Not too long ago, eating vegetarian in New York meant sticking to buttered noodles and steamed broccoli or slumming it at a high-on-principle, low-on-taste vegetarian-themed restaurant. But not today.
In addition to new waves of vegetarian-friendly ethnic restaurants across the city, more and more chefs are focusing on making vegetables just as delicious as their meaty main course alternatives. We've rounded up some of our favorite vegetarian-friendly restaurants in the city, from casual sandwich spots to fine dining palaces. Some are meat-heavy with a few great meatless options, while others are completely vegetarian but have good enough food to satisfy even the most ardent carnivore.
Ganesh Temple Canteen: The basement of a Hindu temple in Flushing might seem like a strange place to find a meal, but the Ganesh Temple Canteen makes the best dosa in New York.
Taïm: With some of the very best falafel in town, it's easy to forget Taïm is completely, almost incidentally vegetarian. Don't miss the great vegetable salads, especially the red beet and carrot options.
Thelewala: Never had a nizami roll? It's a flaky paratha wrapped around various fillings, and the crisp okra and tender egg are just as good as the lamb.
B & H Dairy: This old-school Eastern European lunch counter is almost exclusively vegetarian. Don't miss the homemade challah and mushroom barley soup.
Mumbai Xpress: The chaat at Mumbai Xpress is worth the trip out to Glen Oaks, Queens—it's the best you'll find in the city, and some of the best Indian New York has to offer. Try the Tokri Chaat, an edible bowl made of grated and fried potatoes filled with creamy chickpeas, fried chickpea crackers, and onion.
Motorino: With locations in both the East Village and Williamsburg, Motorino is our go-to choice for Neapolitan pizza in the city. The wonderful Brussels sprout pizza also has pancetta, but the vegetarian Marinara and Margherita are great, too.
Awash: Legume and vegetable stews are a focal point of Ethiopian restaurants, and Awash is one of New York's best. Dining with carnivores? Their tartare is also a hit.
Bunna Cafe: A purely vegan Ethiopian spot with fresher, brighter, and more interesting versions of classics. They also do a traditional Ethiopian coffee roasting ceremony in the dining room throughout the day.
Bianca: Bianca's affordable Italian menu has a variety of vegetarian-friendly options. The Lasagnette de Verdure features soft layers of eggplant and zucchini and an amazingly flavorful tomato sauce.
Cocoron: New York has no shortage of serious ramen restaurants, but soba doesn't get the same love. Cocoron seeks to change that, and their excellent buckwheat noodles can be ordered with deeply flavorful vegetarian broths.
Otto: With over a dozen vegetable antipasti as well as vegetarian pizza and pasta options, Mario Batali's casual Otto is a perennial go-to for vegetable lovers.
Jin Ramen: The city's trendiest ramen joints might be downtown, but don't discount Harlem's Jin Ramen. The light, flavorful vegetarian broth is just as nice a match for the excellent noodles as the pork broth.
Saravana Bhavan: If you don't want to trek out to Flushing for your dosa fix, the options at Saravana Bhavan, with locations in Murray Hill and the Upper West Side, are sure to satisfy. Check out the Chili Paneer and Rava versions.
Paulie Gee's: Pretty much any pizzeria can handle vegetarians, but vegans are usually out of luck. Paulie Gee's is a different story, featuring not just one vegan pie, but an entire menu of them, all SE-approved.
Zizi Limona: Zizi Limona's inventive Middle Eastern menu features versions of all the classic dishes you'd expect, vegetarian and not. The Crazy Baba, essentially a hybrid of baba ganoush and tirokafteri, is indicative of the updated yet faithful Mediterranean food you'll find here.
Mimi's Hummus: Mimi's makes some of the best hummus in the city. Get yours topped with sautéed mushrooms with tahini-dressed cauliflower on the side.
Il Bambino: This beloved Astoria "paninoteca" offers a variety of veg-friendly sandwiches and small plates that locals swear by.
Le Verdure at Eataly: Le Verdure, Eataly's shrine to vegetables, does its namesake proud. You won't find any fake meat here—Le Verdure is all about pure, honest vegetable dishes.
Mezze Place: Hummus, labne, burekes—Mezze Place is all about sharing great Middle Eastern classics. Order a variety of dips and vegetable plates and dig in.
Tanoreen: Palestinian restaurant Tanoreen respects both meat and vegetables. The Eggplant Napoleon—crispy deep-fried eggplant layered with creamy baba ganoush—is a definite winner.
Family Recipe: In America, Japanese food tends to mean sushi, but the truth is that Japan has a long tradition of vegetarian cooking. Family Recipe draws on this tradition to create Japanese-inflected dishes that carefully feature vegetables.
Telly's Taverna: Telly's Taverna knows its way around a deep fryer. Lightly battered zucchini, red pepper, and eggplant are all on the menu, as are deeply flavored gigantes beans and fresh dips.
Moti Mahal Delux: Indian restaurants are usually vegetarian-friendly, but few offer dishes as interesting as those at Moti Mahal Delux.
A Few Steps Up
La Vara: The fried chickpeas at this neighborhood restaurant are a standout, but the other small plates, as well as the mains, all make La Vara a Cobble Hill gem.
Dirt Candy: A far cry from the health-conscious, tempeh-crazed vegetarian restaurants that popped up when the health food craze hit, Dirt Candy is all about making delicious, inventive, indulgent food that just happens to be vegetarian (and vegan on request).
Sip Sak: The best Turkish restaurant in the city with a full range of veg-friendly mezze that are substantial enough to turn into a meal, especially with their fresh, poofy bread.
L'Artusi: This bustling West Village Italian restaurant has fantastic vegetarian options. Be careful, though—meat sneaks into a couple of the vegetable dishes.
Narcissa: Narcissa is a fine dining restaurant that cares about vegetables. Inventive dishes like Rotisserie-Crisped Beets and Carrots Welington make this a restaurant everyone should check out.
ABC Kitchen: Chef Dan Kluger knows his way with vegetables. His menu changes frequently, but the carrot and avocado salad is a standby to keep an eye out for.
ABC Cocina: The newer sister restaurant to ABC Kitchen. Fancy tacos are a focus of the menu, but the best dishes are the seasonal vegetables.
Martha: Martha's menu changes frequently, but you're always likely to find a good variety of sophisticated vegetarian small plates.
Blossom: One of our favorite vegan restaurants in the city, Blossom puts out thoughtful, flavorful food. The Black-Eyed Pea Cake, topped with a chipotle aioli, is a satisfying appetizer, and the mains impress as well.
Hangawi: Hangawi's upscale vegan Korean fare makes it a destination for a special meal in Koreatown. The sesame leaf tofu patties are plump and moist, fried until crisp.
Rouge Tomate: Michelin-starred Rouge Tomate takes vegetarian dining seriously. The Ricotta Gnudi, served in a pool of Parmesan cream dotted with herb oil and topped with a woodsy tangle of chewy roasted mushrooms and deeply browned celery root, is a highlight.
ilili: The labne and eggplant small plates at ilili are well worth an order, as are salads and za'atar-topped flatbread.
Kajitsu Kajitsu offers two fixed menus at a time, each taking vegetarian cooking to a new level of artistry. The cuisine is vegan shojin ryori, full-flavored yet tranquil.
Telepan: Telepan's vegetable options shine come spring, but throughout the year you're likely to find some creative vegetarian dishes on the menu.
Dovetail: Mondays at Dovetail are perfect for mixed groups of vegetarians and omnivores—that's the night they serve an excellent vegetarian tasting menu.
Blue Hill NYC: Blue Hill at Stone Barms revolutionized farm-to-table dining. The New York outpost provides no shortage of amazing dishes featuring local meats and vegetables alike.