It’s no secret that New York City is a well-known foodie destination. With iconic NYC dishes like pizza, hand-rolled bagels with lox cream cheese, Halal carts, and food hailing from practically all cultural regions of the world, it’s no wonder that the “City That Never Sleeps” appeals to those who love to eat. It also happens to be one of the most plant-forward cities in the US, having claimed the #2 spot on animal rights organization PETA’s 2018 list of the most vegan-friendly cities in the nation.
While NYC has no shortage of vegan-friendly restaurants where omnivores and vegans alike can share a meal, each of the restaurants that made the list is 100 percent plant-based.
11 Essential Vegan Restaurants You Need to Visit in NYC
1. Seasoned Vegan
At Harlem-based vegan restaurant Seasoned Vegan, guests can expect plant-based takes on soul food like housemade black pepper steak served with classic Southern comfort food sides like collard greens, mac and cheese, sweet potato souffle, and more. Located just north of Central Park, the family-owned establishment is widely-regarded as being the neighborhood’s first-ever full-service vegan restaurant. The Harlem vegan restaurant is owned and operated by mother-son duo Brenda and Aaron Beener, who act as head chef and front-of-house, respectively. Chef Brenda describes her culinary creations as “gourmet vegan soul food,” inspired by her mother’s Southern cooking, as well as Caribbean, Asian, Italian, and Middle Eastern cuisine. On Friday and Saturday nights, the restaurant keeps its doors open until 2 am, serving light bites with drinks. For the early birds, a brunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays — just be sure to make a reservation, because tables fill up fast.
2. New York Dosas
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Widely considered to be one of NYC’s best hidden gems, Vendy award-winning New York Dosas is a small, unassuming vegan food truck that operates out of Washington Square Park. Founder Thiru Kumar, affectionately known as “The Dosa Man” among those in the know, serves dosas, a South Indian specialty consisting of crepes made from fermented rice flour, stuffed with fillings like spiced vegetables and potatoes, and always served with a side of housemade chutneys. Samosas are also made daily. Newspaper clippings from various write-ups are proudly displayed on the outside of the cart. If you’re looking to catch The Dosa Man in Washington Square Park, make sure to check Chef Kumar’s Twitter, where he makes daily announcements regarding his whereabouts. Cash only.
3. Marty’s V Burger
The critically-acclaimed vegan burger joint Marty’s V Burger is best known for serving plant-based burgers that perfectly mimic the flavors found in classic fast-food hamburgers. The Lower East Side vegan restaurant’s signature burger, the “Original World Famous Burger,” was once recognized by television chef Rachel Ray as being one of the best burgers in America. The burger’s vegetable-focused housemade patty (which can be substituted for the Impossible Burger or the Beyond Burger) comes with melted vegan cheddar cheese, special sauce, pickles, and shredded lettuce on a sesame seed bun. Compared to other restaurants where one burger can fetch a $12+ price tag, the Original World Famous Burger will set you back $7, thanks to founder Marty Krutolow’s commitment to serving quality, reasonably-priced food. If you stop by, be sure to order a side of “Drumstix,” which consists of soy-based chicken fried to perfection and then smothered in Buffalo sauce, BBQ sauce, or tangy Thai chili jam.
4. Champs Diner
Tucked away in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood, Champs Diner is the go-to destination for vegan takes on classic diner food. Whether you’re seeking larger-than-life brunch options like the “French Toast Slam” — vegan French toast served with tofu scramble, soy-based breakfast sausage, hash browns, and seitan or tempeh bacon — a plant-based Benedict, or classic diner sandwiches like a Reuben, Champs’ food satisfies the craving for pure vegan comfort food. Regardless of what time you visit, you can expect to wait at least 30 minutes, which is just enough time to grab a few award-winning vegan pastries from Dunwell Doughnuts just around the corner, a well-established tradition among Champs’ regulars.
5. Avant Garden
Upscale vegan restaurant Avant Garden, which has locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn, is one of the many atmospheric concepts to come from the mind of restaurateur Ravi DeRossi. The menu focuses on serving elevated small plates such as toasts topped with unique vegetable combinations to share over a bottle of natural wine. The restaurant’s low lighting may not inspire the most Instagram-worthy photos, but the ambiance and the food make it well worth a visit.
6. Veggie Castle II
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Nestled on the border of Queens’ Ozone Park and Jamaica neighborhoods, Veggie Castle II is a small, family-owned restaurant tucked away on the border of Jamaica, Queens. The humble restaurant, which took over a former White Castle space (hence the castle spires that decorate the exterior), is famous for its make-your-own plates of vegan takes on classic Caribbean food like curry tofu and curry “chicken,” pepper steak, jerk jackfruit, mac and cheese, collards, rice and peas, BBQ drumsticks, plantains, and more. Pile on your favorites, but don’t forget to grab a few vegan patties — a Jamaican street food consisting of fillings like meat and veggies wrapped in a flaky yellow pastry — to go.
7. Double Zero
Many would argue that no NYC experience is complete without ordering pizza. Luckily, there are more than a few pizzerias that cater to plant-based eaters, but vegan celebrity chef Matthew Kenney’s Double Zero provides a“healthy perspective” to one of the world’s most popular foods with creative pizza concepts like the Spicy Marinara Arrabiata, a Neapolitan-inspired pizza topped with Shiitake bacon, roasted cauliflower, housemade macadamia ricotta, and fresh basil. Gluten-free vegan pizza, dessert, and a selection of wines are also available.
8. Beyond Sushi
Vegan sushi chain Beyond Sushi has several locations throughout Manhattan and is popular for its creative takes on plant-based Japanese cuisine. Co-owner and head chef Guy Vaknin expertly pairs fresh produce such as Shiitake mushrooms, burdock root, carrots, and others in a variety of dishes such as dumplings, noodles, salads, spring rolls, and of course — sushi — in a way that overthrows preconceived notions of what humble vegetables can taste like. With six locations currently open, it’s safe to say that Beyond Sushi is a hit among diners.
9. Bunna Cafe
Former vegan Ethiopian pop-up shop turned brick-and-mortar Bunna Cafe is located in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood. The ambient cash-only establishment specializes in dishing out a wide variety of authentic, plant-based Ethiopian stews served atop spongy injera bread. As per traditional Ethiopian food, you eat by tearing off a piece of injera, then scooping up bites of spice-rich stew. Utensils are provided upon request. After dinner, order flaky vegan baklava with a cup of coffee, which is brewed via an Ethiopian coffee ceremony daily.
10. Bodhi Kosher Vegetarian Restaurant
Formerly known as “Budda Bodai,” Chinatown’s Bodhi Kosher Vegetarian Restaurant is well-regarded by locals as the best vegan dim sum in NYC. Its authentic, plant-based takes on dim sum like dumplings, vegan duck, and many other other selections have been featured on ABC, CBS, and WNBC. No matter what time of day you stop by, you can expect to wait to be seated — a testament to the restaurant’s popularity.
11. Delice & Sarrasin
Organic vegan restaurant Delice & Sarrasin specializes in serving authentic French dishes in the heart of West Village. Hidden away on a small, tree-lined street, the charming nook overturns the idea that French food cannot exist without meat, seafood, or butter. Baked macadamia nut brie melts and tastes like the dairy-based version, mushrooms stand in for escargot, and pea protein is used to create gluten-free and vegan versions of meaty classics like coq au vin, steak tartare, and beef bourguignon. Macarons, chocolate mousse, and creme brulee, along with others, are available for dessert, all perfectly paired with the restaurant’s selection of organic vegan wines.
Image Credit: Beyond Sushi / Double Zero / Seasoned Vegan / Bunna Cafe / Champs Diner / Delice & Sarrasin