honestly to die for. I don’t actually have much experience with non-vegan hollandaise so I can’t really speak comparatively, but their cauliflower hollandaise packed amazing flavor into a light, airy cream sauce that I’m sure could rival a traditional hollandaise. The polenta and zucchini hash were crispy and light, and the sautéed greens brought some extra flavour, texture and a visual reminder that you were eating exclusively plants. And let me say, plants never tasted so good.
Last but not least we had cannoli’s and at this point my stomach was definitely at its capacity but was I gonna turn down vegan cannoli’s? Hell no. The shells were crisp but quite hard and housed a slightly bitter, thick cream. They were topped with vanilla ice cream and chocolate chips. Overall they were good. I loved the ice cream but the cream filling was more bitter than I would have expected. However, it was nice to have something to contrast the sweetness of the ice cream and chocolate chips. I have to say, it was so nice to eat in a 100% plant based fine dining restaurant. This place makes you feel like you don’t have to miss out on a fine dining experience just because you’re vegan.
(All vegan, gluten free & soy-free options)
This place is apparently best known for being a brunch and late night spot. Located in Brooklyn, Champs serves Americana comfort food in a space styled like an old 50’s diner. Picture black and white checkers, old-timey tables and in-your-face vegan art. My favourite, a sign that said “Hail Seitan”. Their menu is huge and has tons of variety. You can find milkshakes, cheesecake, mac & cheese, Philly cheese steak, sundaes, burgers, fresh juices, bowls, s’mores pancakes, biscuits & gravy, french toast, breakfast enchiladas, all vegan grand slam and cauliflower wings. You know, just to name a few.
I ordered the Pancake Slam which had two pancakes, tempeh bacon (you can choose tempeh or seitan), tofu scramble, soysage and hash browns. The pancakes were legitimately like Ihop buttermilk pancakes. They had a tiny bit of a doughier texture as you finish chewing but seriously, you would have no idea these were vegan. The spice blend in the soysage was perfect and tasted even better than what I remember real sausage tasting like. The tempeh bacon was perfectly smokey and the tofu scramble, although a little bland for my liking, was the exact texture and moistness of a scrambled egg. The hash browns actually had a bit of a vinegar taste which I didn’t particularly like, but that’s why they make ketchup, right. Overall though, everything was great. Side note, I saw online a couple of times that they are cash only, but they took debit when I was there.
(Vegan and vegetarian)
This place is an absolute MUST. It’s my favourite vegan place in NYC and I will always go when I’m in the city. I mean if Janet Jackson says its good, it’s probably fricken good. Nestled on West 4th just steps away from Washington Square, Red Bamboo is a quiet, intimate restaurant with a pretty impressive menu selection. Online, their menu is described as both “vegan comfort food” and “Asian and Southern fare”, which sounds a little random but is actually a pretty good summary of the food. They are primarily vegan, but they do have dairy cheese options. If you like mock meat, this is the place for you. You can try buffalo chicken wings (with fake “bones” – one of my favourite vegan restaurant items I’ve ever tried), Quinoa with “Salmon”, BBQ “ribs”, “shrimp” cocktail, “steak” and potatoes, fried “eggs”, cheesecake and tons of other mock meat based dishes.
The first time I came here I had the BLT with fries and the barbecue buffalo chicken wings. You know when you’re just craving the things you used to be able to eat pre-vegan? Both of these items totally satisfied those cravings. I’ve also had the Creole Soul Chicken a couple of times now and it’s definitely one to try. The chicken itself is so flavourful and then it comes with garlic mashed potatoes with gravy and steamed veggies. True vegan comfort food. This time I also tried the Cajun Fried Shrimp which impressed me way beyond expectation. The shrimp is deep fried and when you bite into it it actually looks like shrimp skin. They also nailed the rubbery type texture of real shrimp. And then the cocktail sauce. I am deeply saddened by the fact that this is not accessible to me in Toronto. I tried to get a photo of the inside but lighting was not the best. I always end up getting one of their ice creams for dessert and this was my second time getting mint chip here. I feel like I never see vegan mint chip ice cream? Theirs is super minty and fresh with just the right about of chocolate for me (I don’t like too much). If you can only go to one vegan restaurant in New York, go here.
(Non-vegan, vegan options)
This is what I presume to be a pretty popular spot based on how packed it was when we arrived. On their website they indicate being mentioned by Vogue, Vanity Fair and Bazaar to name a few. The space is set up like a candle lit country farm house and the menu is comprised of Americana fare with a “farm-to-table philosophy and multicultural influence”. Although the food was great, the service was not good in all honesty. Not that anyone who served us was rude, but we weren’t even sure who our server was and I think someone came to our table twice. Service was also pretty slow, so just be aware if you’re in a rush.
But service aside, their menu was exciting and boasted a few completely vegan options. I ordered to cauliflower flatbread and the vegan caesar salad. The fact that the flatbread had an actual house made cashew cheese was super impressive for a non-vegan restaurant. The highlight of the flatbread is definitely the truffle aioli, but the roasted cauliflower literally melted in your mouth. The vegan caesar is a variety of cooked and raw greens with a walnut citrus dressing. It was so crunchy and hearty but had such a unique flavour compared to regular caesar salad. It’s definitely a non-traditional, creative take on caesar salad, but completely delicious in it’s own regard.
Places I missed
Here’s a quick list of places I’ve heard are great but didn’t get to try out:
– Modern Love (Brooklyn)
– Blossom du Jour
– Bar Verde
Be sure to comment if you’ve tried any of these places or have any cool spots to add!