Friday, November 30, 2007

Dining Vegan in New York City!

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New York City has a plethora of Vegan options, from quick food to fine dining there’s never a shortage of options for herbivores. I made my dining wish list before I headed to town deciding to treat myself to all ends of the spectrum.

To review all of my many dining experiences would not only be time consuming, but far too lengthy to read. I managed to check out Blossom, S’nice, Candle 79, Candle Café, Franchia, Pure Food & Wine, NY Dosas, Viva Herbal, B&H Vegetarian, Caravan of Dreams, & that doesn’t even include quick stops for falafel & pizza or dessert spots like Babycakes & Atlas Café!

It seems the most useful information would be the places of note, so here are my selections for the notable vegan dining of NYC! Please excuse the photos, as dimly lit dining rooms seem to be de rigueur in the Big Apple.

Candle 79 is a beautiful restaurant on the Upper East Side, a neighborhood I wouldn’t normally spend time in, but it was well worth the trek uptown! In fact, I enjoyed it so much; I dined here twice, opting to treat a friend I was staying with, as I wanted her to experience the loveliness! First of all, the Seitan Chimichurri is amazing & must be tasted to be believed! Within the first few bites you’ll marvel at the "meatiness" & enjoy the citrus herb marinade that adorns it; Ryan took one bite & was concerned we weren't in a vegan restaurant after all. The Cornmeal Crusted Eggplant is a wonderful combination of flavors & textures, it's creamy, yet flanked with tomato sauce, & topped with crispy shiitake mushrooms. The Black Pepper & Balsamic Seitan is similar to what you’d find in a "meat & potatoes" omni restaurant, but much more refined; seitan atop a celeriac puree with a side of haricots verts & mushrooms. It was well presented, flavorful, & although not the most creative dish I’ve had, it was enjoyed thoroughly. An entrée special we had was a Dijon Lentil Stew with Collared Greens, it was topped with Kabocha Pumpkin wrapped in thinly sliced Yukon Gold Potatoes & shredded apples with a Pomegranate sauce. We marveled at the flavors & enjoyed the use of vegetables versus relying on a meat analog. Finally, the Pumpkin Seed & Sage Crusted Tempeh was wonderful & made its way to my dinner table both trips! Delicately spiced & delicious, the accompanying Garlic Quinoa Risotto with Butternut Squash, Mushrooms, & Broccoli was creamy & we seemed to be fighting over the last few bites! Sadly, I found the desserts here to be lacking. The ice creams are nice, but nothing to marvel over. I would skip the dessert & revel in the fabulousness of your meal!
Candle 79: 154 East 79th Street at Lexington, NYC.

Franchia is an oasis in the chaos of midtown serving tea & Korean food. I was lucky enough to have the companionship of the lovely VKO from Lifestyles of the Chic & Vegan while dining here & we opted to share, maximizing the dishes we could experience. We started with the Combination pancakes; the Scallion pancake was a bit glutenous & while it was my least favorite, it was still enjoyed, the better options were the Corn & Cilantro pancake and Spicy Kimchi pancake, both of which were great! NYC must be on a Kabocha Pumpkin kick, as they had a dish utilizing it on the menu & it drew me in. The pumpkin was lovely & accompanied by fried tofu topped with a tasty sesame soy sauce and a side of Kimchi. The Spicy Kimchi fried rice on Lotus leaf was also enjoyed. Can you tell we wanted all things Kimchi?! Yum yum!
Franchia: 12 Park Avenue between 34th & 35th Street, NYC.

Pure Food & Wine is a raw foodist’s dream! My dining companions were both non-veg & have culinary training. Due to their appreciation for food, we decided to go all out & had the 5 course tasting menu. At the tasting, everything is chef’s choice & each member of the table is given different menu items, as to maximize your dining experience. We shared everything & tried so many dishes, it’s hard to review them all, but many were noteworthy! The Spicy Thai Lettuce Wraps with Tamarind Chile sauce are a fresh & flavorful starter. The Biriyani topped with Coconut Curried vegetables such as cauliflower, carrots, & cucumbers in a saffron oil and the Chanterelle Mushroom and Kalamata Olive Ravioli were both beautiful second course selections. The entree of choice by all parties was the White Corn Tamale with Cacao Mole sauce, mushrooms, salsa verde, & avocado! We had a hard time sharing this dish & I would definitely order this in the future.
The desserts at Pure Food & Wine are outstanding! Stephanie, a former pastry chef, marveled at the 3 desserts we tasted, even noting she enjoyed the use of chocolate, something which is not normally her first choice. Vanilla Pink Peppercorn ice cream was paired with Chocolate Molten Lava cake, Mint ice cream was layered with a center of Raw Cookie Dough to form a cake slice, then drizzled in chocolate. Once again there was a stand out dish in the Classic Sundae; vanilla & chocolate ice cream with cherry framboise, chocolate sauce, bananas, and candied almonds! All in all, I love this format for raw food, it’s fresh, creative, memorable, & not drowning in new age gimmick.
Pure Food & Wine: 54 Irving Place at East 17th Street, NYC.

Not everything has to be fine dining, S’nice is a cozy little spot in the West Village with sandwiches, salads, baked goods, & a coffee bar. It's a great place to bring your laptop, sip coffee, & grab a bite to eat! Although not my taste, Ryan enjoyed his Smoked Tempeh Wrap with spicy chipotle dressing. I had a Black Bean, Corn, & Quinoa salad; which at first glance, I was not thrilled with, due to multiple items I dislike flanking the top, but once I dug in, I was more than happy! The avocado dressing turned out to be fabulous & is still stuck in my mind, which is surprising, as it's not something I'd normally select. Rumor has it, I missed out by not having the Tofu Panini, but there’s always a next time! In a future post, I'll review the house made vegan cupcakes S'nice carries along with other desserts I consumed on my trip.
S'nice: 45 8th Avenue between Jane and Horatio, NYC.

Other casual options I enjoyed were NY Dosas, as I noted in, “Do you know the Dosa Man?”, Mamoun’s Falafel on St. Marks for filling late night fare & the pizza from Viva Herbal. I thought I should have pizza, being in NYC & all, but one place I'd tried was nothing to write home about. Luckily, the suggestion of Viva Herbal was made by multiple friends & it paid off! I had the delicious Santa Rosa slice, a thin whole wheat crust topped with Miso Tofu, Sun dried Tomatoes, Kalamata Olives, Garlic cloves, & mushrooms. They also have multiple other veggie loaded slices on both spelt and whole wheat crusts. They claim to offer non-dairy cheese, but buyer beware, it contains casein- ick! Luckily, their shredded miso tofu resembles cheese, tastes quite good, & does the job, so there's no need for dairy derived additions!
Viva Herbal: 179 2nd Avenue between 11th & 12th Street, NYC.

Thankfully, nothing I consumed on my trip was horrendous, although I would recommend you give Caravan of Dreams and their soggy tempeh a pass. Additionally, I think Candle 79 is worth the $5 - $10 more per plate versus Candle Café, the dishes are far more creative & they don’t utilize any casein cheese like the café does.

Bottom line, if you're looking for a fun city to visit with vegan options galore, look no further, NYC is a vegan mecca!


Anonymous said...

Very nice post for those who love to travel with our imagination (as me). I promoted your reviews in VegBang:

Sjs said...

lol. did you know that chocolate was banned in switzerland for many years. read this

Amey said...

What a post, Melisser! Wow. I haven't been to New York in 8 years, and I was not yet vegan back then. One of these days, I will take an epic journey... nothing but yoga and art and vegan eats. Wooo!

Hope the dinner on Tues is fun. Sorry I've been a slacker about our frozen yogurt date. I'll email soon!


doomie said...

Agreed with everything about Candle Cafe/79 - 79 is way better, and the desserts are pretty lackluster for such a fantastic restaurant. Both restaurants are only a few blocks from school, and it's nice place to treat people.

My mom (super hardcore Midwest meateater) was here last week and we went to Red Bamboo. Although usually I like my vegan restaurants to be a bit less on the comfort food side (I can make my own at home) it was yummy and way nicer than some of the other local restaurants that try to do the vegan comfort food thing (Kate's and Foodswings come to mind). You should check it out next time you're in the city, if you haven't already.

Franchia, although I'd never tried it, turned out to be just a few blocks from my office. I just got home with the pumpkin noodles for takeout, and their lunchbox special looks like a great deal. Thanks for pointing out a new lunch spot for me, Melissa!

Lori- the Pleasantly Plump Vegan said...

awesome post! all the pictures turned out lovely.

Rose said...

It's always been one of my dreams to visit New York especially since its so vegan friendly! It seems like all the greatest restaurants are located there. Someday I'll go...hopefully :)

Liz Ranger (Bubble Tea for Dinner) said...

what a gorgeous array of food! you're so lucky to have so many incredible vegan restaurants to try, and I love reading your write-ups of them. just beautiful!

LizNoVeggieGirl said...

Melisser, you have no idea how much I appreciate this post - I will be going to NYC this coming spring (I haven't been there in a year!), and now I know exactly where to dine!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!! :0D

jess (of Get Sconed!) said...

I heart you even more for these notes and pics and gushing! Thank you! I may just have to email you about dessert, too....

Ashasarala said...

Wow... just... wow. Everything looks incredibly decandent and delicious.

I can't tell you how jealous I am that you're surround by all these awesome vegan restaurants while Boston has a measly crappy three.

Ah, vicariously is how I shall continue to live!

Rage And Love said...


All that food is making me so hungry!

I really need to go to NYC!

I mean it's allrigth here in SoCal...but New York!

vko said...

Hey Melisser!

Had a great time with you here in NYC and thanks for reminding me what a vegan-friendly city of mine this is- you tend to forget when you live in it (that's why I was so easily blinded by new & shiny vegan Los Angeles) I need to get myself to SF, so I can oh & ahh there too.

Emilie said...

oh, the pain! you hit all my favorite spots and have left me with fierce cravings!

Vegan_Noodle said...

Thanks so much for the reviews!! I"m bookmarking this for hopefully a future visit to NYC (now I just need to make some plane reservations). The hard part would be choosing where to go!!

TB said...

Wow, you make me want to go to NYC so badly! All your reviews made all the food sound great, but the Candle79 review was especially awesome... Mmm, kabocha...

bazu said...

I was so happy to meet you in NYC... and you managed to taste more good food in a couple of weeks than other people do in months. You go, girl!

Melisser; the Urban Housewife said...

vegbanger- Thanks so much! That's awesome.

Amey- NYC is great, you have to go back!

jeska- Totally agree! I prefer to eat foods I can't easily make at home! Let me know how you like Franchia!

Paulina- SO many great veg restaurants are there, it's like one stop shopping for vegans!

VeggieGirl- Hooray! I'm so glad I could help!!!

Ashasarala- I only wish I lived in NYC, I'm on the opposite coast!

vko- Get your ass here already! The baked goods are in my kitchen, waiting for you!

Emilie- Awesome! I crave so many things there as well!

V-Noodle- It's totally hard to choose where to go! I lined up each day with activities somewhat nearby, although NYC is so easy to get around.

textual- you MUST go!

bazu- It was awesome meeting up with you! I was determined to eat very well!

PPvegan, Liz², RageandLove- Thanks so much!

mushroom4eva said...

wow! i've lived in NYC for 10 years and i've never been to these places. can't wait to go!

Melisser; the Urban Housewife said...

mushroom4eva- You'll have to check them out! I'm also doing NYC dessert reviews!

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