The Veg Out Toast at 61 Local
61 Local has become one of my favorite neighborhood hangouts since it opened in Boerum Hill a couple years ago. Not only do they always have great local brews on tap, they also have a really above-average-for-a-bar food menu, available all day. In addition to hearty sandwiches, pastries from Bien Cuit Bakery around the corner, and a nice cheese plate, there's Veg Out Toast. What's exciting about this is the "faux gras" atop the whole-grain toast. The smooth savory purée is made from the "livers" of lentils, walnuts, and miso, then gets topped with crisp scallions, red peppers, and mushrooms. Brooklyn-based Ella Nemcov of Regal Vegan makes the faux gras, and she really needs to start selling it in even more stores, because it's awesome. In the meantime, I'll keep getting my fix at 61 Local.
Mushroom and Farro from ABC Kitchen
Arguably the meatiest of vegetables, the mushrooms in this farro dish are plump and tender. Braised chanterelles, hen-of-the-woods, and button mushrooms mingle with fluffy, nutty farro, finished off with fresh mint, preserved lemon, and chilies.
ABC Kitchen's menu is hyper-seasonal, so this dish might not stick around for long, but you can expect some new vegan sides on the spring menu.
Vegan Secret Supper Club with Chef Mérida Anderson
Since 2008, self-taught vegan chef Mérida Anderson has been hosting Vegan Secret Suppers in New York, Montreal, and Vancouver. Recently in Crown Heights, she was serving cashew "cheese," roasted squash soup, and hazelnut cake to a small group of us diners sitting underneath a milk bottle chandelier. Email Merida to get on her mailing list and find out about the next supper club, and also check out her new cookbook, with its 150 recipes featuring seasonal fruits, legumes, nuts, and whole grains.
Vegetarian Ramen at Chuko
Many a ramen broth is made with pork, beef bones, or chicken to enhance the richness of every slurp, which is delicious and all, just not vegan. Chuko's Veg Ramen, however, is made with a seaweed-based miso broth studded with roasted squash chunks and soft cabbage leaves betwixt the springy noodles. It's so good, I wasn't even jealous of the pork and kimchi ramens all around me.
Kale Salad at Chuko
One more favorite from Chuko—this killer kale salad. Both raw kale shreds and tempura-fried kale nuggets are tossed in a faintly sweet white miso vinaigrette with golden raisins. Paper-thin sweet potato crisps rest on top, adding a delicate crunch. It's my favorite kale salad in the city (right now, at least).
Falafel and Soup from Taim
The entire Taim menu is vegetarian, but if you're going vegan, that means no sabich sandwich because of the hard-boiled egg (sigh). Obviously you still have Taim's beloved falafel as an option, either in pita or platter form, rounded out with Taim's creamy, tahini-rich hummus, cabbage salad, and Israeli salad. Very filling, very satisfying (and very vegan). The Nolita branch of Taim also offers (an often vegan) soup du jour, such as black bean or carrot mint.
Sri Lankan Food at Lakruwana
Excluding the goat curry and dried Maldive fish in coconut sambol, Sri Lankan food can be pretty vegan-accommodating. You've got rice, lentils, roti, and vegetable curries made with coconut milk. Staten Island is where you need to go for the best Sri Lankan food in NYC (and read this guide before you do). If you're there on a Sunday, head to Lakruwana for the all-you-can-eat buffet. I pigged out (er, more vegan verb choice?) on the kale with coconut flakes, lentils stewed in coconut milk, pineapple curry with tamarind paste, forever-roasted-until-jam-soft eggplant, and plenty of crunchy papadum curls to scoop up all the bites. The restaurant serves an a la carte menu the rest of the week.
Tasting Menu at Kajitsu
Kajitsu is an exquisite experience, every minute of it. Specializing in Shojin-ryori cuisine, the ancient vegan diet first followed by Buddhist monks in Japan, Kajitsu makes magic happen with vegetables. Daikon, burdock root, and lily bulbs become the grand centerpiece of a plate, and you leave feeling full in a clean, virtuous way. The menu rotates often; some recent highlights included the Sashimi Style King Oyster Mushrooms, as slippery and meaty as an actual piece of raw fish. Another highlight is the sake glassware, intricately etched with cherry blossoms and geometric designs. Note: Kajitsu was formerly in the East Village but just relocated to a new space in Murray Hill.
Veggie Combo from Awash
The most stuffed I ever left a vegan meal was after this Ethiopian feast at Awash. Probably because of the many blankets of injera, the spongy, yeast-risen, slightly sour flatbread that's rolled up and ready to scoop the various piles in lieu of utensils. The Veg Combo piles include beets, red lentils, yellow split peas, cabbage, gomen (collards cooked with garlic and onion) and shiro (ground and spiced chickpeas) sitting atop even more injera, and you should absolutely eat that bottom layer since it's been soaking up all the flavorful juices.
Awash: Uptown, Downtown, and Brooklyn; awashny.com
Vegan Mapo Tofu at Mission Chinese
Is the vegan rendition of Mission Chinese Food's Mapo Tofu as good as the one studded with braised pork shoulder chunks? Maybe not, but it's still a pleasing bowl of the fiery stew-like sauce of mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns and jiggly cubes of tofu. Mission Chinese can vegan-ize quite a few dishes; just look for the special asterisked dishes on the menu.
Soy Hound Milk and OMilk
Nut milks and soy milks are a great source of dairy-esque protein for vegans. I've made a bunch of almond milk at home (recipe here), but my two favorite small-batch brands made in New York are Soy Hound and OMilk. Soy Hound makes a line of flavored soy milks, including one with ginger that's a tad spicy and very soothing. OMilk's cashew milk is creamy with a nice hint of vanilla, and even works in coffee (as opposed to other nut milks that are too watery and can react weirdly with coffee).
The Toppings Bar at Maoz
If you've been to the Maoz Vegetarian chain before, you've been confronted with this brilliant rainbow of a toppings bar. Not all of the salads and sauces are vegan, but plenty of them are: carrots, cabbage, broccoli, pickles (black, green, and bright red baby eggplant!), tabouleh, and more. That's a lot you could stuff into a pita, with or without falafel.
Maoz: Check here for various locations
Mongolian Hot Pot at Hangawi
Hangawi's menu has a Korean bent with some Malaysian and Chinese influence. It's a special place with a no-shoes policy (leave them in the cubbies near the door) and low tables so your feet dangle in the sunken space underneath (bonus: heated floors!). Order anything that's served in a hotpot or claypot and it'll arrive still sizzling; pictured here is the Mongolian Hot Pot with wild bracken shoots, mushrooms and other mixed vegetables. While zenning out to the music in this temple-like room, chopstick up some of the vegan kimchi made with napa cabbage, cucumbers, and pears in a plum and agave dressing.
Chang-an Spicy Tofu at Xi'an Famous Foods
Fresh tofu, sold in plastic tubs and often still warm, is one of my favorite cheap eats in Chinatown. No more than a couple bucks per pint, and worlds better than the packaged stuff. Both Sun Hing Lung Co (58 Henry Street) and 212 Grand Food Corp (212 Grand Street) make wonderful fresh tofu, but for a spicier take, try the Chang-an Spicy Tofu from Xi'an Famous Foods. It's awash in chili oil, soy sauce, and spices.
Xi'an Famous Foods: multiple locations
Funyuns from The Squeeze
Can we talk about Funyuns for a second? Well, leave it to someone in Brooklyn to make an all-natural version of the onion-flavored corn rings. "FUNonions" from The Squeeze start with real onion slices that are coated in a batter of sprouted buckwheat, flax, and seasonings, then dehydrated until crisp. I laughed at first, then proceeded to eat the entire plastic container of them.