Serious Eats: New York
The Vegetarian Option: Spring Street Natural
Lunch is the best time to eat at Spring Street Natural in Soho. You can grab a seat near one of the large windows that line the dining room and watch the busy intersection of Spring and Lafayette Streets. You can also enjoy some of their lunch-only specials, which include several vegetarian and even vegan options.
The daily specials include two soups, which on the day of my visit were both vegetarian. I chose the minestrone ($6), made with a vegetarian tomato-based broth. It's ideal comfort food for winter, chock full of vegetables like kale, carrots, and celery, not to mention two kinds of beans: chickpeas and white.
There are several specials available for lunch; one offering on my visit was a Vegetarian Gyro ($12). Instead of lamb there are chunks of seitan seasoned with spices like cumin and oregano. When topped with tzatziki sauce and served on a warm pita-like wrap, it's as good as a veggie gyro gets, down to the mushy out of season tomato.
Along with the lunch sandwiches you get an order of the sweet potato fries, which are crispy and salty on the outside and soft and sweet within. The housemade ketchup is sharp and sweet, a nice counterpoint to the fries.
The vegan options continue on the dessert menu, and they don't skimp on flavor. The warm pear, grape, and apricot crisp ($8.50), served with a scoop of mango sorbet, is one such vegan treat. Crack the crust with your spoon and mix the gushing juices with the sorbet for a mix of tart, sweet fruit, and crunchy nuts. It's proof positive that you don't need butter or cream to make a satisfying dessert.
Spring Street Natural has kind of an eclectic menu; tossed in among the mostly Mediterranean specialties there are also many Asian-sounding dishes like spring rolls and stir-fried vegetables. Based on my experience with similar menus elsewhere, I'd suggest skipping them and focusing on the more Mediterranean food. It's paid off for me, especially at lunch.
Spring Street Natural
About the author: Howard Walfish is a Virginia native who has been living in New York since 2003. He is, in fact, a vegetarian, and is the co-founder of Eat to Blog and the creator of BrooklynVegetarian. Follow him on Twitter @bklynvegetarian.