NYC has long been a culinary capital and a place where people of all gastronomic enthusiasms come to feel at home. So it makes sense that the five boroughs are on the cutting edge of vegan food. Plant foodies have a wealth of options in the City—including gourmet eats, slice-pizza spots, high-concept Japanese and vegan ice cream. It’s all vegetable based, and it’s all delicious.
Places like Modern Love and Toad Style turn out bold, rich flavors, defying any lingering stereotype that vegan food is for ascetics satisfied by bland blocks of tofu. The City’s vegan destinations also have multiethnic flair; you’ll find Ethiopian, Mexican, Korean, Chinese and Polynesian options, for a start. Here’s our guide to the top vegan restaurants in NYC.
Back when one could scarcely imagine White Castle serving vegan burgers, eateries like Caravan of Dreams and Candle Café showed the delicious possibilities of meat-free fare. Caravan of Dreams, an East Village standby that opened in 1991, delivers tasty organic food in a cozy environment—complete with live music. The menu includes raw selections.
Candle Café (which also has a fancier offshoot, Candle 79 ,as well as a westside location, Café Candle West) has been a vegetarian destination since 1994. Healthy-eating advocates Bart Potenza and Joy Pierson started the restaurants in hopes of awakening diners to the pleasures and benefits of vegan food; more than two decades later, dishes like avocado tartare, Mexican lasagna and the Cajun seitan sandwich convincingly make the case.
Modern Love, started by vegan star chef Isa Chandra Moskowitz, has a casual air that belies the remarkable handiwork of its kitchen staff; the standout flavors are evident throughout the meal, from appetizers (Korean BBQ cauliflower wings, cashew mozzarella Caprese) to mains (chickpea parmesan and hen of the woods piccata) to dessert (the incomparable brownie with peanut butter cookie dough ice cream).
With its elegant interior design, the Michelin-starred Nix is ideal for a date night or special occasion. The venue’s aesthetic comes through in its thoughtfully crafted food, plated in ikebana-like arrangements. At the remarkable Dirt Candy, chef Amanda Cohen prepares sublime dishes (not all of them vegan) from humble vegetables and legumes; HanGawi offers vegan gourmet Korean food in a rustic, neo-monastic setting.
Let’s Do Brunch!
The piquant dishes and lively atmosphere of Jajaja make it a great spot for a weekend brunch. Vegans, omnivores and those in between can enjoy the restaurant’s stunning plant-based reinventions of Mexican classics sans cheese and meat—including beet and pumpkin empanadas, chimichurri eggplant tortas and all manner of imaginative taco fillings.
Champs Diner, in Williamsburg, has the encyclopedic menu you’d expect from a diner—with only plant-based ingredients. They serve croque madames, breakfast burritos, biscuits and gravy and cures for common weekend ailments (the “Hungover Hippie,” for example). Plus, there are several varieties of pancakes, sundaes and shakes.
In the warm ambiance of Peacefood Café, which has locations in Union Square and on the Upper West Side, you can satisfy vegan cravings with a salad, sandwich or something heartier—like a Thai green curry or breaded “un-chicken” with mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy. The chickpea fries are a must.
LuAnne’s Wild Ginger has four locations that serve up meatless variations of Asian fare, while Chinatown eatery Buddha Bodai offers plentiful dim sum selections and mock meat dishes incorporating vegan lamb, chicken, beef and even prawn.
When it opened in Greenwich Village in 2015, vegan fast-food restaurant By Chloe— now with five city locations and more on the way—tapped into a vein of enthusiasm for plant-based patties: its guac burgers are made with black beans, quinoa and sweet potatoes; classic burgers get their heft from tempeh, lentils, chia seeds and walnuts.
In the East Village, Superiority Burger serves its eponymous plant-based burger alongside inventive dishes made from farmers’ finds—and the “tofu fried tofu” (aka TFT), lauded by Eater as one of NYC’s “Best Chicken Sandwiches.”
If NYC held a vegan prom, Matthew Kenney would be voted king. A serial culinary entrepreneur, Kenney launched vegan pizza joint Double Zero in 2016. He tops his medium-crust pies with dollops of remarkable, dairy-less nut cheeses, cauliflower, artichoke, wild mushrooms and baby kale. The tiramisu dessert is incredible.
Greenpoint-based Screamer’s Pizzeria, a more casual option, serves by the slice. Cheeses include the house-made almond-based parmesan, soy-based Numu and Violife—an option free of nuts, soy and gluten. Screamer’s Instagram feed is a mouthwatering showcase of what’s possible.
Some of the City’s vegan restaurants emphasize the spiritual side of plant-based eating. Divya’s Kitchen, located on the bottom floor of a Hare Krishna center in the East Village, offers Ayurveda-inspired culinary classics like excellently spiced khichari (lentil stew) and a vegetable curry, all meant to help diners achieve mental, physical and spiritual balance. Govinda’s Vegetarian Lunch has long been a weekday pilgrimage site in downtown Brooklyn for its superb South Asian vegetarian lunches, which include vegan options.
In the basement of a Hindu temple in Flushing, Queens, Temple Canteen serves authentic South Indian dosas, sambar and mango lassis. Vegans should just be sure to request that their dish does not have ghee. The sublime Katjitsu doles out set-menu meals inspired by the cuisine of Japanese Zen Buddhists.
NYC’s vegan dessert offerings are every bit as sweet, creamy, and rich as their conventional counterparts. For confirmation, visit Rawsome Treats, where the velvety delicacies are all raw; Erin McKenna’s Bakery, named for the dairy- and gluten-free grande dame of the vegan dessert world; and Sweets by Chloe, an offshoot of the similarly named vegan fast-food eatery. If you want vegan ice cream, Van Leeuwen has numerous options, as do Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream and Park Slope’s L'Albero dei Gelati (all of them serve dairy ice cream, too); select outposts of Juice Press dispense a summery vegan soft serve made from superfoods.
But Wait, There’s More
Even if you’re not at a fully vegan or vegetarian spot, you can’t throw a chickpea in NYC without hitting a restaurant that has excellent vegan options. There is superb hummus and falafel at Middle Eastern eateries like Mamoun’s, Taim and Maoz. Take-out veggie-centric faves Sweetgreen and Dig Inn have numerous locations around the City.