Rachel Krantz
July 07, 2017 5:36 pm
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When I went vegan a couple years ago, I was living in New York City. I was privileged to have a well-paid job and (relatively) cheap rent, which meant I went out to eat at least a couple of times a week. There was a whole new world of amazing vegan cuisine to discover in New York City, and far from feeling deprived of animal products, I discovered a whole new culinary world of possibility — and ate my way through its many options.

While there are so many places I would recommend for you to eat vegan in New York, these are the spots I find myself most nostalgic for now that I live in L.A. (even though I’m far from deprived here — L.A. is basically the only place in the United States that has even more vegan options). While not every restaurant on this list is fully vegan, most are at least vegetarian or vegan-leaning.

Here are my picks for the best places to eat vegan in New York City, no matter your craving.

Best Korean Food: Hangawi

Any place that makes you take off your shoes is off to a great start in my book. Hangawi is located in Koreatown, and is a truly elevated experience. Each dish is purposefully and carefully crafted. You can get classic Korean dishes like the Tofu Kimchi Hot Pot, or more unusual dishes like the Dandelion and Avocado Salad, Mushroom and Vegetable Wrap, and Zen Noodles.

Runners-Up: Have a slightly less-expensive but still elevated meal at Francia, or choose the vegan options at the casual lunch/dinner buffet at Woorijip (where I probably ate most often).

Best Chinese Food:

Buddha Bodai

God, I love this place. It is cheap, unpretentious, classic Buddhist Chinese food — which is vegan! I always loved the watercress, and the “lamb” is definitely worth trying even if you’re not into mock meat. I also found the soy cheesecake for dessert to be delicious. Seriously, just go here anytime you’re in Chinatown.

Runner Up: Lucky Vegetarian in Sunset Park, Brooklyn is also excellent.

Best Pizza:

Double Zero

The homemade nut cheeses are downright amazing, and the freshly-baked crust from the wood-burning oven is chewy and perfect. If you want a classic Italian/New York-style pizza, elevated with interesting flavor combinations (I especially recommend the White Pizza) and a killer wine bar ambiance to match, this East Village gem is your place. Take anyone here who says they could never be vegan because they’d have to give up pizza.

Runners-Up: People also swear by Paulie Gee’s and Screamer’s Pizzeria in Greenpoint.

Best Quick Work Lunch:

Woorijip

If you work anywhere near Koreatown, my favorite takeout lunch spot would definitely be Woorijip. It’s cheap, delicious, and the vegan options abound. You can try a little bit of everything vegan, and they just weigh it at the end. They even have rice, salads, and other sides for as little as $1 each, to-go.

Runners-Up: If more standard American lunch fare is your style, Blossom DuJour is a solid pick for a delicious burger, wrap, or sandwich. If you happen to be near Downtown Brooklyn, I’d also highly recommend the simple Indian food at Govinda’s Vegetarian, which is only open during the week for lunch.

Best Fusion/Raw/Healthy

: Peacefood Cafe

Peacefood Cafe was my go-to for dinner out with a friend. The ambience is both casual and chic, the menu is large and appealing to all kinds of cravings and tastes (the Chickpea Fries are a must), and the dessert — well, let’s just say the Raw Key Lime Pie had both me and my non-vegan friends coming back.

Runners Up: For healthy and tasty raw or cooked food, I’d also recommend Sacred Chow in The West Village, Sun and Bloom in Prospect Heights, and Quintessence in the East Village.

Best Sushi:

Beyond Sushi

How Beyond Sushi isn’t in L.A. yet is beyond me — and I miss it! If you think vegan sushi isn’t possible, try one of Beyond Sushi’s four locations in New York City for a casual lunch or dinner, and prepare to be both satisfied and amazed. My favorites were the Spicy Mango Rolls, the Green Tea Noodle Salad, and the Sweet Potato Brownie for dessert.

Best Comfort Food:

Toadstyle

This Bedstuy joint is vegan comfort food at its best. Try the amazing “Yeah Dawg!” (best vegan hot dog, hands-down), the BBQ Pulled Jackfruit Sandwich, or the Fried Cauliflower. Whatever your craving, they have you covered at this hole-in-the-wall.

Runner Up: Uptown Veg in Harlem.

Best Ice Cream:

Van Leeuwen

Though Van Leeuwen’s isn’t entirely vegan, they have a huge selection of vegan flavors — and they are the richest, creamiest, tastiest around. Seriously, I defy anyone to tell the difference between this and dairy ice cream (except for the amount of bloating afterwards). My favorite flavor is the Dark Chocolate, but you seriously can’t go wrong here.

Runners Up: I also like Chloe’s soft serve as a lighter all-fruit soft-serve option in Union Square, and Ample Hills Creamery’s vegan coconut fudge “sorbet” (which is really the richest dark chocolate coconut milk ice cream I’ve tasted).

Best Splurge:

Dirt Candy

Pretty much the only category where I think New York City’s vegan cuisine beats L.A., hands-down, is fine dining. (And by “fine dining,” I mean anything where you might drop $100 on dinner, because I am not rich).

Dirt Candy, however, is worth saving up for. While you can get out for less money by ordering tapas-style, I’d recommend saving up for the vegan tasting menu. If you want to know what avant garde vegan cooking looks like right now, you will not be disappointed — or leave hungry. A different vegetable is showcased at the center of every plate, the food is always seasonal, and the flavors are complex and amazing. This is a fantastic restaurant.

Runners Up: Avant Garden, Mother of Peal, Kajitsu are all also nice nights out and absolutely delicious, offering truly unique tapas, upscale Polynesian food, and shojin Japanese cuisine, respectively.

Best Ethiopian Food:

Bunna Cafe

Located in Greenpoint, Bunna Cafe is all-vegan, all-amazing Ethiopian food — simply some of the best Ethiopian I’ve had. Go there for the coffee ceremony and live music, stay for the veggie sampler.

Best Indian Food:

Chennai Garden

Chennai Garden is just delicious, dependable Indian food, reasonably priced, and located in Murray Hill. Any curry is delicious, but South Indian dishes also are a specialty, with a vegan thali and Gunpowder Masala Dosa sure to please anyone who loves their potatoes.

Runners Up: Dosa Delight in Jackson Heights is great, and Saravana Bhavan, which is actually a chain in India, is also very tasty.

Best Latin Food

: V SPOT

Not surprisingly, L.A. is crushing NYC when it comes to competition in this category, but V SPOT holds it down as a solid and reasonably-priced brunch, lunch, and dinner spot with three locations in New York City. Whether you’re craving brunch, arepas, tamales, quesadillas, empanadas, or a big burrito, this place will hit the comfort food spot — without leaving you with a stomachache.

Best Rasta Food/Best Restaurant, Period:

Ital Kitchen

Ital Kitchen is the kind of place you can’t really describe until you experience it for yourself — but I’ll try anyway. Yes, the Ital food (that’s Rasta vegan food), cooked by Chef Michael Gordon, is delicious (I like the Jerk Chicken or Stir It Up Nice) — but it is the ambience and community in this Crown Heights gem that will keep you coming back.

This place has one of those rare backyards where new friends are made, and every night feels fated. Your server and soon-to-be friend, Mik, will make you feel welcome, and the music is always just what you need to relax. Of all the many places I ate in New York City, only one became my second home, the only place I truly miss. See it for yourself, but don’t be surprised if you also have the impulse to keep it a secret, for fear of ruining its hidden magic.

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