Many of my friends/family are vegetarian and often have trouble finding good places to eat when going out. They often have to order one of the more boring choices on the menu (salad, anyone?) while everyone else pigs out (no pun intended). Fortunately, this does not have to be a problem in NYC. The city is full of great places that are either fully vegetarian, or have tons of great offerings on the menu!
One of the reasons for this is NYC’s passion for locally raised produce. Lots of places are now featuring local produce and change their menu seasonally. A really great one that opened a year or two ago is ABC Kitchen, which is located inside the ABC carpet and home shop – a really great place to shop once you are done eating. It was named best restaurant of 2011 by the James Beard foundation, mostly due to their fantastic, fresh, local vegetable dishes. They do serve meat here, but there is plenty of other things to have like roasted carrot and avocado salad, roasted portabella and wood roasted okra with shishitos. The place is a little pricey, so it’s not for every day – but it’s a great place to have a fancy night that everyone can enjoy.
Another great choice is Le Verdue inside Eataly. Eataly is an experience you can’t miss as it is – but it really does have something for everyone. One of their small counter restaurants, Le Verdue serves only fresh vegetables. In addition to their regular menu, the chef makes a couple of different specials every day based on what’s fresh. As a result, all the larger restaurants in Eataly have some great veggie options as well – it was in one of those I tasted salsify for the first time – a seriously cool vegetable that was so delicious and well prepared I still think about it. My only criticism of sit down places in Eataly is the price and the portions. On the other hand, it’s always a great experience and you are forced to slow down and savor every bite. I’ve never had a bad time there.
For a great meal on the go – falafel is always a great option. There are a million places to get falafel in NYC, but the two best, in my opinion are Taim and Maoz. Taim is really the best of the best – owned and operated by Chef Einat Admony, she currently has two locations, one in the West Village and one in Nolita, as well as a food truck. The menu is pretty basic – three types of falafel, a few things you can have added on and some fries and sides, but the taste is amazing! I really like the traditional green falafel as a sandwich – nothing fancy. It’s freshly made and worth the wait, as there is often a line. Maoz is a chain with various locations around the city. The falafel balls themselves are good but not fantastic, but what is great about Maoz is their free topping bar that comes with any sandwich. You can really pile up on some great toppings and their fries are good too – they have both regular and sweet potato.
A place that I’ve been really dying to try is Caracas Arepa Bar. Arepas are grilled corn cakes with fillings and so far I’ve only tried the ones stuffed with cheese that you can get at food festivals and fairs. Caracas Arepa Bar has about 12 kinds, and about a third or more are vegetarian and they sound great! With ingredients like mango, sun dried tomatoes, plantains, and chimmichurri sauce, what could be wrong?
If you are not vegan, then cheese is an option for you – and if cheese is an option for you, NYC is the place to be! First of all there is S’mac, which stands for Sarita’s macaroni and cheese. A whole place with nothing but mac and cheese!!! You can go with super cheesey richness with a four cheese version or super decadent with brie, roasted figs, and shitake mushrooms. How I love places that serve only one type of food!
Newly opened is Murray’s Cheese Bar. Murray’s Cheese Shop is a NYC legend – one of the best places to shop for cheese. Now they have a restaurant and it sounds heavenly! In addition to flights of cheese, you can get cheese melts, fondue or even a butternut squash kugel. I can’t wait to go!
This is obviously just a drop in the bucket. There are tons of other great places including all the great markets and food carts. Some of the most award winning food carts in the city are vegetarian or have veggie options. Please feel free to share your favorites or suggestions of places for me to look for – I love finding new places!