Back in 1975, Leslie McEachern opened the trailblazing vegan restaurant Angelica Kitchen at 42 St. Mark's Place. Serving inventive, affordable fare made from organic and locally-sourced fresh produce, Angelica was popular long before "farm-to-table" became a ubiquitous fad. In 1988, Angelica relocated to its current location on 12th Street, just off of Second Avenue, where you'll often find its serene dining room packed, especially on the weekends. But now McEachern says the restaurant is struggling, and she's begging customers to come show their support:

Yet, now more than ever, Angelica's is at risk of becoming a casualty of the business climate and real estate market that has led to the loss of so many other beloved NYC restaurants. Tragic, right? Well, this is our current reality. The increasing number of vacancies and For Rent signs point to how the indie businesses are being turned out due to economic pressures and being replaced by gentrified corporate interests - more banks anyone? - which strip the heart and soul from our home base. We small commercial tenants are being exiled by the very success we produced, while landlords reap the rewards.

Reached by phone, McEachern tells us that the new lease, which is for five years, has soared to $21,000 a month "and change." (By way of comparison, when Angelica opened on St. Mark's in 1975, the rent was $450 a month.)

"The rent was already way too high per square foot compared to what others in the neighborhood are paying," McEachern says. "We need to make $7,000 a night just to make overhead; utilities, rent, taxes, insurance, the whole shebang." Last winter, with its multiple Polar Vortexes, was particularly difficult for Angelica, and McEachern says there were "many" days over the winter where the restaurant "barely brought in $2,000. We were barely able to stay open."

Before that, Angelica was hard-hit by Hurricane Sandy. "We lost a lot of money during that week because our insurance refused to pay business interruption insurance, which it did with other businesses in the East Village. Things just dropped off after Hurricane Sandy. The whole neighborhood economy just slammed shut, for quite a while."

Deep in debt, McEachern has been making changes she's long-resisted, in an attempt to boost business. Angelica is finally serving beer and wine, as well as coffee, and McEachern has added an ATM to the vestibule of the cash-only establishment. Asked why she doesn't finally start taking plastic, she says, "My whole philosophy on that has to do with the politics of credit cards, which have been part of the problem of the whole financial decline of this country. Credit cards get people in a lot of trouble, and credit cards increase the price of the menu items. I don't see why for the convenience of credit cards for some people I should charge more for everybody."

There are a lot more places in NYC to get quality vegetarian food than there were in 1985, but Angelica is still arguably the best. If you've never eaten there, give them a try (even if you think you don't like vegetarian food—trust us, you'll be pleasantly surprised). And if you're already a fan but haven't been back in a while, you'd better plan a visit now before it's too late.