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Best Vegetarian in NYC

I've lived here forever and am still not sure that I have found the right vegetarian restaurant. I moved here from California and just have not been able to satiate my veggie cravings. Vegan, macrobiotic, all recommendations are welcome.

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  1. As an Indian who grew up vegetarian, I have never understood or appreciated the the generally bland food that non-Indian vegetarian purveyors foist on their customers. Please try Madras Mahal (27th & Lexington) or Saravannas (26th & Lexington).

    5 Replies
    1. re: nycexplorer

      I am not Indian, nor am I vegetarian, but I have been thinking the same thing for years. The food at places like Angelika's Kitchen and Souen is verging on inedible, IMO.

      Chennai Garden is also yummy.

      1. re: laguera

        I'd have to second that, Laguera. I've thought that if all vegetarian food was as good as southern Indian vegetarian food, then I could successfully become a vegetarian. And I'm not even a dosa fan.

        I really like Madras Cafe although when I went there with nine people last week, the service was slow. (We had a reservation too, so they knew we were coming.) But the food was so good that we didn't really mind. I ate an onion rava masala dosa here and it was the first dosa I've ever really liked (including one from the dosa man on the south side of Wash. Sq. Park). Actually I loved it. We also had a paneer dosa that was good. The vadas were MUCH better than some I'd had at Chennai Garden. The textured veg protein was good too despite the unappetizing name. Good fresh spinach in the saag paneer. And numerous other tasty dishes. Yum.

        Haven't been to Madras Mahal in a very long time -- glad to hear it's still good. I used to like Pongal too, right next door, but it's been years since I was there.

        A southern Indian acquaintance told me she thought Saravannas Bhavan was the best in town, and she wished there were something as good as that in London. Haven't been yet. Went to Chennai Garden once for lunch on a weekend and wasn't impressed -- maybe we ordered badly.

        Tried Zen Palate for the first time last night and it was OK but nothing special. Indian veg food is way better. For American veg, I thought Candle Cafe on the UES was much better than Zen P.

        1. re: Ike

          There are two places in Curry Hill that can cause some confusion:

          Dosa Hut is also known as Saravana Bhavan, however, it is not connected with the Chennai-based Saravana Bhavan hotel restaurant chain.

          Saravanaas IS an outpost of the Chennai chain.

          I think Saravanaas is the best south Indian place currently in NY, but Dosa Hut has remarkable uppma.

          Another excellent Indian veg place is Sukhadia's on 45th St. It is multi-regional with an emphasis on Gujarati.

          Outside of Indian, Hangawi is really the only all-veg place I'd make a destination.

          I do like some of the vegetarian dim sum at VP2, but their main dishes are basically veg versions of gloppy bad Chinese. Their mixed gluten appetizer is good, though.

          Certain kinds of non-veg cuisines are particularly vegetarian-friendly. It's pretty easy to find excellent veg choices at almost any good Italian restaurant, and Shanghai Chinese has a wonderful variety of vegetarian items. Sometimes thinking out of the vegetarian-restaurant box is the best way to get a good vegetarian meal.

          Ethiopian food is also very veg-friendly. And one needn't go to a vegetarian Indian restaurant to get great Indian vegetarian food. In general, North Indian vegetarian dishes are found in non-vegetarian restaurants. Plus, eating vegetarian at a really top Indian restaurant like Devi means you'll be able to get a relatively affordable meal at an otherwise expensive place.


          1. re: Peter Cherches

            I think Sukhadia's is awful, and the service is worse. The branch is NJ is much better.

            Chennai Garden is where it's at.

          2. re: Ike

            Postscript: Madras Cafe has gone way downhill. The food is still OK, if pedestrian, but the service is atrocious. This time I went there with a large group and they acted as if we were a nuisance instead of a boon, and treated us like dirt. We should've walked out after they basically ignored us and failed to give us more than a small handful of menus. They may also have overcharged us. Admittedly, the group was poorly organized but the head server was so rude that it just exacerbated the problem horribly, when he could've instead been trying to help, or at least acting like he cared, instead of openly sneering at us.

      2. I like Red Bamboo, S'nice, Souen, Rice, Hangawi, LifeThyme and Vegetarian Dim Sum House. Stay away from Zen Palate - it's better than regular fastfood, but barely.

        1 Reply
        1. re: piccola

          I'm not a vegetarian, but really enjoyed the food at Hangawi.

        2. I disagree with what the above psoter said about Zen Palate. Very good cheap vegetarian food. Maybe it's what you ordered.

          Also try a place called Vegetarians Paradise 2 or VP2. They are located on west 4th and 6th ave. Here's their website - www.vp2-nyc.com
          The menu is on the webiste and my recommendations are to try the "World Famous Crispy Soul Chicken" - it's better than any chicken nugget you've ever had even if you're not a vegetarian.

          1 Reply
          1. re: NYCPilot

            VP2 seems to have been closed off and on for the past 2 months-- it was back open again when I walked by yesterday, but something is going on there. Now, it could just be a vacation, but they've given no indication that that is what is happening.

            We're big on Blossom though. That would be my pick. Pure Food & Wine is good, if a little uneven, and Counter can really hit the extreme ranges of good and bad food, even within the scope of a single meal. Plus, I think Counter is too expensive for the quality of food they serve.


            NYCnosh: http://nycnosh.com

          2. Best Vegetarian restaurant has to be Gobo - http://www.goborestaurant.com/

            I like Red Bamboo and Angelica's Kitchen.

            I agree about Zen Palate. It's not that great. Also avoid Kate's Joint.

            1 Reply
            1. re: food_connoisseur

              Really? What's your beef with Kate's Joint? Just curious.

            2. i think s'nice, kate' joint, candles cafe, and candles 79 are the best in the city personally.

              i have no problem with zen palatte. red bamboo is okay but i always leave there feeling ill.

              1. I like Gobo. It's getting to be quite a scene, hot and crowded, but the food is very consistently good, the menu is diverse with many wonderful small plates.

                1. I still think the restaurant preparing the most refined and interesting vegetarian cuisine in the city is Pure Food & Wine - but it's all raw food. Next step down are Counter and Blossom. Gobo is a casual place which has nice dishes.

                  Kate's Joint takes forever to serve the food, but I've never had anything bad there. I have found Zen Palate horrible. It's worth remembering that vegetarians can do very well at some mainstream restaurants - for example, any of Batali's casual places: Otto, Lupa, Casa Mono.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Wilfrid

                    Candle 79, hands down. Close (and cheaper) second: Candle Cafe.

                    I also like Gobo, but find Red Bamboo to be hit or miss. Didn't care for Angelica Kitchen the one time I went.

                    Another good Indian veg: Pongal on Lexington in the 20s.

                  2. I love Pongal. There's one on the UES as well. 1st between 63rd and 64th.
                    I also like Gobo very much, except for their seitan dishes - but then again, I'm not a vegetarian....

                    1. i've heard good things about pukk but havent gotten a change to try it yet. i agree about candle cafe/candle 79, gobo and angelica and about the indian food. i practically live on it. for a really nice mean (and a bit of a splurge) spring for the vegetarian tasting menu at devi. it's AMAZING

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: cma212

                        I don't recommend Pukk at all. They give very small portions for the high price you pay.

                      2. Ayurveda Cafe on Amstedam and West 94th. It's a set menu every day, so it can be a little hit-or-miss, but if you're on the UWS and looking for vegetarian indian, it's the place to go.

                        They're also happy to bring you seconds of any dishes you particularly enjoyed, at no extra cost, which secretly makes it an "all you can eat" place . . .

                        1. As a non vegetarian, I'll weigh in with another Gobo recommendation. Four of us -- one vegan and three carnivores -- went to the Village location for dinner and we all loved it.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Blumie

                            Same here. Gobo is actually one of my fave restaurants in the city and I'm not a veggie let alone a vegan. Delicious.

                          2. my personal picks would be red bamboo (get the salmon or collard rolls and the creole soul chicken, followed by a piece of chocolate-covered strawberry shortcake), pure food and wine (get the lasagna), pongal (dosas are incredible), khyber pass (any of the vegetarian dishes) and candle 79 (best seitan i've ever had). also don't miss lifethyme for their unbelievable raspberry tollhouse cookies and raw pizzas, and caravan of dreams for their delicious sky-high salads. i've reviewed a huge number of vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants on my website if anyone is interested - www.sondraslair.com/restaurants.html
                            bon appetit!

                            1. I'm sure that many of these indian places are good. But I can't believe no one has mentioned Candle Cafe!!! A California dream.

                              go to the original! it's more down to earth, honest and yummy! it's a staple in our veggie dining out and I think it's vegan too:)

                              1. i really am not a fan of pongal... i do like their decor.. but food is not all that.. try chennai garden

                                  1. am not vegetarian but enjoy the food and my faves so far are counter (the best- so flavorful!), caravan of dreams and curly's (good diner food with the BEST curly fries everrr)!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: yummilicious

                                      I second Caravan Of Dreams. Awesome place. Do try their carrot cake - very nice. All salads are wonderful and very unique.

                                    2. No one has mentioned the Uptown Juice Bar?

                                      Its certainly not the best, but it sure is tasty.

                                      IMHO the best veggie foow in the city is at Curly's.

                                      Nothing fancy, just good down home down yonder cookin!!!!

                                      1. My top 10 list would be as follows:

                                        1) Franchia - Hangawi's little sister on Park & 35th. Awesome decor, amazing food. Try some of the veg sushi... it's great. I recommend the Franchia Meatballs, spicy kimchi tofu and sizzling spinach noodles with veg chicken. They also have quite a few more vegetably dishes. Their tofu cheesecake is amazing.

                                        2) Pure Food and Wine - it's all vegan and cooked under 110 degrees. There lasagna is amazing. It's pricey, but good. Some of there other dishes can be hit or miss. Stay away from the desserts... they are pretty bland and not well balanced.

                                        3) Buddha Bodai - down in Chinatown. Favorite dishes are the lettuce wraps, chicken corn soup and general tso's chicken.

                                        4) Saravanas - the best in Curry Hill. The mixed veg dosa is amazing and very unique. Expect to wait a while for a table tho. Also be sure to go to Saravanaas on 26th & Lex, not Saravanaas Bhavan on Lex and 28th.

                                        5) Lan cafe - it's a hole in the wall, but it's a completely veg Vietnamese place and has the most amazing Vietnamese food I've had. It's really a culinary experience.

                                        6) Gobo.

                                        7) Hangawi - stuffed mushroom appetizer is amazing. Todok is also quite nice, if you're into it. It's a little rooty and not for everyone. They also have tofu cheesecake and a really good grean tea cake.

                                        8) Curly's - great comfort food. The 20-item salad is fun. I loved their veg sloppy joe.

                                        9) Happy Buddha - great veg place in Queens. They have an amazing taro bowl with veggies inside if you like taro.

                                        10) Counter - love this place. The paella was yummy, as are some of the appetizers.

                                        I felt Candle Cafe was bland. Eaten there a few times, portions are small and they don't pack enough punch in their food. I like Candle 79 better. I like the appetizers at Blossom. I've had hit and miss experiences at Pukk. I thought Caravan of Dreams was good, but I like the restaurants above better =)

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: rebus03

                                          What, no love for Red Bamboo? Or Vegetarian Dim Sum House? :)
                                          Though otherwise, I agree with your choices.

                                          1. re: rebus03

                                            I went to Pukk once with a vegetarian friend. I thought it was awful! They seemed to have used no hot pepper whatsoever and for spice, they substituted salt - which was the only noticeable flavor in anything. Just dreadful!

                                          2. Madras Mahal...does it get much better? The Rasam Soup here will coax an amazing sweat to your face. And your hostess, I think her name is Nina, and her chef husband are as charming as they get. I love this place, but tonight, gonna try Saravannas......tba........................................

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Tenacious G

                                              OK, I'm back and the verdict is in...Madras Mahal is better. Sorry Saravannas. A little too salty and you can't even come close to the Rasam Soup at Madras. I don't think any restaurant could.

                                            2. Candle 79 on the upper east side. They're not only vegan but also gluten free. You wouldn't know it though from the food - it's fantastic! And I'm not even a vegetarian....

                                              Their grilled seitan is amazing, and the fried polenta is enchanting. The space is squooshed though. Wished they'd have thinner chairs in a small space like that.

                                              I also like their very un-upper east side attitude - super warm and friendly! Our waitress was just the cutest thing ever, and given the space was so small, we heard her repeat the menu explanations something like 3 times in the course of our meal. It could of been annoying, but the place had such a good vibe we thought it was just too funny.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: thislittlepig

                                                Are you sure they're gluten-free? Seitan is another word for wheat gluten.

                                                1. re: Miss Needle

                                                  I think they have some g-f dishes, but yeah, seitan is definitely pure gluten.

                                                  1. re: Miss Needle

                                                    Whoa, my bad. Thanks for the heads up! Seitan is indeed wheat gluten. Possibly the waitress was talking about a *particular* dish, and I misunderstood it to be true in general.

                                                2. I'm committed to Curly's. They have breakfast served all day. Everyone likes breakfast served all day.

                                                  I am NOT committed to Angelicas Kitchen, and I was excited to see a general agreement about that here. To me the plates at that place is just looks like a dressed up version of the boring rice and lentils dishes I ate so much of during my days in the college dining co-op.

                                                  An interesting place to try because the food is good is Temple on west third street. There is no atmosphere, and it's a salad-bar style buffet and a darn good lunch. I like the mung bean noodles. Ooo- and the potatoes with sesame oil. And the kale salad. I think it's about $6.95 a pound. Which is better than Whole Foods, and it IS better than Whole Foods.

                                                  1. I like a small place down on MacDougal street,Wish i could remember the exact avenue and name.

                                                    1. Wow thats really sad. First off I think most Indian food tastes the same and usually has horribly mushy textures. Samosas are the only savior.

                                                      Here are some Vegan treats that will blow your mind.

                                                      1 Vegan Panini at 'SNice
                                                      2 Black bean vegan burger at Good Health Cafe
                                                      3 Setan chimichuri (sp?) at Candle Cafe
                                                      4 Tofu Buffalo wings at Kates Joint
                                                      5 Chocolate peanut butter mouse bomb at Atlas cafe or the Green bean cafe (made by vegan treats)
                                                      6 Tornados of Seitan at Counter
                                                      7 Sloppy Joe at Curly's Lunch
                                                      8 Monk Dumplings at vegetarian dim sum house
                                                      9 Peking spare ribs at VP2 (Vegetatian Paradise 2)
                                                      10 Veggie dumplings with Red monster sauce at Dumpling man

                                                      I agree Angelicas kitchen is like school lunch cafeteria food.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: jim74nyc

                                                        Hells yeah for the bean burger at Good Health.

                                                      2. For vegan, try Zenith on 48th and 8th. There are actually 2 restaurants, Asahi (sushi) and Zenith but they have separate kitchens. Their food is very creative and tasty but it is a bit on the $$ side. Try Gazala Place on 9th between 48th and 49th Streets. Excellent vegetarian and vegan options. I've never been to Candle Cafe but I do own their cookbook and am dying to go and get the real thing, especially after reading everyone's reviews. Finally, Q2 Thai on 53rd and 9th has a lot of vegetarian options on their $7.00 lunch special menu.

                                                        1. ugh just have to say, highly disappointed in my meal at hangawi; we ordered off the menu instead of their set meal (very confusing, btw, you basically split one entree, and two apps); the ginseng salad was interesting but the rest of the food was just very roughly prepared, poor mediocre ingredients, and overall, fell far below my expectations.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: bigjeff

                                                            I'm not crazy about Hangawi either. I have eaten there twice, and while everything tasted fresh, nothing was delicious, at least to me. And for the price, I would prefer not to repeat it. The atmosphere is nice, but that's not my top priority.

                                                          2. Home on 8th Restaurant, hands down.... i work nearby at 34th st&8th ave this is my favorite chinese/vegetarian spot.. for lunch. get quite busy for lunch crowds. Offer many seasonal greens, their latest , chinese spinach & snow pea shoots with soymeat.

                                                            1. I really like Tsampa (212 E 9th St). Simple and fresh ingredients, casual but intimate atmosphere, and the price is right.

                                                              1. Blossom is my #1 vegetarian pick-
                                                                Gobo -- GV-- great for quick-- but getting a little frayed
                                                                Pure Food and Wine excellent vegetarian fine dining and outdoor patio-- but for indoor vegetarian fine, can go to the top restaurants in NYC which have vegetarian tasting dinners and really get blown out of the water! (i.e.Gramercy Tavern veg. tasting)

                                                                1. I found Hanagawi to be overpriced and disappointing... when i want to eat veggie Korean food I get kimchi bokum at Dok Suni 1st ave at 7th st (or their veggie dumplings, or their kimchi pancakes (not vegan))

                                                                  For veggie and cheap $3 indian/punjabi cuisine (albeit served in styrofoam, ech) I go to Punjabi's Deli (houston btwn 1st and 2nd north side of street, identifiable by all the cabbies).

                                                                  Veggie/Vegan Chinese? There's only one option: Buddha Bodai (Chinatown) the service SUCKS but even the buddhist monks eating lunch there will tell you, the food is amazing...

                                                                  Dim Sum is always a hard one, because it's rarely *actually* veggie, but Dim Sum Go Go (Chinatown) is reliably the best Dim Sum in NYC, and their menu: half veggie. Schwing!

                                                                  For raw food (and a splurge) go to Quintessence (10th street btwn ave A and 1st), it's cold, but it sure is tasty (not bland! yeah!)

                                                                  Pukk (1st ave, and 5th-ish) is good, but is mostly fake meats. if you go there, get the lunch special, it's huge and cheap.

                                                                  as for the best veggie dishes in the east village try: Yasai Don $10 at Natori (st marks btwn 1st and 2nd); Hijiki Salad with Tofu $10 (contains egg in the tofu breading) at Cafe Orlin (st Marks and 3rd); any of the "Frankie's" restaurants for their pastas or pizzas; or the $6 Rice and Bean Burrito at Downtown Bakery (Mexican, 1st ave and 5th).

                                                                  Hummus place, caravan of dreams, counter and several other EV restaurants serve veggie food, but a lot of it sucks (or used to be a lot better when the restaurants first opened and hadn't yet created a name for themselves).

                                                                  Bon Appetit!

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: courtney.hami

                                                                    thanks for all the specific dish recs, I will try a few of these and try to think of some of my own favorite dishes as well.

                                                                    1. re: bigjeff

                                                                      If you go to Downtown bakery, get the R&B burrito with everything... it costs the same and makes the dish oh so delicious. their chipotle sauce is rad, my bf likes the tomatillo but beware: it could burn the your tongue off.

                                                                      I'll let you know if I come up with any other dish ideas..

                                                                  2. I know this is the Manhattan board, but since the question references NYC, I'll throw in a shout-out to Foodswings in Williamsburg. But only order the Buffalo wings, which are every bit as good as the real thing (and I'm a meat-eater). The desserts are pretty intense too, actually. It's BYOB so if you need cold beer with those you should bring it.