Last weekend, I traveled to New York City. I adore NYC…the noise, the lights, the architecture, art, hustle and bustle…simply everything. Even when I had to descend into the sweltering bowels of Hades (aka subway stations…why no fans, MTA??) drenched in sweat; my love still didn’t ebb. Hopefully, I’ll be able to call it home soon. As I currently live in Boston, a fab but still veg-challenged city, I was elated to dine at a few of the numerous vegan establishments in NYC. But as it was a whirlwind 22-hour trip, I didn’t have time to try much. So here are my top 5 fave places (so far!):
1) Candle 79 – Now I know many, many magazines, books and blogs have devoted time lavishing this upscale vegan restaurant on the Upper East Side. And now I know why firsthand. It is one of (if not THE) most famous and fab vegan restaurants, scratch that…it is one of the most fab restaurants period. I have been dying to go here ever since I put down the dairy. So I came prepared, knowing what I would eat. I ordered their signature dish, the Seitan Piccata. This dish is simply amazing. The seitan kind of freaked me out as it had such an eerily similar texture to meat. Now I’m not a huge fan of mock meats but it was tasty. But what put the dish over the top was the accompaniment of creamed spinach and potato cakes in a creamy lemon caper sauce…to die for! My boyfriend, who is new to veg foods, had a Wild Mushroom Salad with creamy horseradish dressing and Polenta Fries. He loved his meal too. My libation (yes I like my booze fancy!) was the Lexington Punch, recommended by our lovely and attentive food server Christina. She described it as sweet yet balanced with unique flavors. With sake, white beer, orgeat (sweet almond syrup), citrus and agave nectar, I was intrigued. It was by far THE best drink my lips have ever tasted. It was sweet yet crisp and refreshing…a perfect summer drink. And the cute bartenders bring them over to you themselves. For dessert, we indulged in the cannoli which had vanilla cream in a pastry (still all vegan mind you) with homemade chocolate chip ice cream made from nut butter. I don’t even like cannolis but I was mystified. It was phenomenal. Surrounded by posh yet comfortable décor, with funky yet casual music playing, it was a magical evening. Seriously, if you are ever in NYC, vegan, vegetarian, carnist…doesn’t matter…get your ass here! They also have a sister establishment Candle Café which is more low-key, less expensive and has a wider variety. Both restaurants are vegan, organic and certified green with gluten-free options. And if you can’t make it to NYC, you can get the recipe for their delectable Seitan Piccata which was published in the June ‘08 edition of Vegetarian Times.
2) Uva Wine Bar – Okay, so this is NOT a vegan place per se as they have no vegan food, although they do have vegetarian food as well as some vegan alcohol such as Prosecco. But the lovely Christina at Candle 79 recommended this bar when we were looking for another place to go after dinner. Oh yes, I was looking for more drinks after the delish Lexington Punch…although I certainly didn’t NEED any more! But this place on the Upper East Side was romantic and cozy with exposed brick walls and glowing candles on the tables. There’s sidewalk seating out front as well as a lovely year-round garden in the back. It’s a great place to either start your night off before hitting the clubs or unwinding after a decadent dinner.
3) ‘SNice – This is my 2nd time coming to this casual hipster vegetarian/vegan café in the West Village (my absolute fave neighborhood in Manhattan). They offer low-key veg fare, such as sandwiches, soups, smoothies, coffee and vegan hot chocolate. I love to start my day with the hearty Tofu Scramble (be sure to eat with a fork, trust me on this…it’s ginormous!) which resembles scrambled eggs (thanks to turmeric), as well as black beans and salsa. I dragged my boyfriend up out of bed early to eat here. I also enjoyed a mango smoothie. Plus, be sure to try their tasty vegan cupcakes. And speaking of cupcakes…this brings me to number 4…
4) BabyCakes – I have been dying to visit this vegan and gluten-free cupcake Mecca on the Lower East Side ever since founder Erin McKenna’s cookbook debuted. The tiny yet adorable bakery serves cupcakes, muffins and scones. As I ordered, an autographed pic of Betty White greeted me. I indulged in 3 different kinds of cupcakes: Lemon, Chocolate w/ Chocolate Frosting, and Red Velvet. They were super moist, decadent and yummy. But hands down the most phenomenal was the lemon which blew me away!! If you can’t get here, you can try to make your own at home with their cookbook. Although be warned, I’ve heard you must follow their tricky recipes to the letter. But the results are well worth it!
5) MooShoes – Around the corner from BabyCakes is this famous cruelty-free shoe store, founded by sisters Erica and Sara Kubersky, which also sells belts, bags, T-shirts and books on veganism. Vegans love fashion too and this store keeps fashionistas compassionate without sacrificing style. I didn’t have time to linger as we had to high-tail it back to Penn Station to catch the train back home. But I browsed quickly, perusing the non-leather high heels, sandals, sneakers, flats, bags and wallets from lines such as olsen Haus, Matt and Nat, as well as their own line Novacas. And I said hello to the two fluffy felines guarding the merchandise! Before leaving, I asked the woman behind the counter if everything was on their website (which I frequently visit to look longingly at their merchandise); including a fabulous handbag I spied. She assured me that yes, everything was available online, including that fabulous handbag! I only wish I had more time to shop so I could return to Boston with cute shoes and bags and not just a full stomach…
Short list I know but there are many more places to try: Blossom, Pure Food & Wine, Gobo, Red Bamboo. I cannot wait to return. So what places do you recommend I visit next time I’m in NYC??