Worldeats: Vegan, Vegetarian, and Organic Dining Options, New York, New York

by Keith langston
Vegan and Vegetarian Restaurants NYC

I went in search of the best vegan and vegetarian food in my new hometown of Manhattan. Surely, if any city could do vegan, vegetarian, and organic right, it would have to be New York City.

Keith Langston

SPRING NATURAL KITCHEN

Spring Natural Kitchen- NYC Vegan Restaurants

Spring Rolls at Spring Natural Kitchen

This is the perfect place for vegans and non-vegans to mingle together. The menu is a 50/50 split, but even the non-vegan dishes are committed to quality and sustainability. The meats are organic, come from small-scale farms, and the beef is all grass-fed.

I, however, was on a mission for vegan food, and for this adventure I had invited my vegan friend to come along. Browsing through the menu, I was drawn to the Zen Temple Glass Noodles, which consisted of vegan chicken, Asian greens, lotus root, nori, scallions, toasted sesame seeds, bean sprouts, and shitake mushrooms, all stir-fried in a wonderful sukiyaki sauce, and rested atop a bed of glass noodles. Upon my first bite, I knew I had made the right choice. What was so shocking about this dish was that the vegan chicken actually did taste just like chicken. I ate my entire meal in shock that I couldn’t taste any “vegan” in it. It was precisely what good Asian food should be: sweet, tangy, and spicy. An excellent choice for anyone looking to branch into vegan food.

My friend ordered the homemade veggie burger and a side of truffle fries. The greatest part about French fries is that they’re vegan and are also loved by everyone. And oh sweet lord above….that truffle oil drizzled on top. Hook me up to an IV of truffle oil, put on Netflix, and then leave me alone! I could die a happy man.

I had to try and speak with the owner, despite how annoyed my friend was that I was going to be that guy. When the owner, Rus, sat down at our table, he told us the backstory to Spring. His father was vegan and wanted to create phenomenal vegan food for New Yorkers. The first location opened on, you guessed it, Spring Street, hence the titular company name. They now have two locations, one in SoHo, and the other on the Upper West Side.

I asked Rus about the transition from a vegan restaurant to a 50/50 restaurant. He explained that while his father was vegan, he was not. While Rus rarely eats meat, he understands that many people do and won’t go anywhere near vegan places. He had the idea to create a restaurant where everyone, vegan and non, could find a good meal and dine together. He does admit though, that when he made the change, his hardcore vegan fans refused to eat there any longer. “But,” he quickly followed, “I’ve had many more people (couples, friends, co-workers) all tell me how amazing it is that they finally have a restaurant that everyone can agree on. Plus, I’ve had lots of people, even burly grown men, who have ordered vegan dishes not knowing their vegan, and then love them! They tell me that if this was a strictly vegan restaurant, they probably never would have walked through the door.” 474 Columbus Ave. Tel: 646-596-7434 and 98 Kenmare Street. Tel: 212-966-0290. www.springnaturalkitchen.com

THE CINNAMON SNAIL

The Cinnamon Snail - NYC Vegetarian Restaurants

The Cinnamon Snail

The Cinnamon Snail is one of the many emerging food truck success stories. The Snail began as a food truck, which gave birth to a second food truck, which started having lines form so long they rivaled that of Shake Shack. The success of these trucks gave birth to their first permanent location in the Pennsy Food Hall above Penn Station. New York is taking after Asia’s lead and is starting to create epic food halls in train stations and other busy commuter locations. These food halls aren’t filled with Taco Bell and Panda Express, these places are culinary adventures.

The Cinnamon Snail is a true testament to the new wave of food hall dining. The founder and owner, Adam Sobel, is quite the character. He’s the kind of guy I expect to see on the Food Network someday. He’s spunky, colorful, offbeat, and an all-around astounding person to talk to. His philosophy of the Cinnamon Snail sums up his personality perfectly. He told me, “I wanted to open this restaurant because I believe that vegan food is more ethical and environmentally friendly. I also understand that getting people to eat vegan is hard…hence why I needed to create dishes that would lure normal people over to the dark side.” He then gave an evil grin and rubbed his hands together nefariously. I could barely stop laughing during our interview.

The top dish, he said, is the Beastmode Burger Deluxe, complete with mac n’ cheese smothered on top of an ancho chili seitan burger. As great as that sounded, I was captivated by the Snail’s epic dessert counter, filled with cakes, turnovers, pastries, and best yet, donuts. People of America, listen to me now: The best donuts are at the Cinnamon Snail, and they’re all completely vegan!

Vanilla Bourbon Crème Brulee, Apple Cider with Cranberry Glaze, Stuffed Cookies and Cream, Pistachio with Cardamom Frosting, and tons more. Flavors change daily, and new ones are added all the time. The donut that caught my eye was the Stuffed Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Chocolate Donut with Molten Chocolate Filling. The name is a mouthful, and so is the enormous donut. I lifted up that gigantic sweet gem and opened my mouth as wide as I could. I tasted the rich chocolate, and the deliriously fluffy dough. My vision blurred, sound drifted toward mute, and I was near orgasmic. That was not just a phenomenal vegan donut. It was a phenomenal donut, period. The Snail regularly wins baking competitions against non-vegan bakers, proving that vegan food is as good as, and often better than, some of the best “traditional” food out there. 2 Pennsylvania Plaza, New York, New York (Next to Penn Station). www.cinnamonsnail.com

PEACE FOODS

Peace Foods - NYC Vegan Restaurants

Peace Foods

Peace Foods makes you feel like you’re in a southern diner. Complete with a bright, simple interior, shelves lined with trinkets, hanging plants, a pie counter, hardwood floors, and a sense of calm. It was hard to believe I was still in Manhattan.

Peace Foods serves your classic diner faire: sandwiches, like Tempeh Avocado, or the Roasted Japanese Pumpkin, Vegan Potato Salad with Celery and Capers, and of course, your classic diner desserts, like Raw Key Lime Pie, and Fresh Banana Bread.

As I browsed the menu, my eyes became locked on the Vegan Chicken and Waffles. How could you not order chicken and waffles when it’s on a menu? When the plate arrived, it was practically overflowing with a giant half-waffle, fired vegan chicken strips, strawberry and banana slices, and of course, maple syrup.

When you eat chicken and waffles, you need to make a little sandwich out of it. Cut a piece of waffle, top it with some chicken, then drizzle on the maple syrup. Open your mouth and taste the strange bliss of how such an odd combination can come out to be so damn good. I used the fruit as my “dessert” after finishing off the meal. Not a bad way to start a leisurely Saturday morning if you ask me.

One thing that’s important to know is that the rest of New York also loves the down-home vibe of Peace Foods. On weekends, the brunch crowd flocks there in droves. My advice is to go early, I’d say before 9:30 A.M. if possible. Or, do what I did, and as you put your name on the waitlist, order a tea or coffee for while you wait. Peace Foods serves some excellent vegan hot drinks like the Ginger Soy Latte and the Brazilian Nut Chai, as well as wonderful iced ones, like the Iced Peppermint Tea, and the Fresh Squeezed Gingerade. For a wonderfully relaxed healthy, and delicious, meal, be sure to head to Peace Foods. 460 Amsterdam Ave. Tel: 212-362-2266. www.peacefoodcafe.com

Try This Recipe At Home:  Mexican Roasted Corn – Elote

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