New York City has so many excellent vegetarian, vegan, and organic restaurants popping up – it’s hard to keep track. Here is a highlight of some of my favorites:
So where to begin?
Perhaps down in East Village. My brother has lived in Manhattan for the past decade. Years back, he had a cramped studio apartment on 13th Street, between 1st and 2nd. When visiting one weekend, he took me to The Organic Grill – 1st & St. Marks Place. This was my first visit to a vegan restaurant in NYC.
1. The Organic Grill
At this point, I wasn’t too familiar with terms like “Health Food Restaurant” and I didn’t understand why everyone was urging locally-produced ingredients. In fact, this was one year before I became vegetarian.
It’s a small place – a bit of a tight squeeze on a crowded weekend – but nevertheless comfortable. I remember being intrigued by the guy behind the counter with a big bushy beard (this was before I knew I was attracted to hipsters).
I ordered the Green Machine Burger – their veggie burgers are excellent and anything but wimpy! High quality, happy people, & cool vibe.
2. The Bhakti Center
The Bhakti Center has been my spiritual oasis within the chaos on New York for the past few years. Just a few streets south of The Organic Grill, the Bhakti Center sits rather hidden at 1st & 1st.
The Bhakti Center is a true gem in NYC. Bhakti in Sanskrit means devotion, worship, and love and it is a type of yoga. The word yoga roughly means to join or to unite. So through the process of Bhakti Yoga, we join with the divine through loving devotional service. It’s the feeling when you love someone so much, that you will do anything for them to be happy. Within the Bhakti tradition, practitioners stay away from eating meat and eggs as a method of nonviolence. I could go on and on, but I will save that for another post.
For anyone considering a vegetarian lifestyle, or who already is vegetarian, I highly recommend you stop by. This will give you a chance to deepen your vegetarianism and delve into the spiritual, ethical, and selfless nature of vegetarianism and veganism.
The Bhakti Center is a wonderful community that offers yoga classes, classes on ancient Hindu scriptures in the Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition, and houses a splendid temple room devoted to Sri Sri Radha Krsna.
The current restaurant inside the Bhakti Center, The Taste of Bhakti, is currently being renovated to become Divya’s Kitchen, which will feature organic in-house dining and much more. I will be waiting in much anticipation!
3. Maoz Vegetarian
A regular go-to and favorite. My first Maoz experience was in Philadelphia during high school, and I’ve been hooked since. I’ve had lunch at the Maoz across the globe – from Miami to Amsterdam! It’s a fast-food style chain serving anything but “fast food”. If falafel, hummus, and babaganoush sound good to you – this is the place to check out.
Not convinced yet? Two words: Vegan Shawarma.
I usually populate the Union Square location. However, it wasn’t until recently I discovered a Maoz stand in Central Park. It’s located on 5th ave & 106th street, and it’s only open when weather permits.
It’s great to grab while strolling in the park. Some nice sites to see up there are:
Conservatory Garden with Utermyer Founatin & Vanderbilt Gate; the beautiful lake Harlem Meer; and Fort Clinton & Nutter’s Battery
Since we are on the topic of the Upper East Side, lets move on up to the UES shall we:
Calexico isn’t necessarily a vegetarian restaurant but they have plenty of veggie options. They are very vegetarian-friendly and can modify any dish to your desire. The staff members are super awesome and accommodating.
The crispy Brussels sprouts appetizer is a must: served with a to-die-for peanut chile salsa. And of course naturally the guac is phenomenal. Located 78th & 2nd
Mushroom / Veggie / or Black Bean Quesadillas
Bean Burrito or Bowl; Vegetable Enchiladas
Black Bean / or Tofu Tacos
My favorite time is naturally happy hour. They have two-for-one drinks and I usually order to margarita. The coolest part is that if you only want one of your drinks that day, they give you a yellow token to use for a free drink next visit!
5. Candle 79 & Candle Cafe
The double whammy. I may have subconsciously saved the best for last. Any vegan in NYC knows about Candle 79. It is rather expensive but a nice place to keep it classy once in a while. Candle 79 is at 79th & Lex, and Candle Cafe is located on 75th & 3rd.
Candle Cafe is less formal and great to grab a more casual lunch or dinner. The staff are so chill – one summer when I was ordering takeout, they invited me to sit at the counter and gave me two glasses of water while I waited, so cool!
Everything is awesome; you can’t go wrong – Avocado BLT, Cajun Seitan, Stir Fry, Curry Cake, etc.
Bonus! Here are a few other great places to check out as well:
- Quantum Leap
- Red Bamboo
- Avant Garden
- Peacefood Cafe
What is your favotire spot in New York City for vegetarian or vegan dishes? Leave a comment below! 🙂