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Jan 2, 2012 03:59 PM

Vegetarian-friendly but not exclusively vegetarian restaurants

Hi all,

As a "foodie" who mostly eats vegetarian but isn't much a fan of "vegetarian restaurants," I've been thinking...

What are the best restaurants in NYC that are vegetarian-friendly but NOT exclusively vegetarian? I don't necessarily just mean restaurants that have vegetarian options...I mean restaurants where the vegetarian options are really good, actually showcase the chef's style, and are perhaps even stars of the menu...rather than just being "passable."

The best example of this type of restaurant that I can think of is Scarpetta. Not only do they have a separate vegetarian menu, but two of the most famous dishes - the polenta and the spaghetti tomato basil - are vegetarian. Another example is Alta - so many excellent dishes there happen to be vegetarian.

Some examples of restaurants that are the opposite of this theme - Tertulia (the highlight and specialty of the menu is Iberico ham), The Breslin (again, the specialty is meat). Having eaten at both of these places, my experience is that, as a vegetarian, you largely miss out on what makes the restaurant so special.

So - what can you think of? What are your favorite vegetarian-friendly-but-not-vegetarian restaurants in NYC? What foodie destinations have truly great dishes that happen to be vegetarian?

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  1. Cafe Boulud and Babbo have quite a few vegetarian options. Ciano, Perilla, Lincoln, Balaboosta, Osteria Morini, Lupa and Hearth usually have at least one vegetarian pasta as well as vegetarian sides and appetizers.

    I've also had delicious vegetarian entrees at Joseph Leonard, Whitehall, Junoon, Nuela, Empellon, Yerba Buena Perry, and La Silhouette.

    For high end, Per Se and Picholine will accommodate vegetarian requests.

    In addition to Tertulia and The Breslin, the Momofuku restaurants don't seem to cater to vegetarians.

    1. Kin shop has some great vegetarian options. I don't know if those are their specialties, but they are really good. Parm (Torrisi's new sandwich outpost) has a few vegetarian options. They're famous for their fresh mozzarella, which is vegetarian.

      Aldea doesn't have any vegetarian options. Period.

      31 West 17th Street, New York, NY 10011

      Kin Shop
      469 6th Ave, New York, NY 10011

      248 Mulberry St, New York, NY 10012

      1. Per Se, Picholine, Daniel - all high end fine dining with extensive, deliberate, vegetarian menus.

        Eleven Madison Park's menu is designed to easily adapt to vegetarian diets.

        Tocqueville features a vegetarian tasting menu.

        My GF is a vegetarian and she has been supremely happy at each of the places mentioned.

        Per Se
        10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

        Eleven Madison Park
        11 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010

        1 East 15th Street, New York, NY 10003

        35 West 64th St., New York, NY 10023

        3 Replies
        1. re: Spiritchaser

          Eleven Madison Park really deserves special mention here. I went with my mother who has a four-page list of allergies and special dietary requirements, and EMP was not only accommodating, but they went out of their way to make certain that she had an extraordinary meal. We asked them about it, and they said that they were no longer satisfied with providing a few options for people with dietary restrictions. They are now focused on making certain that people can have the same level of excellence and creativity in their meals with dietary restrictions. As an example, my mother said that they served the best gluten-free bread she has ever had, and that was just one of her many superlative comments. To me, this place epitomizes the sort of recent the OP describing in terms of making the experience special for a vegetarian (or vegan or allergic person, etc.).

          Danny Meier's other restaurants also make some significant efforts to provide a good experience for people on restrictive diets. I had a very nice meal with a vegan at The Modern.

          Lastly, I'd like to mention Hangawi. It's vegetarian so slightly off-topic here, but their entire menu is well suited to vegetarians and omnivores alike, and they do a nice job.

          Eleven Madison Park
          11 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010

          The Modern
          9 West 53rd Street, New York, NY 10019

          12 E 32nd St, New York, NY 10016

          1. re: StevenCinNYC

            Nit picking here but EMP is no longer a Danny Meyer restaurant.

            1. re: Spiritchaser

              I stand corrected, both on the ownership and spelling of Danny Meyer's name. That said, "nitpicking" is just one word!

        2. Dovetail, for sure.

          Also Scarpetta has a full vegetarian menu with a half dozen options for antipasti, primi, and secondi - not just a few token pastas.

          All of Batali's restaurants, IIRC, participate in the "Meatless Monday" thing where on Mondays there's a full veggie menu in addition to the regular one - so Babbo or Del Posto could be options. Probably not Manzo or Esca, though. And Lupa is always a good choice, even on a non-Monday.

          WD-50 generally has a couple of vegetarian apps and one entree - and they've been known to alter dishes when they can for veggies - i.e. I've a kosher friend (well, not STRICTLY kosher, more Upper East Side Kosher - doesn't eat swine or shellfish, basically) who was given an "eggs florentine" in lieu of their "eggs benedict" when he did their tasting menu. Wouldn't hurt to call in advance, see what they've got available - it won't be listed on the website menu.

          50 Clinton Street, New York, NY 10002

          170 Thompson Street, New York, NY 10012

          110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

          Del Posto
          85 10th Avenue, New York, NY 10011

          103 West 77th Street, New York, NY 10024

          355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

          1. Perhaps Craft or ABC Kitchen?

            43 E. 19th St., New York, NY 10003

            ABC Kitchen
            35 E 18th St, New York, NY 10003