Dining out as (or with) a vegan can be a struggle, but in New York, there's no need to settle for veggie burgers out on the fire escape. There are plenty of restaurants, vegetarian and not, that offer stellar animal product-free fare that doesn't sacrifice flavor when swapping in seitan and tofu. Here are our favorite vegan dishes in the city; as always, leave yours in the comments.
Courtesy Sam Saverance
FEAST FOR TWO AT BUNNA CAFE: Bunna Cafe's been running secret dinners and pop-up fests for a while now, but last winter Bushwick residents were blessed with Bunna's first brick-and-mortar spot. Now, you can score fresh, delicious Ethiopian meals daily; the Bunna crew's finest offering, the Feast for Two, nets you all nine of the restaurant's main dishes, including spicy lentil stew misir wot, steamed kale-and-carrots dish gomen and a beet-heavy keysir salata. And it's a solid deal—the very-shareable dish runs $28, and comes with a heaping plate of spongey injera bread to sop up all the spicy, vegan goodness. Cash only.
Bunna Cafe is located at 1084 Flushing Ave between Varick and Knickerbocker Aves in Bushwick, Brooklyn (347-295-2227, bunnaethiopia.net).
IRON MAN AT MAIMONIDE OF BROOKLYN: MOB knows what's up when it comes to cruelty-free delicacies, and its MOB Iron Man entree is the best of the bunch. For $10, you get a house-made, organic flatbread topped with vegan mayonnaise, steamed kale, shitake mushrooms and parsley—the filling, fresh-tasting meal is best complemented by a $6 plate of crispy french fries, and you can swap the flatbread out for a gluten-free one for just a buck if you choose.
MOB is located at 525 Atlantic Ave between Third and Fourth Ave in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn (718-797-2555, mob-usa.com).
PEANUT BUTTER BOMB AT WILD GINGER: We've made no secret of the fact that Wild Ginger's one of our favorite vegetarian chainlets in the city. But while the vegan pan-Asian entrees won us over in the first place, it's a dessert dish here that really takes the cake, so to speak. The $7 peanut butter bomb—made by Pennsylvania-based bakery Vegan Treats—is a work of art, made with thick slabs of chocolate cake smeared with a sweet peanut butter mousse, and covered with a layer of rich chocolate fudge. Please pair this delicacy with a glass of almond milk, because hot DAMN will it blow the roof off your mouth with its gooey goodness.
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).
BACON CHEESEBURGER AT V-NOTE: Shuttered UWS Cafe Blossom's vegan bacon cheeseburger is temporarily no more (they're reopening in September!), but you can still score a stellar offering from V-Note, an "organic wine bar and vegan bistro" created by the folks behind the Blossom empire. Though the $12 deal isn't necessarily a replacement for some of the city's most delectable meat burgers, the dish is still a tasty arrangement of caramelized onions, faux-cheese, soy bacon and mushrooms sitting atop a bed of lettuce and tomato and sandwiched between a sesame bun. The burger comes with your choice of fries, sweet potato fries or field greens, and it's only available on their lunch menu, if you're lucky enough to swing by midday.
V-Note is located at 1522 1st Ave between 79th and 80th Streets on the Upper East Side (212-249-5009, v-notenyc.com).
GREEN MACHINE BURGER AT THE ORGANIC GRILL: For another faux-burger deal, this East Village eatery offers one of the tastiest veggie burgers in town. The $12.99 Green Machine burger comes with your choice of vegan or dairy cheese, depending on your dietary restrictions; the rest of the Meat-Free MacDaddy is comprised of a large Portobello mushroom, a hunk of vegan pesto sauce, onions, lettuce, tomato, avocado, peppers and sprouts. This thing is a monster of herbivore proportions, and even staunch burger lovers will be impressed with its flavor and fuerte.
The Organic Grill is located at 123 1st Ave between 7th Street and St. Marks Place in the East Village (212-477-7177, theorganicgrill.com).
KOREAN BARBECUE SEITAN AT THE CINNAMON SNAIL: From the decadent doughnuts to all the other treats, there's a lot to love about this incredible food truck. But if I had to pick a go-to favorite, the Korean Barbeque Seitan ($9) would win every time. Let's first get the idea out of the way that there's any dainty way to eat this open-faced beast; the very vehicle in which it arrives to your mouth—a flaky, tender soft tortilla—has been slathered in chili "butter," so get ready for a delicious mess on your hands...and your face (and quite possibly your shirt).
Your willingness to get down in it will be rewarded with tender chunks of seitan mixed with crunchy bits of fiery homemade kimchi. In between, some greens like arugula and kale, which add color and the illusion you're eating something significantly less caloric. Vegan doesn't always mean healthy, folks! Remember those donuts? And good luck finishing it: this behemoth portion of spicy, buttery goodness is about the size of your head. (Nell Casey)
BUFFALO CHIK'N SANDWICH AT CHAMPS DINER: Champs is another land of vegan delight, and while we're partial to their red velvet pancakes, the Williamsburg spot's cruelty-free buffalo "chik'n" sandwich is worth praise all its own. The $9 sandwich comes with faux chicken cutlets, greens, tomatoes and sautéed onions, all slathered in hot sauce and dairy-free ranch dressing, smushed together on a hearty hero roll. If fake chicken's not your thing, you can also opt for the diner's stellar $9 Grinder, a hot hero stuffed with grilled seitan, garlic, hot peppers, onions, mayo and melted vegan cheese.
Champs is located at 176 Ainslie Street between Lorimer Street and Manhattan Ave in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-599-2743, champsdiner.com).
CAJUN SEITAN SANDWICH AT CANDLE CAFE WEST: The Candle Cafe empire's made quite a name for itself thanks to its scrumdiddlyumptious vegan fare. But the chainlet's finest offering, particularly at its West Side iteration, is the Cajun seitan sandwich, a meatless marvel that will win over even the staunchest of carnivores. The $16 dish is comprised of fiery Cajun-crusted seitan, red onion, avocado, kale and dairy-free aioli, all combined on a hunk of grilled focaccia. Pair the sandwich with a side of potato fries, and pretend what you just ate set you back 0 calories.
Candle Cafe West is located at 2427 Broadway between 89th and 90th Street on the Upper West Side (212-769-8900, candlecafe.com/west). You can also score this sandwich at Candle 79 on the East Side.
DIM SUM AT HAPPY BUDDHA: Vegan dim sum is one of the most rewarding cruelty-free meals, and the dim sum at Flushing spot Happy Buddha wins all the awards in Queens. They're particularly known for their hefty appetizer platters, which come with a wide variety of small bites that are devoid of animal products, but lose no flavor in the process. Stuff your face with dumpling after dumpling, sesame rice rolls, turnip cakes and dozens of faux-pork rolls; leave stuffed and parting with a maximum of $12 from your bank account. Dim sum deals run daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Happy Buddha is located at 135-37 37th Ave in Flushing, Queens (718- 358-0079, happybuddha.com).
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Previously, we compiled two Best Vegetarian restaurant lists and one Best Vegan list, and while we like to give new dishes and restaurants a chance to shine, these vegan eateries are worthy of a shout out. They include (but are not limited to): Pure Food and Wine, Franchia, Dirt Candy (currently in the process of relocating), Angelica Kitchen, Dun-Well Doughnuts and New Bodai. Check out our previous lists for more vegan delights.