An English Vegan In New York
New York may be called The Big Apple but for vegans it’s got more than just fruit on offer. In fact, if you’re in search of vegan delights, New York is definitely one of the better places to visit. The city is literally thriving with vegan and vegetarian eateries, health food stores stocking vegan products and much more. Flying to the US may not win you many eco brownie points, but you will definitely be in vegan heaven when you get there.
As far as diners and restaurants, there are so many that it’s hard to know where to start first. The first vegan restaurant that I visited was Blossom (http://www.blossomnyc.com, 187 Ninth Ave New York), an exquisite treasure trove that boasts ‘gourmet organic vegan cuisine’. The restaurant looks to be growing as upon each return visit there are more tables with more people savouring the delights. In fact, the owners have since opened a second Blossom at 466 Columbus Avenue, New York. The Ninth Ave restaurant almost looks like a house as you enter into it, with a certain homeliness to it inside. Blossom’s menu has everything from Tofu Fra Diablo (lightly spiced tofu & linguini with broccoli rabe, fresh tomato sauce & black olives) to soy bacon cheeseburger to Phyllo Roulade (French lentils and root vegetables baked in a phyllo crust, served over a carrot-cream sauce. Caramelized onions and swiss chard complement.). They also serve a lot of wine, as well as other beverages… so if you like a tipple, head there!
Candle Café (www.candlecafe.com, 1307 Third Ave, New York) is a diner that PETA has highly recommended. Ecstatically their menu also features ‘organic vegan cuisine’ and the restaurant has a second ‘Candle 79’ venture as well. Candle Café has evolved from originally being a juice bar and vitamin shop in the 80s and is the first certified ‘green restaurant’, being very eco-friendly. The two restaurants use energy efficient cooking equipment and recycled products such as napkins and bath tissue. Opening at 11.30am every day, Candle Café’s menu features many salads, burgers, appetizers and farmer’s market entrée’s such as Quinoa Crusted Tempeh and Tuscan Lasagna. Desserts range from vanilla frosted carrot cake to chocolate mousse pie.
The first vegan eaterie in New York to find and add us on MySpace was Foodswings (www.myspace.com/foodswings, 295 Grand Street, Brooklyn, NY), a diner located in Brooklyn. Although you have to take the L train to get to Brooklyn, it doesn’t take long and is well worth the extra subway ride. Foodswings is paradise for lovers of vegan junk food! According to Foodswings itself, it is ‘the only vegan fast food joint in the world’. The one down side to Foodswings is that they’re not open all day every day! Although their new 11.30am starts are much better than the older 5pm ones. They're open till either 11pm or midnight most weekdays, staying open till 2am on Friday and Saturday nights. Midnight munchies has never sounded so good! Foodswings sells everything from Chick’n Nuggets (golden fried mock chicken nuggets) to ‘fish’ and chips (vegan fish of course). Some of the items have their own names such as ‘The A-Diggity Dog’ (two soy dogs served on buns) to ‘The Vegan Heart Attack’ – which is a soy burger with soy bacon & soy cheese with lettuce, tomato & red onion. Damn, my heart’s panging for it already! In December 2008, Foodswings changed management – the new owners are three vegans – Jeff, Melody and Eric. It’s great to see Foodswings still in good hands. Long may the fast food Foodswings continue.
It’s not often you’ll find yourself waiting in a queue outside a diner – but that’s what happened upon heading to Curly’s Vegetarian Lunch (www.curlyslunch.com, 328 E 14th St, New York ). Although Curly’s isn’t 100% vegan, it can make every option vegan. Enticing delights include vegan pancakes, Sloppy Joe (ground soy beef, peppers, and onions in a sweet and tangy sauce. on a roll with a half order of curly fries)… they even have gravy fries and pizza fries. Curly’s also sell the sweetest, most delectable cakes. Just looking at them makes your mouth water! As Curly’s is relatively small (there were approximately five tables each side of one aisle), that does mean that they are often busy and you may have to wait outside after putting your name on a list. But the wait is worth it. Oh, and their soya hot chocolate is the best hot chocolate ever!
PLEASE NOTE: CURLY'S HAS SADLY SINCE CLOSED - ALTHOUGH THE OWNERS HAVE OPENED TORTUGA, A MEXICAN RESTAURANT SELLING VEGAN & VEGETARIAN FOOD AT 246 E. 14TH STREET.
Quite a contrast to Curly’s was Sacred Chow (www.sacredchow.com, 227 Sullivan Street, New York). In a quieter area of New York, Sacred Chow was quiet at the time of our visit – mind you, it was midday on a Sunday… not really the liveliest time for any restaurant. Sacred Chow is 100% vegan. The range of food is slightly smaller, with the café focusing on tapas, heros, salads and desserts. Desserts include pound cake, chocolate cake, scones and ice-cream, while their tapas are divided into protein rich plates and complex carb plates. Sacred Chow sometimes has open mic nights which bring in large audiences. The waiter was very friendly and helpful.
Kate’s Joint (www.myspace.com/katesjoint, 58 Ave B, New York) is a more spacious affair and has a bar area as well as restaurant area. Although not vegan, the vegetarian restaurant has a wide variety of food on offer, making it hard to decide what exactly to pick. Should we have vegan pizza, shepherd’s pie with salad, veggie burger or an Unturkey Club? Hmmm. Or how about the veggie burrito or pasta? Kate’s Joint also has a range of breakfasts (bagels, pancakes, tofu scramble and the like) should you arrive between 9am and 4pm. Breakfast by 4pm? Sounds like they know me too well! I’ll have mine at 3.30pm, thanks!
Red Bamboo (http://www.redbamboo-nyc.com, 140 W. 4th, New York) is a fairly well known vegetarian ‘soul café’. The restaurant has a whole range of platters such as Dragonfly Dumplings and Friend Fish Sticks to Salmon Rolls and Tonkatsu Chops, and even Black Bean Ginger Stirfry. Red Bamboo definitely has an oriental vibe (we were even given a fortune cookie along with our bill at the end) although those that prefer western cuisine can also find such morsels including the classic vegan BLT and French fries. Red Bamboo also has an extensive drinks menu that includes wine, beer, soft drinks and soya milk.
If you’re not quite so hungry, you may prefer to take a trip to Teany (https://www.teany.com, 90 Rivington Street, New York). Once owned by Moby, Teany is home to many varieties of tea – although does sell light food items such as sandwiches, scones and cakes too. Oh and soya hot chocolate. But not as nice as Curly’s. It has a small outside patio area at the front as well as a larger seated area indoors. We visited one evening in December and found that it was choc-a-block inside – so we had to grab one of the last remaining free tables on the outside patio. Teany had a nice, communal vibe to it – almost like a bar, minus the alcohol.
On the other hand, you may want to go in search of cake, cake and more cake. If so, Babycakes (http://www.babycakesnyc.com, 248 Broome Street) is the place for you. Babycakes is an all natural, organic vegan bakery that sells the cutest vegan cupcakes, as well as cookies, muffins, loaves and more. If you feel like abandoning that diet for a day, visit Babycakes! Like a baby, you’ll be going gaga for them once you’ve tried one!
If you’re on the go and would rather grab food from a store to eat later, there are so many health food stores around – ranging from Health Nuts and Westerly Heath Foods to of course the very well known Wholefoods Markets. Wholefoods of course isn’t vegan or even vegetarian – but its vegan range is immense. Picture Morrisons or Sainsburys – and that is what Wholefoods looks like - except it's bulging with food suitable for vegans and veggies. Although it does sell certain meat products, there are aisles and aisles of vegan and vegetarian food and other products. If you’re in need of JASON shampoo, Tom of Maine’s deodorant, some vegan donuts or some Tings, you can find them all in Wholefoods. The easiest Wholefoods to find is right by Union Square – which is also just a couple of blocks away from Curly’s Vegetarian Lunch. Perfect!
If you don’t actually want any food at all and just want to drink, then you may be interested in Vegan Drinks (http://www.vegandrinks.org), a monthly meet-up at Angels & Kings (500 E. 11th St, New York), the bar owned by Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy. Vegans come together and socialize while in-taking various vegan liquids!
With all this walking that you’ll be doing in New York, you may need an extra pair of shoes. Thank heavens then, for Moo Shoes (http://www.mooshoes.com, 78 Orchard Street). Moo Shoes sells cruelty free vegan shoes – as well as bags, belts, T-shirts and other accessories. Their website is well known – but if you go to New York you should definitely take a trip to check out their retail store in person.
New York has so much to see and do – and with it all you’ll no doubt build up an appetite for all of the above. What’s listed is just the tip of the iceberg. Of course there are many, many other places to eat, drink or buy from. If you’re in New York chances are you’ll stumble across some vegan-friendly stores and diners without even being aware in advance. I’m itching to get back already – so I can go and try out some more of their tasty vegan-friendly establishments. Maybe next time though I should go for a jog around Central Park afterwards to help burn off some of those calories… Good job Moo Shoes sell trainers - or should I say sneakers!