I went to New York City recently and I spent a considerable portion of my time eating vegan food because I am a vegan who eats food. New York is a wonderful place for a visiting vegan because there are so many really great places which cater to you extremely well, so I thought I would do what I believe is a public service and tell you about some of the v good things I ate when I was there. I also really just love talking about food so there’s that. Anyway.
(note: my photos are not brilliant because most of the time when I was taking them I wanted to get it out the way so I could eat the food. Think of them more as candids than beauty shots.)
The Cinnamon Snail at the Pennsy – Midtown
New York is full of some of the ~finest~ vegan burgers around and the Cinnamon Snail – the little food truck that could, which now has a permanent location at the Pennsy, a food court at Penn Station – is right up at the top of the list. At the Cinnamon Snail I ate something called the Beast Mode Burger Deluxe which sounds like the favourite meal of a man named Kevin who drinks only Monster Energy, lives in his mother’s basement and whose hobbies include getting online to call women ugly, but is actually just a really great vegan burger. It’s served on a pretzel bun (I wish everything was served on a pretzel bun), and the burger itself is made of seitan seasoned in ancho chilli and grilled in maple hickory BBQ sauce (are u dying yet). It’s topped with jalapeño mac and cheese (surely u must be), a rly tasty chipotle mayo, chilli coconut bacon and some extremely pointless rocket/‘arugula’. Bellissimo *kisses fingertips*.
You know that part in Twin Peaks where Gordon Cole screams I WANNA WRITE AN EPIC POEM ABOUT THIS GORGEOUS PIE? This waffle was my Gordon Cole moment. I wanted to shout about it, I wanted to construct loving rhyming couplets about it – its fluffy interior; its initial chewiness; the way the tart, ripe blueberries ever-so-slightly resisted my bite before giving way to juice which harmonised just right with the maple syrup, and the great hunk of cream on top which made me feel more romantic joy than any declaration of love ever has. Obviously I didn’t because it would have been weird. But, it’s how I felt, you know.
Champ’s Diner is an entirely vegan spot in Brooklyn, and it was the restaurant I was most excited to visit in New York because I love fried food and I love having the choice of an entire menu, rather than one or two limp vegan options. I went there for breakfast on my first full day (when I Experienced the waffle), and then a few days later I went back for dinner. The entreés looked huge, so I decided to play it safe and go for a couple of appetisers served as a main course – mozzarella sticks and bacon cheese fries (God Bless America, where a massive serving of cheese fries is an appetiser)– and an Oreo milkshake (what can I say I love fake dairy products).
The fries were great: positively doused in cheese sauce which was accompanied by lil bacon strips that are way superior to anything I’ve tried of that ilk in the UK. So far, so good. The milkshake was pleasingly ice-creamy, and my addition of cookie crumbles was, I am happy to report, a wisely judged one. But I really just have to talk to you about those mozzarella sticks. Man. Did my heart love until now? Look at their beautiful golden brown glow, the way the cheese oozes out a little bit, teasing you with all the dangerous, seductive energy of a deep-fried food item. These were fake mozzarella sticks for the ages; crisp on the outside and filled with a horrifyingly convincing and probably chemical-laden cheese-like solution (idk what they put in vegan cheese and I do not care to either) which even stretched when you bit into it – the difficult-to-achieve gold standard of non-dairy cheese (for the Real FakeCheeseHeads™, I’m pretty certain this was Daiya Mozzarella style).
A true testament to the human spirit of innovation and many vegans’ insistence on still being able to give themselves heart disease without eating animal products, Champ’s was easily one of the best places I ate in New York, and probably ever. Dine there and be forever changed.
I have grouped Dunwell alongside Champ’s because they’re just around the corner from one other (pro tip: go to Champ’s and then have Dunwell for dessert. Don’t say I don’t treat you right.) Dunwell is an all vegan doughnut shop and I had breakfast there on a couple of mornings (no parents no rules.) Over the course of my trip I had three doughnuts from them – original glazed, maple glazed, and chocolate with sprinkles, fyi – and I don’t think I could choose a favourite. These guys are like the Elvis of doughnuts, in that they are completely massive and extremely American (those being Elvis’ only two discernible characteristics.) I would not recommend going here if you do not want to be pining for the doughnut you ate there for the next month. (Also, the almond iced latte is really good and very generously sized. Also also, if you’re only visiting Manhattan, they just got a new shop on St. Mark’s Place in the East Village, so now you have no excuse.)
By Chloe – SoHo
It tends to be the done thing at By Chloé to get a burger. Their burgers are very hyped, in that way which attracts people like me who love hype. But, by the time I visited I was kind of burger-ed out, still sort of jet-lagged and a bit hungover, so there were only two things for it: pancakes and, erm, mac and cheese with shiitake bacon. I know. All the terrible things you think about me I have already thought about myself.
But because I am not a complete animal, I started with the mac and cheese (savoury then sweet, ya dig?) – it was rich and creamy and very good. I imagine that the sauce, which was really generously portioned and quite silky (this meant that it didn’t do that thing of clinging to the pasta when it all ends up tasting quite dry and bitty) was made from cashew nuts, if that is of interest to you. Then to the pancakes, which were blueberry pancakes served with maple syrup. I don’t have much to report on them other than that they were extremely yummy and light and fluffy as pancakes should be, and I would eat them every day if I could.
I stayed in Greenpoint in Brooklyn during my visit, which just so happens to be vegan pizza central – there are two excellent vegan/vegan friendly pizza places in the local area (I think there are also more to be honest I just didn’t get a chance to visit). For a long time, I think Vinnie’s was the vegan pizza spot to beat in Brooklyn – I’d heard a lot about it even here in the UK; their specials are inventive and change daily, and they cater extremely well to vegans despite not being a vegan spot. However very recently, New York’s very first all vegan slice joint, Screamer’s Pizzeria, opened its doors. As a woman of the people who is always after a SLICE OF THE ACTION (I literally wouldn’t even be mad if you closed this tab right now), I decided to make the necessary trips to both, to decide once and for all on Brooklyn’s reigning vegan pizza heavyweight.
I went to Screamer’s (their pizza is the one on the left) on both the first and last days of my visit, and both times I copped a slice of their pepperoni pizza. The pepperoni – which is specially made in Philadelphia by the purveyors of Screamer’s’ sister restaurant, the almost mythical (in weird, food-obsesso vegan circles, at least) Blackbird Pizzeria – is truly some of the most delicious, convincing fake meat I’ve ever eaten. It reminded me of the kind of pepperoni you would get on a Domino’s pizza and that is honestly the greatest compliment I could ever give some pepperoni. Salty, a little bit spicy and joyfully greasy, it’s so convincing you’ll be double-checking the ‘vegan’ sign outside. The pizza itself is huge in that amazing New York slice way, smothered in vegan cheese (again, pretty sure it’s Daiya mozzarella style), and it’s got that dense, chewy crust that makes you blush a little bit because it’s just so purely, unadulteratedly good. What I’m trying to say is this: if vegan pizza were Catholicism, Screamer’s would be its Vatican City.
So, it kind of goes without saying that Vinnie’s, whilst great, doesn’t quite measure up. On my visit, I had a Daiya slice with Tofurkey sausage, garlic spinach and some red peppers (pictured right). It was delicious, but the bite was a little harder than at Screamer’s, the crust a little tougher – it just didn’t quite sing in the same way. This said, it’s still leaps and bounds ahead of anything available in London so I have no real business making these comments. I would love a Vinnie’s in London. Kickstarter that shit.
Superiority Burger – East Village
I lose my cognitive ability to form complex sentences when I think about Superiority Burger. Truly can’t even talk about it because I get too emotional. Best burger of my life. So meaty. So delicious. Unreal hash brown potato mustard scallion side thing. They have a photo of Divine on the wall. Superiority is correct.
Van Leeuwen Ice Cream – various locations
I followed my frankly revelatory trip to Superiority Burger with a quick visit to Van Leeuwen which I had heard on the grapevine was the spot for vegan ice cream. Can confirm that the rumours are true – I had a salted caramel cone and it was very ~indulgent~ and just the right amount of salty. V good.
Beyond Sushi and Hotel Tortuga – SoHo and East Village
These two places have nothing to do with each other, other than the fact that they were both recommended to me by my pal Dan who is very knowledgeable about vegan food in New York, and very helpfully sent me some recommendations. Thank u Dan u did God’s work.
I went to Beyond Sushi for lunch the day I visited MoMA because it’s really nearby and I am very lazy so I got to do two cool activities in one. I got two dishes because I was On Holiday and being exceptionally greedy when you’re abroad is the English way: I had the ‘seasonal’ dumpling which happened to be filled with BBQ jackfruit when I visited (*extremely smug face*), and a genuinely magnificent mushroom sushi roll. I don’t know a huge amount about sushi but I know that I could have eaten like five of those rolls. Beyond Sushi has a bit of a rep as the best vegan sushi around and through my many mouthfuls of mushrooms, I would have had to wholeheartedly agree.
On the Sunday of my stay I had a pang for Mexican food and I was hanging out in the East Village, so my travels brought me to Hotel Tortuga which is everything you might expect from a Mexican place in the East Village (i.e. super tacky, super friendly, super help yourself to some sorta stale tortilla chips in the corner.) They have a huge veggie menu and options to make your dish vegan by adding vegan cheese and sour cream for $1.50, so I went for a burrito full of vegan chorizo in a spicy sauce with guac, refried beans and all the fixin’s. It was lit (however for the sake of my poor body I hope to god that my first born child weighs less than that burrito did.)
Red Bamboo – Greenwich Village
Three words for you pals: vegan, Buffalo, wings. Yeah. Damn these were the shit. Red Bamboo is an all veggie place in Midtown and I’m pretty sure its speciality is East Asian food. I, however, opted for something a little closer to home with their wings, which I’d read really good things about online, mostly because you can’t go to New York and not get Buffalo wings at least one time, it is the law. Served with fries, celery and vegan Ranch, the wings were dressed in Buffalo sauce and they even came with a little wooden pick inside instead of a bone which I loved because you can get me to love anything if you make it into a novelty. What I was really bowled over by, however, was the texture of the fake chicken – they somehow made it almost stringy, just like well-cooked chicken, and it was easily up there with the most convincing fake meat I’ve had. Also as an aside it was also mad affordable – I went in for lunch and got this as a lunch special and it cost me EIGHT DOLLARS. So so so worth the trip.
Confectionery! – East Village
You ever have a vegan macaron? Well you absolutely should, and you should get it from Confectionery! which is a super cute all-vegan bakery on the same street as Superiority Burger. What a street. These guys are crisp, then chewy like all the best macarons, and they’re so unbelievably flavoursome – I got chocolate and vanilla and the chocolate especially was *so* good. Also, it was an especial treat because I hadn’t eaten a macaron since before I went vegan. If u like/miss ~patisserie~ u will really like this place.
Toad Style – Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn
Finally I just wanna give a lil shout-out to Toad Style which I think is a relatively new sandwich place. It’s a bit out of the way for most as it’s in Bed-Stuy, but I was hanging out in Brooklyn one day and I decided to make the visit because I’d heard rave reviews (they were recently featured in NY Mag’s Cheap Eats section). I made the right decision. For my meal at Toad Style I got a pulled jackfruit bun and some cheese fries (can you see a pattern) – the jackfruit was excellent because it was really delicately flavoured in the exact same way as pulled pork, and the flavour grew as you ate it which I am always really impressed by. A little bit smoky, a little bit vinegar-y and tart, it was really awesome even though I am sometimes not entirely convinced by jackfruit. The cheese fries were greasy and salty in the best way, and they came in a huge serving with a really deliciously thick, cheesy sauce. Toad-Style have a small-ish menu of really well done vegan sandwiches and sides, and I really hope they’re still there next time I visit because there’s an oyster mushroom bánh-mì with my name all over it.
I’m done now. Writing this was an emotional rollercoaster because I can only describe my feelings towards this food as irl love. If any of u need me I’ll be walking around my house wailing like Miss Havisham, except instead of being weird and sad about some man I’ll just be screaming about pizza or burgers or something. Peace.