More and more these days, people are waking up to the fact that vegan food is not doomed to be bland and boring, but can instead be delicious and exciting. Case in point: NYC’s vegan lunch spots, which have proliferated over the years, commanding the attention of even the most begrudging meat eaters and making life a ton easier for vegan New Yorkers like myself.
In my last post, I shared my vegan favorite places for dining out in NYC. Below are my favorite vegan joints for grabbing a casual lunch (or dinner) in the city.
Nestled in Pennsy, the hip new food court of Penn Station, Cinnamon Snail offers incredibly flavorful sandwiches and baked goods.
My favorite item is their Miso Teriyaki Grilled Tofu Sandwich (with brussel sprouts, black sesame gomasio, and arugula) on toasted gluten free bread, Sooo good. But sometimes I will get the Maple Mustard Tempeh sandwich, which is also amazing. Cinnamon Snail’s sandwiches go perfectly with their donuts as a light dessert! I always order their gluten-free Cinnamon Maca donut, which is super yummy.
If you’re not planning on eating your sandwich on a train, Pennsy has plenty of room to sit, a nice outdoor space where you can hang out when it’s warm outside, and a bar area where you can buy craft beer and cocktaills.
Flatiron, Midtown East, and Financial District
Terri is a vegan fast food chain selling delicious sandwiches, wraps, salads, juices, and smoothies. Owners Craig Cochran and Michael Pease named their company Terri because, coincidentally, both of their mothers are named Terri.
One of their bestselling items and my personal favorite is the Breakfast Scramble Wrap (scrambled tofu, vegan sausage, spinach, vegan cheddar, and hot sauce). Because I’m mostly gf, I ask for a gluten-free wrap and sub the vegan sausage with mushrooms. It smells and tastes amazing, and is very filling.
Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, Columbus Circle, and the Upper East Side
The fast food arm of the Bossom chain of vegan restaurants, Blossom du Jour sells appetizing sandwiches, wraps, and finger food. I typically go for the Smoky Avocado Wrap (avocado, smoked tempeh, tomato, lettuce, and chipotle aioli) on a gluten-free wrap. It is the bomb! If I’m craving comfort food, I’ll order their Onion Rings or Buffalo Cauliflower bites, which are also awesome. Blossom du Jour gets extra points for carrying Veri Cola and Spindrift Lemon Seltzer – two of my favorite natural soft drinks.
Flatiron, West Village, Soho, and Williamsburg
When its original location in the West Village opened in late 2015, the vegan fast food chain by Chloe started off with a bang, attracting large swarms of people that would wrap around the block. The chain now has locations in various areas of NYC, as well as L.A. and Boston.
Everything on the menu is brilliant – but my favorites are the Classic Burger (tempeh-lentil-chia-walnut patty with pickles, onion, beet ketchup, and special sauce on a potato bun), the Air Baked French Fries, and the Mac n’ Cheese (made with cashews and sweet potatoes and topped with shitake bacon).
As an aside, I was perplexed to hear last month chef that Chloe Coscarelli was pushed out of the company for which she came up with the concept and all the recipes. Without knowing too much about the situation, all I can say is that it seems like bad karma to “Steve Jobs” someone who poured her heart and soul into the business. That said, if you happen to be near one of the locations, it’s worth checking out just to see how good the food is.
(vegetarian with vegan options)
This edgy little vegetarian burger joint in The East Village serves up delicious variations of veggie burgers, all of which are vegetarian and can be made vegan. I’ve been getting the classic Superiority Burger, which in terms of taste reminds me of the Big Macs I used to eat on road trips growing up. If you’re hungry, I would advise ordering two burgers as they are fairly small (about half the size of a normal burger). The sides are also great – I normally go for the Burnt Broccoli Salad.
(vegetarian with vegan options)
Cafe Viva is a vegetarian pizzeria with lots of vegan pizza options, as well as pies with spelt and gluten-free crusts.
The company used to have another restaurant in the East Village that I loved, but it closed a few years back. Luckily, their Harlem location is still going strong.
One of NYC’s greatest hidden gems, Jivamuktea Cafe is the food extension of Jivamukti Yoga, a yoga studio right by Union Square.
Located in a cozy annex of the studio, the vegan cafe has lots of space to sit and relax for hours if you’re so inclined, and it’s the perfect spot to read or get work done. I usually order their Mac n’ Cheese or BLT, both of which can be made gluten-free.
Jivamukti owners Sharon Gannon and David Life are committed vegans and animal activists.
Gannon is the author of Yoga and Vegetarianism, an insightful book which examines various tenets of yogic principles and Buddhist Philosophy as they relate to veganism. As a yogi, I love this book and it has informed a lot of my own personal beliefs around ahimsa, the virtue of “nonharming.”
Atlas Cafe is a Moroccan hole-in-the-wall in the East Village with lots of vegetarian options. Many of their dishes can be made vegan and gluten-free, including their savory crepes. I like to get the Mediterranean Crepe [veganized] which comes with vegan cheese, peppers, onions, and mushrooms.
Flatiron / Union Square
An expansive eatery in the heart of Manhattan, The City Bakery is the perfect place to come for lunch with friends or coworkers. They have a wonderful buffet featuring all sorts of sautéd veggies sourced from the Union Square farmers’ market. They also have a flavorful pea-crusted tofu with wasabi sauce that always hits the spot. Be sure to try their “sangria” and vegan cookies.
There are many health food stores sprinkled throughout Manhattan where you can buy fresh juices and smoothies, but I personally find these juice-eries to be the best. They also offer soups and small vegan bites that tend to be more on the raw side.
Super-fast veg-friendly food
I try to avoid regularly going places where the food isn’t prepared with as much care and may have been sitting out for a while, because I believe that this can affect the food’s nutritional potency. However, there are times when super-fast food is just the most expedient option so here are a few of those places:
Le Botaniste – Vegan
Beyond Sushi – Vegan
Next up in this series: Brooklyn! I consider Brooklyn to be an entire city unto itself – and an extremely veg-friendly city at that (perhaps even more so than Manhattan) – which is why it’s getting its own post. Stay tuned!