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Help me wow my vegetarian friend...cheaply.

A friend is coming to visit from out of town next week, and I want to show her the best Manhattan has to offer. Caveats: we're both vegetarians, and I'm a poor, poor student (one who cooks for herself, mostly, hence this plea for assistance). If at all possible, I'd like to keep meals + tax + tip at $15-20 per person.

I live near Columbia, and I'd love recommendations in Morningside Heights or Harlem, but for an amazing BYOB Thai place with an array of fake meat options, I'd be willing to travel.

Here's what I'm looking for:

1) Brunch places. All-you-can-drink brunch would be awesome.

2) Asian food: widely defined as Thai, Indonesian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, Nepalese....

3) Middle Eastern or Central Asian food: anything from Turkey to Yemen to Turkmenistan.

4) BYOB ups the coolness factor for us by about 15 points

5) Tiny places, with murals by the owner's friends painted on the wall, mismatched dishes and lots of regulars, are also a plus -- we like the small-liberal-arty-town atmosphere. I realize we may have to go to Brooklyn for this.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Home on 8th in Chelsea (I guess) offers a wide veggie menu of Chinese food at reasonable prices.

    In Harlem there is the world famous Harlem Juice Bar which actually has a sister restaurant near 135th and 7th Avenue call Cafe Veg. Not much atmosphere but food is good as are the prices. There is a raw restaurant that is supposedly amazing called Raw Soul on 145th Street right off St. Nicholas Avenue. Strictly Roots is also supposed to be very good on 7th Avenue as well. Zoma is a nice Ethiopian place in Harlem on 8th Avenue that naturally offers tasty lentils, etc.

    Raw Soul
    348 W 145th St, New York, NY 10039

    harlem juice bar
    new york

    1. You two are vegetarians, so you have to go for a great South Indian meal at Saravanaas, 26th and Lexington - or, if you prefer, one of the other restaurants down there that some other hounds like better. Saravanaas could cost you around $20/person, depending on what you get. One bonus is that not only do they have great iddlis, masals dosas, and utthapams, but they also serve some delicious desserts.

      For brunch, you have to check out Kathryn's annotated list:


      1. Info for other recommendations

        2084 Frederick Douglass Blvd, New York, NY 10026

        Home on 8th
        391 8th Ave, New York, NY 10001

        Cafe Veg
        2291 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd, New York, NY 10030

        1 Reply
        1. re: Uptownflavor

          Link for Strictly Roots

          Strictly Roots
          2058 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd, New York, NY 10027

        2. 1. Calle Ocho has an all you can drink sangria brunch for under $20. (The exact price depends on the entree you pick. There are a number of lacto-ovo vegetarian options.) CO is in the W. 70s.

          2. I second Pan's suggestion for S. Indian. (I'm not a fan of mock meat, so I'm perhaps a little biased.) My go-to is Chennai Garden, where I love the masala dosa and dahi vada. Saravanaas and CG are both in the E. 20sish. If you don't want to travel so far, check out Hampton Chutney on the UWS. Some people find it pricey for what it is. They serve fusion dosa with fillings like chevre and arugula, portobella mushrooms. Most dosa are around $10.

          For nominally Chinese- / Thai-inspired vegetarian, a lot of people apparently like VP2 and Red Bamboo near the W. 4th St. subway stop. (Red Bamboo is probably better described as a pan-everything mock meat restaurant, with menu options including everything from mock meat cajun chicken to teriyaki chicken to roti canai.) I personally find both restaurants sort of nasty and overly sweet, but they have plenty of ardent fans. Call to make sure they are still open. JungMann recently gave me the heads up that lots of restaurants are closing down in this little patch of real estate.

          The Vegetarian Dim Sum House on Pell St. could be enjoyable, though many items are a bit greasy.

          Gobo (another nominally pan-Asian inspired vegetarian restaurant) has some lunch specials that would be within budget for you. There are locations in the UES and the WV.

          3. Turkuaz on the UWS isn't too far from you and I know they have at least one vegetarian entree (an okra, tomato + other veggie stew) in the $10 range. I personally found it rather flat tasting and didn't like it, but the restaurant is fairly attractive and usually has good service and fresh bread. Pasha in the W. 70s has better food, I think, but might exceed your budget. Might be doable if you share a few of the many vegetarian appetizers and sit in the pleasant, convivial bar room in the front... Let me think about this one some more....

          4. There have been a lot of threads on BYOB restaurants in the past. Do a search for the latest...

          In general, I love Uptownflavor's suggestion of heading up to Harlem. I know there are a good number of relatively inexpensive vegetarian places in that neighborhood and am taking notes on which ones to try, myself. Appreciate those ideas.

          3 Replies
          1. re: cimui

            I just tried out the vegetarian dim sum place on Pell a few weeks ago with friends, and I would highly recommend for great food done cheaply. If you're not much for fried foods, the rice and steamed dumpling options are fantastic. (the sticky rice in a banana leaf especially!)
            Plus, the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory is just down the street-if you want funky, creative, yummy flavors, this place is it!

            1. re: cimui

              I just found out that the Uptown Juice Bar family of restaurants now has another addition to the family. Heights Vegetarian is located at 1121 St. Nicholas Avenue at 166th Street.

              1. re: Uptownflavor

                harlem is getting to be quite the foodie destination neighborhood for me. closer than the w. village with so many interesting options. thanks, again, uptown! keep writing on these!

            2. Moustache has cheap middle eastern food that is not bad. I am not eating meat because of lent and enjoyed the philo pastry and vegetarian pitza last weekend. I went to the location in the west village. There is another location in Harlem.

              1 Reply
              1. re: chandler212


                1621 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10029

              2. In the Soho and Chinatown area there is a pan-asian vegan restaurant called Wild Ginger where nothing is over $15. Lunch specials are $8.50 and under. Not a Byob.


                1. Given your atmosphere parameters, I think you should check out Caracas Arepas in the east village (7th street between 1st and A). Bonus is that it puts you in a fun part of town that might still seem edgy to a visitor. The arepas are all around 6-8 bucks, and you can do with one or two (each) depending on how hungry you are. They have a variety of vegetarian options (I'm veggie myself). The place is small and fun, and it's a cuisine that a lot of people are unfamiliar with.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Sunnidae

                    I think the "Jardinera" is their best arepa. Vegetables plus guayanes cheese.

                  2. For basic chinese, you can't beat, for either price or taste, what I call the 'Holy Trinity' at Mee Noodle House, 53rd and 9th. Get either the Hot and Sour soup with cellophane noodles or the Vegetable with tofu soup both listed under 'special soups.' The 'small' size is very big. Follow that up with their scallion pancakes and you could probably even split a small order of sesame noodles. With two soups, two orders of pancakes and one order of noodles, the bill will be under $10 total. NO atmosphere, but efficient service and good eats.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: DrewEck

                      Hot and Sour Soup is traditionally cooked with ham. I also never thought all that much of Mee. There are way better places for noodles in Chinatown.

                      1. re: Pan

                        True that. The hot & sour soup at Buddha Bodai (kosher vegetarian Chinese) is very good, though. I'm mad at them for screwing up a recent delivery, but I do like the food, especially the "seafood" pan fried noodles. No idea what it's like to eat there - I've only ordered in. I didn't chime in with this recommendation because it's way far from Morningside Heights, but I see Chinatown and the EV mentioned, so what the hell.


                    2. For cheap and really good North Indian food go to 47th or 48th and 10th. I do not remember the name, only think I remember is that their sign similar to NYC taxi. There is an Indian deli's there that serve amazing home made really cheap Indian food. The place is frequented by taxi drivers. There is not much of a decor and I am pretty sure is BYOB. I can say the food reminds me of home.

                      2 Replies
                        1. re: foodie1976

                          intriguing -- i'd love to hear more! i've walked by this place many times, but never eaten, there. what specific items do you recommend?

                          (the picture on the website is not a terribly accurate representation of what the inside of the deli looks like, by the way. ;)