Best vegan food and restaurants in New York
Here is our guide to the best vegan and veggie places to eat, drink and shop in New York, where a seriously cool plant-based revolution is underway. Expect everything from shiitake ‘bacon’ to spaghetti squash and spicy seitan
Looking for vegan restaurants in New York? Here are the best vegan restaurants NYC. Every year the M&S food team head to New York City to discover the latest trends and at the tail-end of 2017 olive magazine editor Laura Rowe was lucky enough to join them to see what was going to be big news for 2018 and the years to come. A recurring theme from the trip was vegetables – a plant-based revolution has taken place.
In New York eating less meat and more vegetables is completely normal. Swapping steak for seitan is no big deal. Diners are more clued up on the health benefits and environmental impacts of the food they eat, and realise that ditching the meat doesn’t mean compromising on flavour.
We've found the best vegan food in NYC for vegans, vegetarians and flexitarians. And if you want to see what M&S has been up to since the trip - including launching its new range of vegan foods - just click here.
abcvnyc vegan restaurant
Vegan restaurants in New York don’t get much better than abcv, the collaboration between chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and homeware store, abc. The stark décor and stern service might not appeal to everyone, but the food (balancing texture and flavour) is worth ignoring all preconceptions for. Order as many seasonal small plates as you can afford and/or fit on your table. Be led by what sounds delicious, or else if it’s the nutritional benefits you’re after, the menu comes illustrated with each vegetable’s vital statistics. If it’s on, don’t leave without trying the honeynut squash, which on our visit came puréed as smooth as New York jazz, with a pool of warmed tahini, sumac, fresh mint, seeds and a grassy olive oil and pillowy pittas for dunking. abcvnyc.com
Stocked with the sublime to the ridiculous, think of West Village’s Clover Grocery as like a physical manifestation of Gwyneth Paltrow’s daydreams. (Although if that’s what you’re after you can also check out Goop Lab, her official pop-up ‘shoppable bungalow’ - whatever that means - in Santa Monica.) With bouncy staff who’ll tell you everything you need to know about trendy mushroom tea and a counter from which to down your probiotic strawberry and courgette beauty smoothie, the shelves of this neighbourhood store have a strong selection of fresh and dry store plant-based and free-from goodies.
Shop for vegan food such as fresh chickpea spaghetti, turmeric limeade and freshly made, loaded salads, and, for the veggies and omnivores, jars of Black & Bolyard’s brown butter spiked with Aleppo pepper. Perhaps ignore the infamous (Gwyneth-endorsed) Moon Juice Sex Dust herbal supplement. clovergrocery.com
Amanda Cohen’s flavour-first, rock’n’roll approach to meat-free cooking at Lower East Side restaurant Dirt Candy has won her fans from around the world. Now in its 10th year, this veggie-forward favourite is at its no-compromise best. Order from The Vegetable Patch five-course or Vegetable Garden 10-course set menus made up of the restaurant’s greatest hits and seasonal classics. Think Korean-fried broccoli, spinach spaetzle, and brussels sprouts tacos. dirtcandynyc.com
One of the best vegan restaurants in NYC, by CHLOE. has been impressing with its wholesome, plant-based fast food since 2015. Now with multiple branches in New York, Boston, LA, Providence and (as of January 2018) London, here’s where to get good sustainable food in a hurry. The all-vegan menu doesn’t shout about its animal-free ways – a trend you’ll find all over the city – or the fact it uses locally sourced ingredients and is served in eco-friendly packaging. But, it is full of great-tasting, veggie-packed food you’ll want to eat.
Don’t leave without ordering the kale Caesar salad with shitake ‘bacon’, almond ‘parmesan’, maple wheat croutons and creamy dressing, and the pesto ‘meatball’ sub made from Portobello mushrooms and veggies, with cashew ‘mozzarella’, marinara sauce and a soft potato sub roll. eatbychloe.com
If you’re looking for vegan food in NYC then a burger joint might not seem the obvious choice, but Umami Burger in Greenwich Village is now serving the famed Impossible Burger – made entirely of plants – that looks, smells, tastes and even ‘bleeds’ like a regular beef burger. It’s said to use 95% less land, 74% less water and create 87% less greenhouse gas emissions than your regular meat patty and seriously impressed on our visit. The only tell is its ever-so-slightly too soft texture but otherwise the blend of wheat, coconut oil, potatoes and heme (that’s the ‘meaty’ part) is pretty convincing. umamiburger.com
Want to make vegan burgers at home? Here are our vegetarian and vegan burger recipes, from vegan black bean burgers to spiced falafel burgers.
The Pennsy Food Hall
Open seven days a week, 11am to 2am, this modern NYC food hall on the edge of Madison Square Garden has an exemplary range of stalls catering to vegans, omnivores, pescetarians, coeliacs and everything in between. Order from The Little Beet for 100% gluten-free, mostly vegan, refined-sugar-free, towering bowls of veggies and grains like the avo-refresh made up of grilled avocado, beets, lentils, white beans, walnut red pepper spread and turmeric-roasted almonds. Or, decide between seasonal bakes and seitan (the wheat gluten/protein, meat substitute everyone’s touting as the new tofu) barbecued with Korean dressing, served with kimchi, greens and chilli butter on a grilled tortilla at The Cinnamon Snail. thepennsy.nyc
The New Yorkers know how to do fast, healthy food well – and Two Forks is a great place to grab a vegan lunch in NYC. You can order online for pick up or delivery and choose from signature buns or bowls, or you can create your own. The hook for ominvores is a pulled meat, but for vegans try pulled spaghetti squash. Layer up with freshly made salads and greens, like pickled vegetable slaw or Brussel sprouts and kimchi, perhaps some jasmine rice or smashed chickpeas, and a range of house sauces and toppings. twoforksnyc.com
Union Square Greenmarket
Popping up in the city’s leafy Union Square on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays throughout the year, 8am-6pm, this market has been around since 1976 and is a great place to get to know the local producers that feed into the New York dining scene.
Expect anything up to 140 different regional farmers, fishers, bakers and brewers lining the edges of the park. Shop for cauliflowers – purple, green, white and yellow – bigger than your head (try our cauliflower recipes here); boxes of gnarly heritage tomatoes in yolk-orange mint-green and carmine-red; and, in the autumn, harvest festival scenes of ghouls and gourds, and multi-coloured corn competing for attention. Hang around for demos, free tastings and bags of inspiration.
Whole Foods Market
Those with even the remotest interest in healthy living will be no stranger to Whole Foods Market, which opened its first store in Texas 38 years ago. There are markets across Canada, the US and UK now – 20 in New York state alone – but it’s worth visiting the local branch to where you’re staying in NYC to see the latest trends, vegan or otherwise.
In Bryant Park visit the produce ‘butcher’ who slices and dices fresh fruit and veg to order. Check out the low-calorie, high-protein, low-sugar Halo ice cream that is taking America by storm, including dairy-free flavours such as cinnamon roll and peanut butter cup. And scan the aisles for shelf upon shelf of vegan cheese – in blocks, in spreads, sliced, grated, and whipped. Or head up to the newly opened Harlem store for Cuban sandwiches (for the meat eaters), African-inspired soups and stews, and ‘shuffle’ cakes (think next-level cake pops); as well, as a vast range of kombucha, bulletproof and cold brew coffees, and bottles of kefir and probiotic whey tonics. wholefoodsmarket.com
If you’re visiting the city between April and October, grab a ferry over to Brooklyn to experience Smorgasburg – America’s largest weekly open-air food market, packed with 100 different local street food traders, open rain or shine. Aside from the incredible views across the water of the city skyline, there’s a whole range of food and drink to try, including vegan, vegetarian, kosher and gluten-free options.
We loaded up on artisanal Colombian arepas and agua de panela (a refreshing drink of organic sugar cane, lime and ginger), peanut butter and jelly Ring Dings (snack cakes layered with buttercream and jam, coated in a crisp chocolate shell) and pink prickly pear cactus lemonade, and creamy heirloom grits with seasonal greens and ghost pepper jam. Bring a refillable water bottle to top up from the free water-filling station, too – disposable plastic bottles are banned. smorgasburg.com
Words by Laura Rowe
Photographs by Laura Rowe, Umami Burger, abcvnyc, Evan Sung, by CHLOE.