Zen Habits : A Vegan Tour of NYC
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Delicious food from Dirt Candy in NYC.
Post written by Leo Babauta.
Eva and I just got back from a trip to New York City, and we loved it — it was Eva’s first visit, and our first trip where we were both vegan!
To celebrate this incredible occasion, we went on a vegan tour of New York City. What an amazing experience.
I’m sharing our experience not to brag, but to help other vegans who might take a trip to NYC in the future (recommended). And even if you’re not vegan, the first 6-7 places on our list serve absolutely great food that anyone would love, herbivores and omnivores alike.
Some caveats: We only had 8 days in New York City, and we spent most of them in Manhattan, so this list will be very limited — we couldn’t possibly get to them all! We are also NYC newbies, so it’s very likely we missed some great ones.
However, I did my research and got recommendations from as many people as possible, and focused on the ones with the best reputations. We got to a lot of good ones, but did miss a few top spots on our list (listed in the bottom section below).
Amazing NYC Vegan Restaurants
So here are the restaurants we loved — note that many at the top of the list are more special occasion than everyday dining, but this trip was definitely a special occasion :
- Candle 79. One of the best restaurants we’ve ever been to, period. Highly recommended. I put this on level with Millenium in San Francisco — really good gourmet vegan food. Every dish, from the amuse bouche to the appetizers to the entrees and dessert, were phenomenal. We loved it so much we bought the cookbook. There’s also a Candle Cafe, which we didn’t get to. Both are on the Upper East Side. Reservations highly recommended. Website.
- Blossom. Probably our second favorite, another gourmet vegan experience. Blossom has several locations now, from the main Blossom restaurant to the more casual Blossom Cafes to Blossom du Jour (takeout) and Blossom Bakery (vegan baked goods!). We went to all but the bakery (it was closed when we went) and loved them all. Website.
- Pure Food & Wine. All vegan, all raw, really lovely atmosphere. I’m not usually a fan of raw food, but this was an exception. The lasagna was great, along with some really good sushi and dessert. And you can pig out and still feel healthy. Website.
- Hangawi. So good — vegan Korean in a nice setting. You take off your shoes, sit at low tables, order a stone bowl that comes sizzling to your table in a iron pot, mix in just the right amount of spicy sauce with the brown rice and veggies and tofu, stir it all up and devour the yummy goodness. Then crave it for a week or two after. Website.
- Dirt Candy. Vegetarian but everything can be made vegan. Tiny little spot in the East Village, get reservations because there are like two tables (OK, maybe six, but still). Lovely dishes, low lighting, awesome. Website.
- Baby Cakes. All-vegan bakery in the Lower East Side with delicious cupcakes, muffins, donuts and more. Not only vegan — many of their things are gluten-free and/or sugar-free, if that’s what you need, and they all taste great. Go there, stuff your face, then do a run through Central Park to burn it off. Website
- Champs Family Bakery. A little funky diner in hip Williamsburg, Brooklyn, all vegan comfort food. We had brunch here, with things like pancakes and tofu scramble and some kind of veggie & veg sausage rice bowl that Eva liked. Yelp.
- Franchia. This is owned by the same folks as Hangawi, but is a more casual tea and vegan cafe. I enjoyed the first-picked green tea. They also have the delicious stone bowls in a more casual setting. I would eat here weekly if I were in NYC. Website.
- Gobo. There seem to be a dozen vegetarian/vegan Asian restaurants in NYC. Gobo is one of them, and a good choice if you’re hankering for this kind of food. We enjoyed our dishes (stir-fry noodles and a mango “chicken” with plum sauce) but weren’t blown away. Website.
- Caravan of Dreams. Organic vegan cafe in the East Village that has an eclectic menu — you’ll find food from Italy, Asia, Mexico, Spain and the Middle East. We went here for brunch and had vegan waffles and nachos and more. Website.
- ’sNice. Lovely little vegetarian cafe in Soho (with locations in the West Village and Brooklyn that we didn’t visit), with tons of vegan options for breakfast and lunch (sandwiches and salads). We went here for breakfast, loved it. Website.
- Zen Palate. Vegetarian Asian food with locations near Union Square, the theater district and Murray Hill. We just ordered the sizzling medallions with brown rice, which I recommend. Website.
- Stogo. Vegan ice cream! ‘Nuff said. Website.
- One Lucky Duck. Tiny raw, vegan, organic takeaway food shop, owned by the same folks as Pure Food & Wine. They have a couple of locations, including one in Chelsea Market. I’m not a raw food fan, but their desserts are rich and nice. The raw granola has a good chewy texture that I like. Website.
- Ruby Bakes. Vegan donuts that we happened upon at a stall in Hester Street Fair in the Lower East Side. The donuts are not only vegan, but free from nuts and gluten as well. And baked, so they’re healthy(er)! Really good, and pretty. Website.
Two Incredible Vegan Shops
- Moo Shoes. Eva needed some comfortable walking shoes for our trip, as she’d only brought sandals and it was too cold for that. So we found Moo Shoes, which has an online store I’d seen before but also a great shop in the Lower East Side. All kinds of vegan shoes for men and women, along with belts, bags and more. Cruelty-free kicks!
- Vaute Couture. It was colder in NYC than we’d expected, so we took the subway to Williamsburg, Brooklyn to find this cute little vegan coat shop — fashionable, warm, cruelty-free … perfect! I highly recommend checking these guys out. Eva & I both ended up getting a coat. Website.
Places We Missed
- Lula’s Sweet Apothecary. Supposed to be amazing vegan frozen desserts, but we just never found the right time to go. Oh well, it’s always good to save something to do for the next visit!
- Dun-Well Donuts. I was told that this Brooklyn vegan donut place would change my life — especially the vegan ice cream on donuts. There are like 200 flavors of donuts. Next time, Dun-Well, you will be mine. Website
- Angelica Kitchen. Supposed to be an excellent date-night option with healthy, tasty choices, we just couldn’t fit it in. Website.
- Kajitsu. Michellin-starred vegan Japanese. How can you go wrong? But we eat shojin (vegan Japanese) food all the time at Cha-Ya here in San Francisco, so it just didn’t excite us. Website.
- Peacefood Vegan Kitchen & Cafe. Don’t know much about it, but looks interesting. Website.
- Maoz. Vegetarian falafel chain — we’ve actually been to locations in London and Barcelona and loved them. I had a craving for these wonderful falafels while we were in NYC but didn’t get a chance to go. Website.
- Tamarind. Fine-dining vegetarian Indian restaurant that sounded interesting (and their newest location was just minutes away from our hotel in Tribeca) but we’ve had lots of Indian food, so we didn’t go. Website.
- Sacred Chow. Completely vegan cafe that looks good, with lots of comfort food and a great-looking brunch on weekends. We nearly made it here. Website.
- Terri. Looks like an all-vegan cafe with sandwiches, wraps, salads, smoothies, juices. Website
- Blossom Bakery. I mentioned this above, but it looks excellent. Vegan baked goods of all kinds. We did try a cookie and cupcake from here when we visited the Blossom du Jour takeout joint next door, and they were good. Website.
- Red Bamboo Soul Cafe. Vegetarian and vegan fusion food with homemade mock-meats and Asian, Creole and Carribean influences. Also have vegan ice cream from Klein’s in Brooklyn for dessert. Website.
- Wild Ginger. Pan-Asian vegan food. Website
- Soy & Sake. Japanese and Pan-Asian vegetarian food. Website.
Is this list complete? No, of course not. We did what we could on our vegan tour of NYC, and loved it. New York is a vegan’s paradise, with more options than anywhere else I’ve been, including San Francisco (which is great for vegans). If you’re passing through town, definitely do 1-2 of the places near the top of our list!