Sure, this town's famous for its delis, steakhouses and hot dog stands, but New York is more than just a meat-eater's paradise. We've got plenty of restaurants, cafes and falafel stands serving up veggie-friendly foods, and though your unyielding carnivore of a father might turn his nose up at bean curd, much of New York's vegetarian fare is just as much of a culinary triumph as its porterhouses. Here are our favorite vegetarian restaurants in the city; as always, leave yours in the comments.
A sabich sandwich at Taim (Courtesy themikebot's flickr)
TAIM: Taim's not a restaurant so much as a teensy little falafel bar, but the food they serve at their Spring Street and Waverly Place locations is tasty and filling enough to best a fancy sitdown meal. They mark vegan items on their menu, and there are plenty of easy options for anyone avoiding animal products, though it's certainly easy enough to navigate if you're just looking for a quick veggie bite. Their best and most basic offering is a falafel sandwich filled with all the usual fixings like fresh tahini, Israeli salad and pickled cabbage ($6.25); you can also opt for plain hummus sandwiches ($6) or a more decadent sabich sandwich filled with fried eggplant, egg, parsley and a selection of salads ($7.25). Taim serves three different falafel flavors, including a particularly firey one flavored with Tunisian spices, and you can also order a selection of salads and smoothies—but, really, the falafel's the star, so stick with that if you can.
Taim has two locations: 222 Waverly Place between 11th and Perry Street in the West Village, and 45 Spring Street between Mulberry and Mott Street in Nolita (212-219-0600, taimfalafel.com).
DIRT CANDY: It might take some advance planning to set up a dinner reservation at this popular (and tiny) East Village eatery, but if you're into innovative vegetarian dishes done with flair, it's worth the wait. You can request vegan or vegetarian versions of everything on the menu, which works out if you're dining with people following various diets. Entrees are designed around specific vegetables, but just because the menu's veggie-centric doesn't mean it's not decadent; try the buttery fried cauliflower dish served with waffles ($20), or corn served with grits and a tempura-poached egg ($19), and finish your meal off with a sweet rosemary eggplant tiramisu ($14) for dessert.
Dirt Candy is located at 430 East 9th Street between First Ave and Ave A in the East Village (212-228-7732, dirtcandynyc.com).
Candle Cafe East, via Yelp
CANDLE CAFE: This organic veggie chainlet has charged itself with the task of bringing healthy food to Upper East and West Side Manhattanites; both outposts serve vegan dishes, and offer an additional gluten-free menu to accomodate alternative diets. Candle Cafe's dinner entrees are pretty hefty—and, at a $20 average, a little pricey. Favorites include mole tempeh fajitas served with quinoa and pineapple salsa ($20, available on the UWS), and a hearty seitan au poivre with roasted garlic mashed potatoes ($21, available on the UES). Also a plus: both Candle Cafes serve brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, so you can wait to be seated for an hour just like your egg-and-bacon-eating buddies.
Candle Cafe East is located at 1307 Third Ave between 74th and 75th Street on the Upper East Side (212-472-0970, candlecafe.com/east). Candle Cafe West is located at 2427 Broadway between 89th and 90th Street on the Upper West Side (212-769-8900, candlecafe.com/west).
(Courtesy New York Daily Photo on Flickr)
ANGELICA KITCHEN: One of the oldest vegetarian restaurants in town is still one of the best—just ask Beastie Boys' Mike D, a regular who dined next to yours truly at the communal table one sunny afternoon on the greatest day of my life. Since 1976, Angelica Kitchen has been an East Village oasis for those in search of the freshest vegetarian food in town, while The Angelica Home Kitchen cookbook has spread their philosophy of innovate vegan cooking around the world.
Their daily specials on the dinner menu are often elaborate and sophisticated, but with an underlying simplicity that places enormous faith in the freshness of the ingredients. I usually end up going with the Wee Dragon Bowl Combo deal ($15): an ample bowl of rice, beans, tofu, sea vegetables & steamed vegetables served with your choice of dressing (creamy carrot ginger for us); PLUS soup; PLUS cornbread. (Their special Angelica cornbread is popular, but we still prefer the Southern style, with a side of addictive miso tahini spread.) Angelica's Kukicha tea is always gratifying, but it's worth noting that the restaurant is BYOB. (John Del Signore)
Angelica Kitchen is located at 300 East 12th Street by Second Avenue. They don't take reservations, so get there early for dinner or be prepared to wait (or join Michael Diamond at the "community table.")
Courtesy *Bitch Cakes*'s flickr
WILD GINGER: Wild Ginger's menu is heavy on tofu and seitan, so if you're soy or gluten-sensitive, it might not offer as many options for you. Otherwise, this pan-Asian joint—with a number of locations scattered in Manhattan and Brooklyn—serves up veggie stir-fries, pad thais, noodle dishes and other delicacies with a healthy twist. Try the sweet-and-sour sesame soy protein ($13), or, for something a little less sauce-ey, you can order sweet-citrus soy protein ($13), served with brown rice. They've also got a stellar veggie pad thai with bean sprouts and brown tofu ($9), plus there's a hefty selection of organic hot teas like raspberry Earl Grey ($1.50) and homemade iced drinks like Thai iced coffee ($3) to temper all that soy.
Wild Ginger has a number of locations around the city: the Williamsburg outpost is located at 212 Bedford Ave between North 5th and 6th Street in Brooklyn (718-218-8828, wildgingerny.com). The NoLita outpost is located at 380 Broome Street between Mulberry and Mott Street (212-966-1883, wildgingeronline.com). The Cobble Hill restaurant is located at 112 Smith Street between Dean and Pacific Street in Brooklyn (718-858-3880, wildgingeronline.com).
CHENNAI GARDEN: Lexington Ave's "Curry Hill" stretch boasts some of the city's best Indian spots, and while lamb and chicken tandoori might star on some menus, much of the cuisine is fairly veggie-friendly without sacrificing taste and spice. Chennai Garden specializes in dosas ($8-$10), rice-and-lentil crepes filled with cheese, spinach, lentils, mushrooms and other veggies. They've also got a selection of Punjabi curries like cheese-y palaak paneer ($11), chickpea-heavy chana masala ($10), and Gujarati curries like yellow dal (lentils) ($10). Make sure to order some buttery naan (bread) to soak up the sauce.
Chennai Garden is located at 129 East 27th Street between Park Avenue South and Lexington Ave in Gramercy (212-689-1999, orderchennaigarden.com).
'SNICE: This sweet little vegetarian cafe chainlet serves all sorts of casual veggie fare, like sandwiches and salads. Favorites include the soy sausage sandwich made with broccoli rabe and roasted red pepper ($8.75), the roasted vegetable panini with arugula and goat cheese ($8.75) and a Thai salad with edamame and peanuts ($8.75). They've also got a solid selection of vegan desserts, like muffins, cupcakes with flavored frosting and cute little $6 cakes in Mason jars; pair a sweet with a cup of coffee ($2-$4.50) or kombucha ($4.50) for a healthy, satisfying snack.
'Snice has three locations in the city: 150 Sullivan Street between Houston and Prince Street in SoHo; 45 Eighth Ave between Jane and West 4th Street in the West Village; 215 Fifth Ave between 4th Ave and 3rd Street in Park Slope, Brooklyn (snicecafe.com).
Courtesy Harris Graber's flickr
VEGETARIAN DIM SUM: Classic Chinatown dim sum's not all pork buns and fried dumplings. We already crowed about Veggie Dim Sum's faux-carnivore twist on the a la carte menu; again, fun meals like fake shark-fin soup, jumbo shrimp ($18) and sweet-and-sour mock chicken ($11) are favorites, plus they've got veggie dishes like steamed "unicorn" bean curd ($14) and fried noodles with mushrooms if you're trying to stick with the basics.
Vegetarian Dim Sum House is located at 24 Pell Street between Doyers and Mott Street in Chinatown (212-577-7176, vegetariandimsum.com).
HANGAWI: Vegetarians looking for the flavors of Korea minus the sizzling tabletop meats flock to this tranquil K-town restaurant to load up on flavorful dumplings, noodles and bibimbap. The Michelin Bib Gourmand-recommended restaurant prepares spicy kimchi mushroom pancakes ($13) and tender, gluten free, organic kale dumplings ($13) with tofu, as well as an avocado stone bowl rice ($21) with mixed vegetables and tofu over rice with miso sauce.
The restaurant also provides a completely gluten-free menu, where you can nosh worry free on eggplant with kimchi in gluten free brown sauce ($21) and lots of other dishes. Equally important to the food is the atmosphere at Hangawi. Diners remove their shoes upon entry, as is traditional in Korean homes, and the serene atmosphere will help to feed your soul as you feed your body. (Nell Casey)
Hangawi is located at 12 East 32nd Street, 212-213-0077
Zucchini Pappardelle via Candle 79 on Facebook
CANDLE 79: Though technically a vegan restaurant, this Upper East Side meat-free refuge has been thrilling diners of all varieties with their gourmet menu of comfort foods since it opened in 2003. The upscale "sister restaurant" to Candle Cafe is the place to go for Angel's Nachos ($16) with "mozzarella," tofu sour cream and chili-grilled seitan or a Stuffed Avocado ($16) with a crunchy filling including quinoia, radish and toasted pumpkin seeds. Just because you're eating veggies doesn't mean you'll go hungry. Filling entrees include Spaghetti & Wheat Balls ($19), Seitan Piccata ($23) with creamed spinach and a Moroccan Spiced Chickpea Cake ($20) with sauteed veggies, red pepper-coconut curry and toasted almonds.
They also do a nice weekend brunch, where $32 buys you a juice, smoothie or mimosa to go with your Homestyle Quinoa Pancakes or Tofu Scramble. The two-story restaurant caters to the fine dining end of the vegetarian spectrum, so make sure to don your finest hemp necktie. (Nell Casey)
Candle 79 is located at 154 East 79th Street at Lexington, 212-537-7179