A lot has changed in the New York City vegan scene in recent years. Some of my favorite vegan restaurants such as V-Note, Gobo, and Pure Food & Wine closed due to the high cost of organic food, rising real estate prices in Manhattan, and other circumstances.
It was definitely sad to hear that these restaurants closed, especially since the food and atmosphere they had were so great, and I have many fond memories of times spent there with family and friends. At the same time, however, there’s been a lot of exciting and positive new developments in the NYC vegan foodie scene. A few new vegan restaurants always pop up each year and restaurateur Ravi DeRossi is in the process of veganizing most of his 15 bars and restaurants. Additionally, a company called Veganizers has been approaching several restaurants in the city with the proposal that they go vegan, and so far have convinced Cafe Frida and Ella Kitchen & Bar, both on the Upper West Side, to veganize their menu!
With all this transformation taking place, I thought it was time I updated my list of favorite NYC restaurants. For those of you who don’t know, New York is mecca for vegans. We have the most concentrated abundance of vegan restaurants in the world. If you visit the city, make sure you check out at least a few. And bring your checkbook! (jk, I’m pretty sure none of them take checks). They can be quite expensive – but then again, everything in the city is expensive and in this case you’re paying for quality, organic ingredients and a cool atmosphere.
My roundup of favorite veg restaurants
Hangawi – Midtown
Upon entering Hangawi, you are asked to remove your shoes and are ushered to a table at floor level, with space beneath for your legs. Servers, dressed in traditional Korean clothing, come by with lists of botanical cocktails and food options. The ambience is very zen and spa-like, making for a soothing and tranquil dining experience.
I always get the Avocado Stone Bowl (various vegetables, baked tofu, and avocado over brown rice, served with a delicious chili sauce) and a Soju Mojito. If I’m hungry, I’ll also order the Kale Dumplings as an appetizer, and the Soy Chocolate Pudding for dessert.
Double Zero – Lower East Side
Double Zero is his latest creation: a plant-based pizza concept, utilizing fresh, organic ingredients and 00 flour, for which the restaurant is named. 00 flour comes from Italy and makes for excellent pizza crust texture, while being naturally lower in gluten than most flour.
They offer a seasonal menu with ingenious combinations of fresh veggies and plant-based cheeses (such as cashew mozzarella and macadamia ricotta). The restaurant has a sophisticated but low-key atmosphere, and is perfect for grabbing a quick happy hour and dinner. What’s worked for me and my friends has been ordering one different kind of pizza per person and then sharing them between ourselves. I also like to ask for a small plate of extra virgin olive oil to dip my crust in.
Candle 79 – Upper East Side
The upscale sister restaurant of Candle Cafe – one of NYC’s the more well-known vegan spots – Candle 79 is a favorite among my friends and family members. I even spent a Thanksgiving there with my parents, during which we enjoyed a prix fixe featuring decadent fall-inspired dishes. In addition to its well-appointed dining areas covering two levels, Candle 79 has a great bar where you can try some of their fresh and unique “eco-cocktails.”
Mother of Pearl – East Village
Ravi de Rossi is the owner of some of the coolest bars in the city, including two of my favorite speakeasy’s: Death & Co. and Cienfuegos. A long-time vegan, he recently decided to start bringing most of his bars and restaurants into more alignment with his own lifestyle and beliefs by veganizing them (!) Mother of Pearl, de Rossi’s tiki bar, was the first to undergo this makeover and the talented plant-based chef Daphne Cheng was enlisted to craft a menu with tropical influences.
Mother of Pearl offers an exotic selection of small plates / tapas. When I was there, I had the Mushroom & Cabbage Potstickers and Fried Coconut Tofu, which were both very dynamic, and went great with the Sound of Silver drink I got (rosemary, Gran Classico, caribbean syrup, brandy, and rye),
Sacred Chow – Washington Square Park
Right by the center of the NYU campus, Sacred Chow is a super-chill vegan and kosher nook that’s great for relaxed lunches or dinners. When I was there, I had three tapas (Brooklyn Tempeh, Marinated Kale, and Mexican Latkes), followed by their Triple Chocolate Brownie (gf).
Franchia – Midtown
Franchia is the more casual sister restaurant of Hangawi, and is great for lunches with friends if you’re in midtown. It has a long list of quality teas you can choose from, including “tealattas” in the spring and summer. As with at Hangawi, my go-to is usually the Avocado Stone Bowl, but sometimes I also order their Spring Rolls, which come with an amazing sauce. And if it’s warmer weather, I always get the Iced Green Tealatta which is so refreshing and comes with soy whipped cream on top!
Caravan of Dreams – East Village
One of the older vegan restaurants in the city, Caravan of Dreams has a cozy and hippyish atmosphere. It’s a perfect spot for laid-back brunches, or if you want to grab a casual dinner in the East Village. Their most popular dish is the Wild Rice and Cremini Risotto Croquettes, which I highly recommend, in addition to their Brownie Sundae (pictured above). With live music playing most nights, the restaurant hosts bands from various genres including world music and jazz.
The Seasoned Vegan – Harlem
Vegan soul food! Mother and son team Brenda and Aaron Beener opened The Seasoned Vegan in 2014, demonstrating that one can enjoy all the same flavors and textures of traditional soul food from around the world – without all the saturated fat and cholesterol. The restaurant is typically humming with energy as it attracts lots of loyal regulars, but the overall ambiance is soothing, with r&b jams playing in the background.
Items to get here are the “Crawfish” in Garlic Basil Sauce (made with burdock root), Baked Mac & “Cheese”, Pizza Quesadillas (with vegan mozzarella), and Black Pepper “Steak” (soy patties).
Delice & Sarrasin – West Village
Like The Seasoned Vegan, Delice & Sarrasin is another family-run vegan establishment that emulates the textures and tastes of traditional comfort food – in this case, vegan crepes – both savory and sweet. In 2015, French model Christophe Caron opened Delice & Sarrasin with his parents. As a family, they have been vegan for several years. The task to find the same textures and flavors as traditional french dishes fell to Caron’s mother, Yvette, who used to work as a chef in the South of France.
I personally have a special appreciation for crepes as I spent several months living in France as a teenager. When I was there, I was introduced to savory crepes, featuring variations of cheese, eggs, and ham. In a way, I am glad that I wasn’t vegan when I lived abroad because my options would have been extremely limited and I would have missed out on trying all the fun traditional dishes. However, that was more than 10 years ago, and a lot has changed since then. The vegan movement is rapidly growing and expanding, even in France.
Delice & Sarrasin is a testament to the fact that vegans don’t have to give up any of our favorite foods, no matter how niche they may seem. The restaurant offers veganized versions of classic crepes using gourmet vegan cheeses, faux meats, and faux seafood, served in a crepe made with buckwheat flour. Healthy, delicious, and satisfying!
The atmosphere at Delice & Sarrasin is simultaneously modern and quaint, with a distinctly French vibe.
Other vegan restaurants
While the above listed restaurants are my personal faves in the NYC vegan scene, these amazing vegan restaurants are also worth checking out as well:
Candle Cafe East – Upper East Side
Candle Cafe West – Upper West Side
Avant Garden – East Village
Cienfuegos – East Village
Ladybird – Washington Square Park
Jajaja – Lower East Side
Peacefood Cafe Downtown – Union Square
Peacefood Cafe Upper West Side – Upper West Side
Blossom on Columbus – Upper West Side
Blossom Chelsea – Chelsea
Urban Vegan Kitchen – West Village
V Spot – East Village
LuAnne’s Wild Ginger – Chinatown
Kajitsu – Midtown East
Red Bamboo – Washington Square Park
Buddha Bodai – Chinatown
Buddha Bodai – Soho
Cafe Frida – Upper West Side
Ella Kitchen & Bar – Upper West Side
Updated vegan lunch joints soon to follow, as well as a post covering some of my favorite veg spots in Brooklyn.