New York is known as one of the best cities in the world for vegan food, and I’m incredibly lucky to have family nearby, so have visited a fair few times over the years. Options here are ridiculous and I feel as though each time I visit there’s a new crop of vegan eateries to try out. So assembling a list of my favourite places to eat in the city took a bit of time, not to mention several trips over a few years!
Needless to say, this list hardly scratches the surface (so let me know of your favourite place if it’s not on the list!), and definitely focuses on the dirtier junkier side of vegan cuisine, because, well, we’re dirty junky vegans. I’ve split the list of vegan restaurants and cafes into three sections – quick eats, casual dining, and fancy food – just to make it a bit easier to digest (lol).
Happy travels, and good eating!
In a city that pretty much excels in vegan food, Orchard Grocer has got to be its shining star. On the surface, it’s a very cute little vegan food shop selling a small but excellent selection of pretty much every vegan speciality product there is, including an outstanding range of artisan vegan cheeses.
However what really sets this place apart is the deli counter, which serves traditional NY deli foods, but all vegan. There’s a standard menu of sandwiches and salads that’s pretty spectacular, as well as a daily special which I hear always sells out. Top marks go to The Bowery breakfast sandwich, basically a veganised version of the egg McMuffin you loved as a kid, only this one’s a thousand times better.
Next door is the vegan shoe and bag shop, MooShoes. Just make sure you wash your eggy little fingers before you go in.
If you don’t love pizza then I don’t even know you, but for everyone else you need to go to Screamer’s. We originally discovered this place by accident as we were drinking in a bar across the street, but now it’s top of our “must eat” list whenever we’re in NYC.
It’s a grimy little pizza joint that serves all vegan pizzas, either by the whole pie (the menu is scrawled on the wall) or a selection by the slice for around $3.50 each. The bases are superbly crispy and toppings are to die for – the buffalo cauliflower is my absolute favourite though to be honest I’d eat anything these guys make.
The world of vegan burgers has expanded exponentially in the last few years. I remember when a vegan burger meant a soggy oily patty of beans, potatoes and peas smooshed together that usually fell apart as soon as you touched it. Now, thanks to Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, Vivera, and pretty much every supermarket in the UK, vegan burgers are becoming something that you want to eat, and not just because you’re the sad vegan at the family bbq.
The burgers at Superiority Burger sit somewhere between the two. They definitely taste like nuts and beans, but they are a little more on the chewy side and have a nice bulk to them that makes them a little more like the dirty fast food burger they should be. I like that they’re handmade, and that places exist that are still making their own patties in house, but in the current world of artificial meats it’s definitely worth knowing what you’re getting yourself in for. With the classic toppings of cheese, lettuce, tomato and pickles, they’re very satisfying indeed.
The burgers start from $6 but are pretty teeny tiny and for vegans like us are basically just a snack. There are also daily specials and a good selection of sides. It’s also worth noting that the eat-in space is incredibly limited.
If you know anything about me, you know that doughnuts are probably my favourite food, and it’s all Dun-Well’s fault. Before I first visited their Brooklyn shop a few years ago (conveniently located right across the road from Champs Diner – thank you vegan gods) I had been living in a doughnut wilderness for years, surviving solely on the Co-Op’s jam and custard doughnuts.
Dun-Wells make delicious, flavourful and most importantly cheap doughnuts that don’t sell us vegans short; none of that baked nonsense here. There’s an astonishing range of flavours here, all for less than $3 each. Definitely fill your bags because you’ll want more later.
Aside from the East Williamsburg location, Dun-Wells also have a shop on the Lower East Side which means twice as many donuts for me.
Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream
Van Leeuwen is a chain of ice cream stores with a number of locations across the city, including one right next door to Screamers in Greenpoint. Not all flavours are vegan, but they usually have around 3 vegan options in each location. You can also buy flavours by the pint in store and in some Wholefoods shops too. There are some great topping options, the larger locations will have vegan sundaes available, and for the hefty but delicious price of $9 you can have any scoop as a vegan ice cream sandwich between two chocolate chip cookies.
Vinnie’s is a traditional NYC slice shop with locations in Williamsburg and Greenpoint. Not all options are vegan but there’s a good selection of vegan toppings. A note of caution – the large pizzas are humungous and definitely too much for two people, not matter how much pizza you think you can eat.
I’d been hearing some pretty awesome things about Toad Style for a while, but only managed to go on our last trip in Spring 2019. As well as a breakfast menu, they serve sandwiches, burgers, and sides, all made from scratch.
We ordered the Philly which was, sadly, just sautéed mushrooms and some cheese in bread, and then a whole selection of very greasy sides: fried pickles, cheesy broccoli, and pizza fries which were on special. Aside from the Philly which was a total let down everything was delicious, if not incredibly oily.
It’s worth mentioning that we visited at the end of a week where we’d been surviving almost entirely on fried foods so it’s possible that my body had decided that it had had enough. Saying that, the fried pickles and pizza fries were insanely good and even though I felt pretty disgusting at this point I also felt pretty pleased with myself.
The idea of exceptional and creative vegan junk food in Midtown Manhattan is a little mind-blowing, yet here is it, courtesy of Cinnamon Snail. What started out as a food truck in 2010 now operates from the Pennsy food hall right next door to Madison Square Gardens, as well as in the City Acres food hall in the Financial District. Both locations serve delicious sandwiches, burgers and sides, plus pastries including the cinnamon snail itself.
Let me be clear – the burgers here are exceptional. I had to check with the staff several times that yes, it was really vegan because that cheese is so good. Top marks go to the smoked sage seitan burger which comes topped with sage seitan sausage baked pasta and smoked chilli coconut bacon. *heart eyes*
Jajaja Plantas Mexicana
I discovered Jajaja on Instagram, which I guess says a lot about the kind of place it is. As a total fan of Mexican food I am aware of just how easy it is to veganise the cuisine and do it well and was therefore ridiculously excited to try out Jajaja. Their original location in the Lower East Side opened in 2017 and there’s a smaller outpost in Williamsburg at a fancy hipster food hall type of place called North 3rd Street Market. We visited the Brooklyn location, though for a bigger menu and more comfortable surroundings the LES is probably a better bet.
We ordered the nachos with chorizo, fermented black beans, turmeric-nut queso fundito, salsa & sour cream, the coconut queso quesadilla and enchiladas mole made from shredded palm carnitas. I want to be clear how difficult it was to decide what to eat – even at the smaller Brookyn location the menu is still ridiculous and everything on it is very exciting. Of course, we over ordered, but I was very happy. However it’s very pricey – our food cost nearly £40 – especially when you consider that we were eating in a food court.
Brooklyn Whiskers is a very cute little bakery cafe in Bushwick, with a second location now in Greenpoint. Aside from an outstanding selection of pastries (get the cinnamon rolls) they also serve up sandwiches and burgers and a selection of breakfast options, alongside some pretty tasty coffee.
We ordered tofu scramble with potatoes and toast and the smokey maple tofu sandwich, plus several pastries to go, and it was all delicious. Prices here are incredibly reasonable, but it’s also just as low key and don’t expect any frills here.
There are two types of NYC vegan eateries – the crusty punky places covered in band stickers that play loud music and most of the food items have puns in their names, and the places that are millennial pink and super chill and usually full of people drinking kombucha and tapping away on their MacBooks. Clementine Bakery is definitely the latter. It also feels a little bit like a vegan place for non-vegans.
We ordered the B.E.C sandwich – tempeh bacon, scrambled tofu & vegan cheese on an English muffin – and the breakfast burrito with tofu, cheese, bacon, spinach, tator tots & coriander mayo. Both were actually pretty bland and I couldn’t really taste any of the exciting goodies I was promised. The almond milk in my coffee was also curdled which kinda felt a bit like a vegan 101 fail.
The cafe also serves a selection of baked goods including danishes, cupcakes, cookies and brownies. There are supposedly cinnamon rolls (aka the best pastry) too, but none available when we visited.
Champs is a Brooklyn institution; a traditional American diner with a fully vegan menu of breakfast dishes, sandwiches, burgers and shakes. When we first came here in 2016 we loved it so much we came back again the next day. Both days I ordered the hangover hash browns – a delightful fried mix of shredded potatoes, broccoli, breakfast sausage, jalapeño and cheese. Probably the best breakfast(s) I’ve ever had. Sad to say that dish has seem to have been booted off the menu, which is an absolute shame.
So for our latest visit I ordered the hippie slam – tofu scramble with peppers, onions and mushrooms with toast and hashbrowns. It was pretty tasty, but at $15 the plate wasn’t huge and it left me wanting a little more. I managed to sneak a taste of my dining buddy’s french toast which was absolutely divine.
So I guess this place is doing what it says on the tin – good quality traditional American diner fare, certainly nothing that will blow your mind (having said that, everyone around us seemed to be having the chicken and waffles and making some very excited noises so maybe that’s the one to order).
Hartbreakers is a brand new (ish) joint in Brooklyn by the founders of Champs and Screamers. Pretty excellent pedigree, right? To be honest, I wasn’t super excited about this place. It’s VERY millennial pink inside and the menu seemed to be more vegan junk food and this is how ridiculous NYC is that by this point I was starting to get fed up of dirty vegan food. But hold on. Because Hartbreakers does the best vegan chicken tenders I have ever had.
We also tried the Real Heartache burger and the Dream On! salad – both of which were also delish. The fried artichokes on the burger were a total revelation and the salad was bursting with flavour in an absolutely gorgeous lemon aioli dressing. No shame that we took our leftovers home and I had chicken tenders for breakfast the next day and the salad three days later and everything was still delicious.
The Butcher’s Daughter
The Butcher’s Daughter calls itself a “vegetable slaughterhouse” which is, you know, a bit weird. The menu is pretty standard healthy vegetarian food and juices, but it’s pretty yummy and their three locations in NYC are all very very pretty indeed. Not everything that they do is vegan but if you fancy some yummy healthy respite to all the fried food you’ve no doubt been eating (the coconut yoghurt parfait and waffles are particularly excellent) then this is the place for you.
Stepping into this NY pizza institution in Greenpoint you’ll immediately feel like part of the family. Paulie Gee has been making pizza for a long time in this part of NYC and he absolutely wants to share it with everyone. We visited the sit down location which feels just like it should – a traditional Italian trattoria transported slap bang to the middle of Brooklyn – and didn’t want to leave.
There’s an excellent vegan menu, and the food tastes like it’s been made by someone who has been making delicious pizza for decades.
Paulie Gee’s doesn’t take reservations and be prepared to wait for a table. There’s also a recently opened slice shop just around the corner.
Modern Love Brooklyn
When I heard that vegan super-chef Isa Chandra Moskowitz was opening a restaurant in NYC I squealed with excitement. Her cookbooks and website were my bibles when I started out as a baby vegan. She makes delicious, comforting vegan food that’s just a little on the fussy side but not too much, and that ethos is carried over to her restaurants in Brooklyn and her hometown of Omaha.
We’ve been to Modern Love Brooklyn twice now, and both times it’s been a bit of a mixed bag. Both times the starters (poutine, brussel sprouts with lemon aioli & fried mozzarella) have been glorious, however I’ve felt a little let down by the mains – the table next to us enjoyed a full feast made up entirely of appetisers and sides and I think they might have figured it out.
I fully appreciate that this might be because I have every one of Isa’s cookbooks and a lot of the dishes are a little familiar, so I didn’t find anything completely new to me. That said, it’s still absolutely delicious and this place serves really good quality vegan comfort food. The portion sizes are huge, so good on you if you manage to eat a three course meal here. It’s a little on the pricey side; our two starters, two mains and a dessert came to a little over $80, so expect to spend more than $100 with drinks.
Candle 79/Candle Cafe
Back when I was a baby vegan, I visited Candle 79 whenever I was in NYC. It’s the original vegan fancy restaurant – I even bumped into Heather Mills in the loos once. So it’s a place that has pretty fond memories, such as that time I had cabernet tempeh and nearly died with pleasure.
We went to the more casual offshoot, Candle Cafe, more recently, and the food was still as delicious as I remember. The chimichurri skewers are a personal favourite. However, it’s still ridiculously expensive ($16 for a burger with no sides!) and the menu feels a little basic, like it’s trying to appeal to non vegans by being as familiar as possible. Think caesar salads, burgers, fajitas. Yes, it’s all delicious, but it’s just not that exciting, and it’s also much better if you can find someone else to pay.