To celebrate VegNews naming the Top 10 Best Vegan Cities in America (found in our May+June 2017 issue), we asked our favorite vegans to explain why their winning town should be atop every meat-free traveler’s list.
New York City is truly the capital of the world, and the city’s bright lights and constant energy attract people from all over the globe. More than one-third of the people who live here were born in another country, and more than 800 different languages are spoken in New York City. We New Yorkers respect and embrace our differences and our diversity, which might be one reason why The Big Apple has an abundance of vegan options from which to choose. No joke—whatever kind of vegan food you want, you can find it somewhere within the five boroughs. From quick grab-and-go meals and street carts to leisurely sit-down dining, New York City really has it all (as the Ramones once sang). If you can’t find it here, it doesn’t exist.
Top 3 vegan eateries …
1. Modern Love Brooklyn: Billed as “swanky vegan comfort food,” this relative newcomer has quickly earned its place among the top vegan restaurants in the city. Modern Love Brooklyn puts a contemporary vegan spin on classic comfort foods thanks to plates such as Mac & Cheese and Surf & Turf. Be sure to save room for dessert, and no matter what the pie of the day is, get it!
2. Delice & Sarrasin: This small, family-run restaurant in the West Village specializes in French homemade cooking and authentic French dishes such as Coq au Vin and Boeuf Bourguignon, crepes, and galettes. Their cheese plate—featuring homemade cashew-based cheeses—is not to be missed. Delice & Sarrasin attracts not only vegans but also tourists from France and French expats looking for a taste of home.
3. Candle 79: Candle 79 is a classic restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper East Side that has been the standard bearer for fine vegan dining in New York for more than 13 years. The ambiance balances elegance with relaxed sophistication, and a meal here never feels rushed. While the menu is updated seasonally, there are some classics that are always available—most notably, the Seitan Piccata is not to be missed.
Top 3 non-vegan restaurants with vegan options …
1. John’s of 12th Street: This East Village eatery has been serving traditional red-sauce Italian food for more than 100 years. John’s is the only Italian restaurant in New York City that a has full vegan menu with classics such as pasta fagioli, pizza, meatballs, and ravioli. We love the eggplant parmigiana and seitan marsala, and will never turn down their vegan cannoli for dessert. Tip: John’s is cash only, but they have an on-site ATM.
2. Souen: While we are partial to the macro plate of greens, beans, brown rice, and hijiki, there are plenty of options to choose from at this organic macrobiotic restaurant. On cold winter days, a bowl of the miso ramen is just the thing to warm us up.
3. Van Leeuwen: When the urge for ice cream hits, we head to Van Leeuwen. Thankfully, with six locations in the city, we can always get to one with ease. Flavors change regularly, but they always have chocolate cookie dough. Treat yourself to a sundae topped with their vegan hot fudge sauce and vegan whipped cream.
Favorite vegan item in New York City …
We have very different tastes when it comes to food. However, when picking our favorite menu item, we both picked off the same menu—Candle 79. Ethan’s favorite is Spaghetti and Wheatballs, while Michael’s is the Seitan Piccata.
Ultimate vegan meal …
A progressive meal through the city would be a great way to sample much of what New York City has to offer. To start our meal, we would begin in Chelsea at Blossom Restaurant for a Black Eyed Pea Cake. Then we would jump on the L train to Williamsburg to have the Grilled Caesar Salad at Modern Love Brooklyn. For our entrée, we’d visit Candle 79 for the Seitan Piccata, and we would end our meal with one of the crepes from Delice & Sarrasin.
First-stop for a visiting vegan friend …
We love taking visitors to Champs Diner because, in true diner fashion, Champs has a diverse menu. And, as a bonus, the eatery is in our neighborhood. If we go for breakfast, we always go for a stack of pancakes (any variety will do—a tall stack can easily be shared by two people). If we go later in the day, an order of the Seitan Asada Fries is a must.
Top three vegan desserts …
1. Confectionary: Grabbing a macaroon or cookie from Confectionary in the East Village is a perfect way to satisfy a craving for something sweet. This shop is a joint venture between Lagusta’s Luscious and Maresa Volante of Sweet Maresa. Volante has perfected the vegan macaroon and offers them in a wide range of flavors including peanut butter and jelly, orange blossom, and lavender. Pro tip: the flavor selection changes daily, so go often to try everything.
2. Cocoa V: Cocoa V in Chelsea is a must-visit for anyone who likes chocolate. Although they offer a great selection of baked goods, the bonbons are our favorite. We like to get an assortment, but it always has to include at least one salted caramel.
3. Peacefood Cafe: Even people who don’t like coffee love the tiramisu from Peacefood Cafe. The generous portion is big enough that two people could share it, but you will want to keep it all to yourself.
Favorite non-food activity …
We love going to the vegan shop-ups at Pine Box Rock Shop in Brooklyn. These shop-ups enable us to see friends, pick up some goodies, and spend time with our amazing vegan community.
Vegan king and/or queen of New York City …
We’re picking an actual couple to be the vegan queen and king: Irene and Ron Rizzo. The Rizzos show up for everything and everyone in the city. We cannot image New York without them.
One amazing vegan thing in New York City every city should have …
Every city needs to have vegan shop-ups/pop-up markets. These fun events give people exposure to new food and products and allow vendors to reach people they otherwise might miss.
Michael Suchman and Ethan Ciment write about equality, animal rights, and all-things vegan.
Photo courtesy of Nicholas Doyle for Candle 79
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