Where to Eat Great Vegan Food in NYC.
By Jennifer Shanteau
What? Did you say great vegan food? I did. Let me explain. After accidentally watching “What the Health”, as in, I turned it on not prepared for what I was about to see, things I had previously blocked from my mind; I have been on yet, another mission to improve myself. Be better. Be more responsible. Be kinder. Eat better. In light of this revived mission, I went on a hunt for the very best vegan food joints in NYC. Everyone knows you can eat vegetarian practically anywhere. There are always meatless dishes, even a steakhouse has a decked out baked potato. Vegan food, on the other hand, is a touch more challenging, and great vegan food, even more so. I had been hearing about various places, and now was the time to finally check them out. Why didn’t I go before? Well, I had partially fallen off of my health wagon, and frankly, I honestly didn’t think they would be as good as they turned out to be!
The Cinnamon Snail
My first vegan meal of the hunt was at The Cinnamon Snail. I saw their vegan food truck on one of those food shows on TV once. Now they have two brick and mortar locations, so I thought I’d give them the first crack at converting me. If you’re a doughnut fan, and you haven’t been here, shame on you. They have some very creative flavors, which I always appreciate, as my mouth is quickly bored. The three I tried were: Raspberry Cheesecake, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, and Rosemary Pistachio.
The first is a light and airy glazed doughnut with raspberry cheesecake in the middle. I love raspberries, so this was my favorite. The second was a chocolate glazed doughnut with a sugary peanut butter ball with chocolate chips resting on yet more chocolate in the center, by far the most decadent of the three…..perfect at 4:20. You can never go wrong with the classic chocolate peanut butter combination, though I’ve never seen it in a doughnut before. I gave some to my daughter, and she was on an instant sugar high. The third, a cakey doughnut with pistachios in the middle, was not as sweet, and I liked that. It would pair perfectly with a cup of tea, although in my home, no one waited for tea to devour it. It’s survival of the fittest in our kitchen. We also tried the Lavender Pear Turnover which was light, fluffy and sweet.
The doughnuts I graciously shared, but the “samwich”, as they are called here, I consumed solo right at The Cinnamon Snail. I sat there, shameless, by myself, with a tray full of doughnuts, gobbling down this burger as the sauce slid down my arm. I, no joke, had sauce on my forehead when I got home. People were literally walking by me, and commenting, “Now, that’s how you do it!” My public feast was getting high praise. My doughnuts, stalked. Everyone wanted to know where I got them. There is no privacy when your food looks this beautiful.
So….the burger……let’s just say the Beastmode Burger Deluxe is aptly named. Do you see this thing? Take a look.
Ok, wipe that drool off your face, and listen to how they describe this magical beauty. The Beastmode Burger is a Bourbon BBQ Smothered Seitan Burger with Jalapeno Mac and Cheese, Smoked Chili Coconut Bacon and Arugula on a Pretzel Bun. (Drops the mic and walks off stage.) I died. I want this samich again, and again, and again. It was moist, decadent, spicy, and crunchy. It had all the right textures and temperatures. It was even the perfect size…not too big to put me in a food comma, and not so small, that it left me still hungry. This was definitely not boring my mouth. I have literally never had seitan that tasted good until I bit into this. I am a convert. I want to hire Adam Sobel to come and cook for me every day. Although I’m pretty sure I couldn’t afford him, and doubt he would be interested anyway. All kidding aside, I am now inspired to buy some seitan, look up some recipes on Pinterest, and start experimenting. Thank you for that, Adam!
I enjoyed this delicious burger on site at the Pennsy Food Hall. I hear The Cinnamon Snail just opened a new location in the Financial District on Pine and Pearl…..tell all your banker friends. The Pennsy Food Hall, where I went is right by Penn Station and Madison Square Garden. I have to give it up for this food hall. It’s pretty cool. They even have a bar!
The next vegan friendly place on my list of great vegan food spots was Terri, a family owned and operated business with three locations in Manhattan: 60 W 23rd Street in Chelsea, 100 Maiden Lane in the Financial District, and the one I visited at 685 3rd Avenue in East Midtown.
Chicken is used in so many dishes for a reason. It doesn’t have a distinct, strong, stand out taste, which makes it a great vehicle for any flavor you want to infuse, and an easy protein to replace. So, substitute a healthy house grilled soy-wheat protein slathered in spicy, delicious Buffalo Sauce for the chicken, and I’m so in! Oh, it’s healthy, responsible and tastes amazing? Yes, please! That’s what I’m talking about.
Honestly, I like this vegan version of a Buffalo Chicken Sandwich comprised of the Vegan Buffalo “Chicken”, Celery, Lettuce, Tomato, Onion and Mayo, better than the carnivorous original….and no chicken death guilt. This is quite possibly one of the messiest sandwiches ever. Messy sandwich equals yummy sandwich! The ratio of bread to filling was right on….way more filling and less bread, just the way I like it. The bread was the exact texture needed, and really different from most sandwich breads.
Now, smoothies are everywhere, but rarely am I enamored by one. The day I went to Terri, it was about 90 degrees with 85% humidity….in the city, so basically, hell on earth. Their special of the day? A Watermelon Smoothie! Almost everything in this smoothie is, according to Chinese Medicine, cooling. It was made of Watermelon, Coconut Milk, Mint and Agave. I am one of those people who are always hot, and detest all of you who say, “it’s nice out”, when it’s 85 degrees. This drink cooled even me. Why is this not on all smoothie menus? I’m convinced it is, in fact, this very smoothie, that got me through my commute home. Thank you, Watermelon Smoothie! You made my life cooler and sweeter, if not for but a moment.
While I was sitting there enjoying all the delights in front of me, I noticed they have a promotion going on at Terri……10% off your first delivery. Dearest Terri, please open up in Astoria. I will be your most devoted customer. I’m all about delivery!
Hey, the last time I wrote an article asking someone to come to my hood, they did…..Ample Hills Creamery, so…..worth a try! Speaking of, did you know Ample Hills Creamery, although not mainly vegan does serve a few vegan ice cream flavors? That’s right! They have several locations in NYC, so add them to your list of great vegan dessert spots.
This unique ninety-nine percent organic vegan eatery is set up like an apothecary. It’s absolutely pristine inside. You walk in and up to a large marble food bar, and choose your preferred “prescription”. They offer everything from starters in the form of various dips and spreads to large and small bowls for entrees, dessert and even wine.
We chose two large bowls. First, the Joe’s Smashed Potato, a baked potato set on top of a mix of Romaine and Arugula, topped with Mushroom Gravy, Garlic, Onions, Saffron Aioli with a side of Red Sauerkraut. Absolutely delicious! When you’re gobbling up these potatoes drenched in this yummy mushroom gravy, you definitely don’t feel like you’re doing anything good for yourself. Yes, your mouth is happy, but your head keeps saying, “Is this for real? How can this be good for me?”.
Next, we had the Pasta al Mafiosi, Vegan Bolognese Sauce served over Gluten Free Fusilli with Basil Dressing and Gomasio. The next time there is snow on the ground, and I am craving a filling meal that feels like home cooking, I’m ordering up another one of these prescriptions. Delicious and filling! This one bowl was two meals for me. Well, one for me, and one for my husband, as he ate every bite of the leftovers I brought home. Oh, and he is the antithesis of vegan, so it pleases vegan wannabes, and carnivores alike.
So, if you ever decide to become a vegan, or a vegetarian, and don’t know where to obtain delicious food outside of any ethnic vegetarian restaurant, or just want to eat something completely scrumptious, check out one of these amazing, gastronomically creative spots!