January 16, 2021

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New York veg funds: where to eat vegan in Manhattan

abcV, Flatiron District Ladybird, East Village Spicy Moon, East Village Jajaja Plantas Mexicana, West Village...
  1. abcV, Flatiron District

  2. Ladybird, East Village

  3. Spicy Moon, East Village

  4. Jajaja Plantas Mexicana, West Village

  5. Délice & Sarrasin, West Village

As New York’s restaurants reawaken after months of offering only takeout and delivery, it is finally possible to enjoy the city’s culinary offerings on a new patio or in a brick and mortar shop.

Whether you’re a budding vegan, a veteran, or just trying to eat more veg, the city has an abundance of restaurants that serve up much more than lacklustre veggie burgers and plates of hummus. From Sichuan Chinese to tapas, Mexican and French, Manhattan offers an array of delicious, plant-based takes on international cuisines. Here are five fantastic vegan restaurants to try.

1. abcV

38 East 19th Street, New York, NY 10003

  • Good for: inventive dishes and impressive presentation

  • Not so good for: getting in at the last minute

  • FYI: order several dishes to share. abcV has resumed indoor seating, for which masks are required and temperature checks are taken on arrival. Outdoor seating is also available, weather permitting. (Website; Directions)

When it’s busy, a last-minute table can be hard to come by...
When it’s busy, a last-minute table can be hard to come by . . .
...but inventive dishes such as avocado lettuce cups are worth the wait
. . . but inventive dishes such are worth the wait

If you only go to one vegan eatery in New York, let it be abcV. This high-end restaurant in the Flatiron District, from chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, is attached to ABC Carpet & Home, an upscale homeware store. But don’t let that fool you — this is not your average retail dining experience: this place has some of the best vegan fare in the city, and in a gorgeous environment.

Much of the appeal of abcV is in the fine details, from the miniature flower arrangements on the tables to the rainbow garnishes on your plate. Each dish contains multiple vegetables and is presented in a memorable way.

The avocado lettuce cups with toasted cumin and serrano-and-lime sauce are a wonderful combination of crunch, drip and chewiness. Another must-try menu item is the whole roasted cauliflower with red and green zhug (a Middle Eastern hot sauce), turmeric tahini sauce and pomegranate seeds.

Saison beer-battered maitake and oyster mushrooms may resemble fried chicken but have infinitely more flavour. And for a purely plant-based dish, the applewood smoked butter beans taste surprisingly — and pleasantly — like bacon.

2. Ladybird

111 East Seventh Street, New York, NY 10009

  • Good for: a quiet meal in a relaxing space

  • Not so good for: those hoping to avoid fried food

  • FYI: though ingredients such as “cheddar” and “parmesan” are listed, all items on the menu are vegan. Both indoor and outdoor seating is available. (Website; Directions)

The menu is all vegan, in tempting tapas-sized portions
The menu is all vegan, in tempting tapas-sized portions
Small groups and solo diners alike are easily accommodated
Small groups and solo diners alike are easily accommodated

Ladybird, a plant-based tapas bar in the East Village, has a cosy interior featuring ornate mirrors, green velvet and flowers. The bar runs the length of the dining room and is a good option if you are eating alone, while a handful of nook tables are suitable for small groups.

The winners on this fully vegan menu include the buffalo maitake bao buns, a light and pillowy steamed dough holding a mushroom smothered in hot buffalo sauce; and the Brussels sprouts, which are fried with mustard seeds and sliced apple. The vegan cheese and chocolate fondue are a delight too.

3. Spicy Moon

328 East Sixth Street, New York, NY 10003

  • Good for: converting sceptics of veganism

  • Not so good for: dieters. The portions are large and the food is delicious

  • FYI: this smallish joint fills up quickly, so booking in advance is advised (Website; Directions)

Bring a healthy appetite for the generous portions
Bring a healthy appetite for the generous portions
The retro surroundings should help confound the vegan sceptics
The retro surroundings should help confound the vegan sceptics

Tucked away in Manhattan’s East Village, Spicy Moon offers plant-based takes on Szechuan Chinese dishes. With a retro aesthetic and vegetables that pack a flavourful punch, this bustling eatery is the place to take anyone sceptical about vegan eating.

Small plates steal the show here — in particular the vegetable wontons in chilli oil, pea leaves with garlic and kung pao mushrooms. The chewy dan dan noodles will leave you guessing what could give this dish such depth of flavour — the menu is vague on details but you can be sure it is vegan. All of the above washes down well with a spicy tamarind margarita.

Despite the hype about this restaurant, the service here is friendly, which isn’t always a given in New York.

4. Jajaja Plantas Mexicana

63 Carmine Street, New York, NY 10014

  • Good for: buzzy atmosphere

  • Not so good for: a quiet meal

  • FYI: the drinks menu is almost as enticing as the food. Open for indoor and outdoor dining. (Website; Directions)

Colourful and spacious, the restaurant does have a millennial vibe
Colourful and spacious, the restaurant does have a millennial vibe
Food such as the towering nachos has a masterful quality
Food such as the towering nachos has a masterful quality

There is always a queue at Jajaja Plantas Mexicana, whether for brunch, lunch or dinner — a sure sign of something good. Situated on the border of SoHo and the West Village, this colourful, spacious Mexican restaurant is indisputably millennial in style, with a fun yet mercifully not too loud playlist.

Menu-wise, the nachos are a masterpiece — a tower of artfully balanced tortilla chips loaded with vegan chorizo and salsa. The tacos, while deviating from Mexican tradition, won’t disappoint: take the blueberry and flaxseed tortilla filled with heart of palm, jackfruit and orange, or the vegan barbacoa taco filled with yuba (tofu skin), adobo and coconut feta cream. (Pro tip: order the wedding cookies for dessert, or at least have them to take away.)

Tequila and mescal enthusiasts will be impressed by the drinks menu, though there are several non-alcoholic Mexican options as well, including almond horchata, yerba mate and sodas.

5. Délice & Sarrasin

20 Christopher Street, New York, NY 10014

  • Good for: traditionally prepared French food — without the meat and dairy

  • Not so good for: private conversations. Space is tight, and you will hear your neighbours

  • FYI: portion sizes are traditionally French too. (Website; Directions)

The bistro setting is in the best French tradition...
The bistro setting is in the best French tradition . . .
...as are the portion sizes
. . . as are the portion sizes

It is, admittedly, hard to imagine good French cuisine without meat or dairy, but this low-key 24-seat bistro achieves just that. Tucked away on a side street in the West Village, it has a minimalist decor and Gallic-style service.

While many other vegan restaurants break the mould with inventive dishes, Délice & Sarrasin sticks as close as possible to French tradition. Appetisers include vegetable-based soups, nut-based cheeses, mushroom-based escargots and a tahini-based foie gras.

Signature French entrées are reinvented as plant-based dishes: steak frites in which three types of mushrooms form the steak; cassoulet made with soy sausage and seitan “duck”; and boeuf bourguignon made with pea protein, onions and wine. Savoury galettes are a speciality here, and the “Mr Rabelais” (with vegetable Toulouse sausage) is the best of the bunch.

If you’re still hungry after dinner, head round the corner to the Van Leeuwen ice cream parlour, which has a rotating selection of vegan ice creams.

What’s your favourite place to eat your five-a-day? Tell us in the comments

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