The crowd at New York City’s many vegan (and vegan-friendly) restaurants is an almost equal mix of young folks hoping to save the world and older folks (like me) who will gladly settle for saving themselves, hoping to live a little bit longer by staying away from the cholesterol and bad karma meat-eating brings. While not a full-fledged vegan myself (I was for roughly ten years during the ’80s and ’90s), I always jump at the chance to go vegan for at least the odd meal, and am happy to support the city’s institutions that provide vegan fare. Because not only do they all have their hearts in the right place, but many of them serve food that is absolutely dynamite, in some cases among the best food I have eaten anywhere.
For a dairy free character like myself, of course vegan food has the added bright side to it that I can eat everything on the menu – how often does that otherwise happen? Not often. Of late, I have been trying to catch up on some of the restaurants that I love, and exploring new ones, especially in Brooklyn (toward compiling my Dairy Free Brooklyn page, which is still in the works – stay tuned for that one). So here is an overview of the vegan restaurants I love in NYC.
Red Bamboo. My long-time mostly vegan friend Ed first introduced me to Red Bamboo more than a decade ago, and I have been going there off and on a lot in the intervening years. A couple months ago, I realized that I had not been there in a while, so I have made it a point to get back to going there regularly. Ed and I had a great time most recently chatting with one of the owners, Jade, not only about Red Bamboo but also about other vegetarian Asian restaurants around New York. She is an encyclopedia of knowledge on the subject, and the restaurant’s blend of carefully crafted but also straightforward and pleasing food continues to thrill me.
Pure Food and Wine. Fairly high-end and consequently one of the pricier vegan restaurants in New York City, Pure Food and Wine was a revelation for me the first time I went there, and I look forward to paying my annual visit there soon. Before eating there, I didn’t know that raw food could taste so good. Of course, having the sweet tooth that I do, I especially enjoy their fantastic desserts. And – they serve wine (a raw food, I suppose).
Blossom Cafe/Blossom du Jour. I have actually never eaten at the full-fledged Blossom restaurant, but I have been to many of their Blossom du Jour locations, including ones in Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen and the Upper Westside. They serve mostly wraps and sandwiches, of which I have tried several, and enjoyed them all. They also have great desserts, although the Chelsea location has the largest variety of those – some locations just have a couple different brownies and cookies for sale. In recent years, they are opening more and more locations – I can’t keep up with them!
Terri Cafe. I have only been to Terri’s Financial District location (they also have locations in Chelsea and Midtown East). When I lived down there, it was such a joy having Terri’s so close by. Like Blossom, they carry a variety of sandwiches and wraps, as well as some salads, bottled teas and cleanses, and awesome desserts. Love their “chicken” quesadilla, with lots of Daiya cheese on it. That, plus a bottle of their mint iced tea and a chocolate cupcake was my go-to. Wouldn’t mind having that right now!
Atlas Cafe. I will confess that I go to Atlas many for their unbelievable variety of top-notch mouth-watering desserts, which come to them courtesy of our friends at Vegan Treats from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. They used to get their delivery from Vegan Treats on Tuesdays, and I have more than once shown up just to have my mind blown by all the cakes and cheesecakes and pies and vegan doughnuts. As for other offerings at Atlas, they do serve vegan sandwiches (as well as having a full menu of decidedly non-vegan stuff). I have eaten their Cuban sandwich with vegan meat and cheese, and thought it quite good. But can we talk about the desserts some more? Coconut cake, brownie cheesecake, chocolate-covered strawberry shortcake, etc.
I am just beginning to explore the many outstanding vegan restaurants in Brooklyn. Here are the highlights of what I have seen thus far.
Bliss Cafe. I had their vegan French toast, and loved it. Will have to go back again soon – maybe I will meet my stepdaughter there for lunch (she lives in Williamsburg). Cash only, for those of you who, like me, are plastic-centric.
Vinnies Pizzeria. Warning – Vinnies isn’t all vegan, just one section. But oh what a section – several enticing vegan varieties of pizza slices filled with vegetable and veggie meat (and even fruit!) toppings. Thrilling to know you don’t have to order a whole pie to get the vegan variety (although you could order a full pie too if you wanted). Also cash only.
Sun in Bloom. A friendly place in a neighborhood on the brink of explosion (not far from the Barclays Center). I went there mostly to try their desserts, but they also have a full menu of breakfast/lunch/dinner food.
I realize, again, this is just a start. In addition to exploring more restaurants in Brooklyn, I need to re-visit some favorites in Manhattan, like the iconic Caravan of Dreams. After all, menupages lists 132(!) vegan restaurants in New York City (although I bet a lot of those are non-vegan restaurants that have the occasional vegan offering). I any case, I have my work cut out for me!
I also want to write about vegan groceries (or if you prefer, health food stores) and vegan bakeries/dessert shops. There are many of those in Brooklyn as well, such as the wonderful Riverdel (they call themselves dairy free, because I am guessing that they sell a couple things that have eggs in them, but they are most vegan).