No doubt about it, vegetarian and vegan eateries are cropping up like daisies in New York City at an exponential rate, with pioneers like Amanda Cohen, Matthew Kenney and “Meatless Monday” John Fraser paving the way.
Not sure where to get your veg on in the five boroughs? Head to one of these six eateries.
What It Is: Ravi DeRossi’s quaint “jewel box of a restaurant” in Manhattan’s East Village.
What Our Inspectors Say: “This is excellent food that just happens to be vegan. Try the cold, salt-baked sweet potato with puréed watercress, crispy jicama and Meyer lemon; or avocado, paired with white asparagus, crunchy radishes, strawberries and grilled garlicky ramps. Sheets of pasta are tossed with pesto, tomatoes, haricot verts and Kalamata olives. Their thick slices of toast topped with cremini mushrooms, sweet onion marmalade, toasted walnuts and herbes de Provence are destined to become a signature item.”
What It Is: Chef/owner and produce wizard Amanda Cohen’s Lower East Side restaurant doling out inventive vegetarian (and vegan) tasting menus.
What Our Inspectors Say: “Chef Amanda Cohen’s menu never hides the fact that you’re eating vegetarian (and vegan) cuisine, but with her ethical approach and haute techniques, these simple-seeming eats are transformed into artistic bites. Robata-grilled sugar snap peas wrapped in yuba tastes as good as Peking duck, while the carrot slider is as tender and satisfying as a Big Mac. The vegetables aren’t just for dinner either—they also star in desserts like hot chocolate, which incorporates mushroom cream, as well as cocktails that employ everything from cucumber to artichokes to popcorn. The tasting menu ensures that you'll be able to sample a wide variety with five or nine courses.”
What It Is: A vegan mainstay in Chelsea since 2005 by co-founders Ronen Seri and Pamela Blackwell.
What Our Inspectors Say: “The vibe may seem moody come evening, but the staff is always warm and affable. A black-eyed pea cake composed with crushed potatoes is pan-fried to render a golden breadcrumb exterior; while Moroccan tagine bobbing with chickpeas, a host of vegetables including carrots, turnips and zucchini, and topped with crispy tofu strips is all heart and soul. Come dessert, try the hand-churned cashew ice cream or a lemony cheesecake with a mixed berry reduction and coconut-cookie crust.”
What It Is: Chef John Fraser and Nicolas Farias’s Greenwich Village hotspot which focuses on wok- and tandoor-style eats.
What Our Inspectors Say: “At lunch there are even “modestly alcoholic” choices like the very perky plum with Lillet Blanc. At this point you should be nibbling on something from their “first order” part of the menu, such as polenta fries or tandoor bread. The main section is divided between “lighter” and “bolder” dishes, complete with an asterisk highlighting those that can be made vegan. Chef owner John Fraser (of recently shuttered Dovetail, where vegetables starred in his Monday meatless menus) uses influences from around the world to bring out the flavors of his market produce—like hoisin sauce and Thai chili to liven up the shiitake mushrooms, or nori breadcrumbs for the seaweed Caesar. Bright, healthy, fresh, perky and clean: more words that apply here-to the look of the room, the food and indeed most of the customers.”
What It Is: Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s first vegetarian restaurant.
What Our Inspectors Say: “Behind the glass wall, his kitchen uses plenty of modern techniques to produce dishes that are perky, colorful and satisfying. The best options are those of international provenance, such as spinach spaghetti with broccoli and kale; and creamy tofu with crispy yuba and ponzu. White, bright but dotted with color, the room shouts freshness and vigor; the vibe is fun and hearteningly devoid of New Age smugness or pious worthiness. Just check your coat and your prejudices on your way in.”
What It Is: Plant-based food guru Matthew Kenney’s vegetable-forward pizza joint.
What Our Inspectors Say: “There is no dairy or meat here; and by the taste of things, no one is missing it either. A long, tantalizing lineup of low-gluten pizza and "not pizza" dominate the menu, along with occasional specials like wickedly good sweet potato cavatelli. A vegan cheese plate might feature creamy truffled cashew or almond ricotta. All chased down with exquisite organic wine? Food nirvana, indeed.”
Hero image courtesy of Matthew Kenney.