5 of the best vegan food places in New York

Every time I go to New York, I fall a little bit more in love with the place.

Granted, I have mostly only ever been in the summer, when the parks are full of glowing green trees and everyone sits outside on stoops and sidewalks. I wouldn’t believe New Yorkers when they describe the hellish winters, if it weren’t for one trip that I took there in March, a few years back. I wasn’t prepared and only brought a light coat and thin sweaters. The wind was so cold and strong that I thought it might strip the skin of my face off! Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge felt like a trek through the Arctic. So I think I’ll keep New York as a dreamy summer city, thanks.

Back in June, when Andy and I realised we really wanted (and needed!) a holiday as a break from working at home, we initially thought of booking a trip in Europe. With cheap flights, we could afford to visit two or three cities, maybe Berlin, Prague and a short stop in Paris. Sounds like a European tour straight out of Patricia Highsmith right? Except we couldn’t bring ourselves to actually book it. We kept thinking of walks in Central Park, New York pizza and reading free newspapers in Bryant Park.

After one long and complicated evening on Google flights (and thanks to our incredibly kind friends in Brooklyn), we found some affordable tickets with new budget airline Primera Air (as long as you’re prepared with snacks and a laptop full of movies, I would definitely recommend them!). Ten whole August days in New York.

I’ve thought about this a lot. The travel bucket list. I definitely have a lot of places on there that I hope I can visit before I die. But I have to say, after careful reflection, I would be pretty happy if the only place I could go on holiday was America. Everyone has their country, the place where they feel at home, where they feel endlessly curious and most like themselves. America is it for me.

So, after this, my second summer in a row visiting New York, I want to recommend a few of my favourite vegan places to eat in my favourite hot weather city.

Dunwell donuts

Just after we left New York, Dunwell’s annonced that now they are selling their excellent vegan donuts in several NY Wholefoods! I’m so glad that they are doing so well and that Wholefoods is finally starting to address it’s befuddling and distressing lack of vegan sweet things.

We visited the tiny Dunwell donuts shop on St Marks Place in the East Village, which was great for grabbing a donut and walking. If you want to sit and have donuts and coffee, then I would recommend getting your Dunwells and heading to Third Rail Coffee or Coffee Project NY for an espresso to go with your peanut butter and jelly donut (my favourite!). The original Dunwell’s is in Williamsburg and it’s on my list for my (inevitable) trip next summer.

Bareburger

Bareburger is a chain restaurant and, as those go, it’s pretty nicely done. The main reason to go here though, is because they are one of the few restaurants in New York where you can get a Beyond Meat burger. You’ve probably read about Beyond Meat burgers or heard of them. They are the ones that replicate meat with pea protein to create an incredibly believable VEGAN meat substitute. I am not exaggerating when I say that they are tastier than real beef burgers. If you’ve tried one, you’ll know I’m right. If you haven’t tried one… better get your ass in gear!

Two Boots pizza

I always associate places with food. I love to eat and to travel, so inevitably, my world map has overlapped with my culinary one.

Paris is raspberry and rose macarons from Pierre Hermé. Rome is gelato con panna from Giolitti’s. Naples is sfogliatella from Leopoldo’sNow, I associate pizza with several different places, because there are different types of pizza. I think pizza comes in two basic concepts- minimalist and all the toppings. For minimalist pizza, I think of Venice, where Andy and I had an amazing pizza that was just dough, tomato sauce and garlic flakes. For maximalist pizza, it has to be America, where each pizza slice sags under the weight of toppings and layer of cheese thicker than the dough base.

When it comes to New York, I think thin, I think GIANT, I think cheese.

One of the trickiest parts of becoming vegan, is that you keep all of these emotional attachments to food and to memories involving food but you can no longer visit them. I can no longer look forward to gelato or croissants, margherita pizza or a slice of utility pizza. My emotional visa to italian gelato and French pastries has been revoked and I need to make new travel food montages about seitan in Japan and soysage in Anchorage.

I still feel heart-broken over Angelina’s hot chocolate but at least Two Boots pizza has solved the problem of New York and utility pizza. At Two Boots, Andy and I can order an incredibly delicious 18 inch pizza for the two of us and feel like we are creating new memories of hot stringy vegan cheese. We’ve tried several of their vegan pizza choices and my favourite is by far the V for Vegan- two different types of pesto, Daiya cheese, mushrooms, artichokes and red onions. All the best toppings. And if you disagree, I’m sorry to tell you, you’re wrong.

Champs Dinner

We went to this hidden away Williamsburg ENTIRELY vegan dinner three times on our trip. That’s how good the food was, and how huge the menu. We were so excited by all the vegan options, that we had to keep going back to try more. Every time we went, there was line of people waiting. I’ve always rolled my eyes at queueing for a restaurant, but I was happy to for Champs. The wait was never that long and the pancakes are really forking worth it.

I tried the pancake slam, which, portion-wise, looked disappointing to me at first, but every item was delicious and it turned out to be just the right amount rather than my usual paralysingly greedy portion. The hashbrowns (see below!) look anemic but they were actually mysteriously crispy and flavourful. And I have lots of time for soysages, not least because saying their name makes me sound like I’m doing a bad Bronx accent.

Then came the fantastic breakfast enchiladas, and, on our final visit, a return to the fluffy pancakes with a side of French toast because someone else cooking pancakes for you is the atheist version of heaven. And these pancakes may be the best I have ever tasted. 

Thanks to our open-minded, curious and hungry non-vegan friends, we can also recommend the chicken burger, the dawgs, the beloved bowl and the Girl Scout milkshake, which truly tasted like Mint Thins, which I never thought I would taste again! 

My last recommendation is going to seem like cheating. But I am never going to get over how incredible Wholefoods is in America. Shopping there must be fun for everyone, but for vegans, it’s like a fairytale palace of edible treasures.

This time round we found a milk alternative called Banana Wave made out of bananas (so essentially very watery banana smoothie and yet somehow delicious), a milk alternative called Ripple made out of split pea protein (I have no idea!?! Also, delicious and very creamy)  and Justin’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups (ERMARGARD! So good). I’ve always loved looking around supermarkets, trying to find new things I want to eat, and Wholefoods always delivers up something weird and wonderful.

The only downside to visiting their shops now is that I’m not sure how long their ethical business approach is going to withstand buying bought up by Amazon. This Guardian article about Amazon coaching Wholefoods staff on how to avoid unions is definitely worrying. I really hope that Wholefoods can protect the integrity and ethics that it’s worked hard to bring into the supermarket business. We need them as a positive example!

All photos my own, except for the burger photo which is from Bareburger!

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  • Andy

    If I had a time machine, I would go back in time to eat that pizza again, and again, and again….

    • Emma J

      If I had a time machine…I would be smart enough to invent an infinite slice of pizza…

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