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Apr 20, 2013 05:26 PM

Vegetarian-friendly ETHNIC restaurant recommendations?

Hello All,
If there is a thread for this topic already, I sincerely apologize. I was hoping for your restaurant recommendations that meet ALL the following criteria:

a. Vegetarian-friendly (have at least 4-5 vegetarian entrees)

b. Entrees cost LESS than $20.

c. Are ETHNIC.

d. Are anywhere in Manhattan, Queens, or Brooklyn.

It would be GREAT to have your recommendations. Thanks in advance!


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  1. "Ethnic" covers an awful lot of ground. All of it, in fact, since every type of food on our planet is ethnic, in that it's eaten by a particular group of people. Can you at least narrow your preference down to a continent? A country would be even better, and a region of that country better still.

    21 Replies
    1. re: small h

      Sure thing! I should have slightly more specific. Basically, anything that is non-American. I moved to India for many years so I've eaten plenty of Indian food (which actually is very veggie friendly!) but I am looking for new vegetarian culinary experiences here in the city. In terms of narrowing it down to countries/regions, here goes:

      - North African (Tunisian, Moroccan etc.)
      - Lebanese
      - Peruvian
      - Vietnamese
      - Burmese
      - Ethopian
      - Tibetan
      - Thai
      - Polish/Eastern European (although based on my experience in that part of the world, there aren't a whole lotta veggie options - but I've liked what I've eaten there)
      - Egyptian (even if they just have Koshary for vegetarians)

      I realize this is still pretty broad but this is really what I am looking for. Thanks for the response!

      1. re: pranavc

        How picky are you about the definition of vegetarian? The American/western idea does not neatly translate into other cultures and cuisines.

        For example, SE Asia has dishes that use tofu or other soy products in place of meat, but still use fish sauce as a major seasoning.

        Christians in the Middle East (Lebanon, Egypt) have major 'fasting' periods, and associated dishes, that don't have meat and fish. But shellfish might still be allowed.

        A famous Ecuadorian lenten chowder, fanesca, has '12' kinds of beans and grains, but also salt cod. The high cost of meat is more likely at the root of many traditional meatless dishes; not religious or health scruples.

        1. re: paulj

          I am aware of the monetary component lying at the root of many traditional meatless dishes. One of my Turkish friends mentioned that to me in college. As far as vegetarian goes, I am pretty open to anything. As I had mentioned, I don't need the place to be a pure vegetarian place. Just a handful of entrees that are veggie-friendly.

        2. re: pranavc

          Ok, some ideas to get you started. I've been to all of these, most in the past year, and would go back to any of them.

          Cafe Himalaya (Tibetan, obviously) This is simple, comforting food (which is not to say you can't make it very spicy, because you can.) I like the noodle soups a lot.

          Hangawi (Korean, which you didn't specifically request, but 100% vegetarian) I haven't been here in a few years, but I don't think I've had a single dish I didn't like.

          Veselka Bowery (Ukrainian) I especially like the vegetarian stuffed cabbage & the sauerkraut pierogi. And the vodka.

          The only Thai restaurant I really like in Manhattan is Zabb Elee. You could manage there, but you won't have that many options.

          Pam Real Thai is pretty good, too.

          Pho Grand is decent Vietnamese, but the vegetarian options are not that thrilling. I like the fried tofu with lemongrass alright, and the vegetable spring rolls.

          1. re: small h

            Thanks so much for these. I have to admit I was a bit disappointed by Veselka. Mostly because the price did not justify the small volumes. I have to confess I did not try the stuffed cabbage and/or sauerkraut pierogi. I ordered cheese and potato pierogis and potato pancakes. I had to eat another meal after I went home since the volume of food was really small. My memory of both dishes during a trip to Poland a few years ago was a better one.

            1. re: pranavc

              Yes, the presentation is a little precious for that type of food. I sort of like the juxtaposition of peasant food in a somewhat expensive-looking setting, but I could definitely see where one might feel ripped off.

              Here's another idea for you, though - the vegetarian banh mi at either Banh Mi Saigon or Paris Sandwich.


              1. re: small h

                I can't thank you enough for this! Will definitely add in my thought here once I actually visit these places.

                1. re: small h

                  Updating this thread for future board searchers....
                  I LOVE the 4 (!!) different veg options at bahn mi saigon- flavorful tofu, chewy crusty bread, and a very generous sandwich for $5 or so. Today it was the non traditional curry tofu (offered spicy or non spicy), tons of tofu in there- might be my favorite one

            2. re: pranavc

              For Polish/Eastern European, how about B&H Dairy on 2nd ave?
              It's vegetarian, ethnic, and definitely under $20/person. I love the pierogi, potato latkes and mushroom barley soup. Even as a meat eater, I always leave full and satisfied.

              1. re: iluvcookies

                I will definitely try B&H. Thank you so much for this!

              2. re: pranavc

                Taim is an easy recommendation because they are strictly vegetarian. Get a sabich; you won't regret it.

                There is no Burmese food whatsoever in Manhattan, to my knowledge.

                You can always get vegetable cous cous at North African places like Mogador, and they also have good large salads (but watch out for their mesclun side salad, which can include rotten leaves).

                Cafe Himalaya was mentioned in this thread. It's a soothing neighborhood restaurant, and I'm glad it's around, but I wouldn't really consider it any kind of destination restaurant.

                You can do vegetarian food at Polish/Ukrainian restaurants by ordering pierogies with vegetable filling and having a side of some vegetable, I believe. I always get pierogies boiled, but if you get them fried, I think they use butter, not lard (though check). Vegetarian fillings would include mushroom/sauerkraut, potato, and cheese. Vegetable sides would include beets, spinach, and cucumber salad. At least some of the restaurants in question also have vegetable soups which, I believe, use either no stock or vegetable stock. Right now, my preferred Ukrainian/Polish places are Ukrainian East Village and Stage Restaurant - both honest neighborhood restaurants but not necessarily destination restaurants (Ukrainian East Village, in the Ukrainian National Home, is more of one, given the somewhat faded Old World charm of the room). You might prefer to go to a place in Greenpoint, though - for which, search the Outer Boroughs board.

                1. re: Pan

                  >There is no Burmese food whatsoever in Manhattan, to my knowledge.

                  Mingala (whose Village location went under) is still hanging on uptown as far as I know. Haven't heard anything encouraging from there, though. Anyone been recently?

                  1. re: squid kun

                    6ish months ago. I wouldn't recommend it. The food tastes like nothing. But the cheap lunch specials will keep you alive, and there are two colleges nearby, which I think is why Mingala is still in business.

                    I remember really liking the food at the E. 7th St. branch (especially the thousand layer bread). Either it was a lot better, or I was a lot less picky, or both.

                    1. re: small h

                      The yelp reviews of Mingala were NOT flattering sadly!

                  2. re: Pan

                    There've been positive reports recently from Abyssinia in Harlem ...

                    1. re: squid kun

                      Will definitely check out Abyssinia. Thanks so much for that!

                    2. re: Pan

                      Ukraining East Villages sounds great! Hopefully, it is better than Veselka. Thanks so much for this!

                      1. re: pranavc

                        I assure you, it is. I do not like Veselka.

                        1. re: Pan

                          Good to know...I didn't want to come across as some guy that is incredibly hard to please.

                          1. re: pranavc

                            Oh, don't worry about that! If Chowhounds were easy to please, why would they post here? They'd just go to the nearest Subway or McDonald's and be perfectly happy with it.

                  1. re: kathryn

                    Thank you so much for this. I will check these links out!

                  2. small h has a point, but you're particularly likely to find veggie options at indian and thai places, somewhat less likely at korean, bangladeshi and pakistani joints,

                    strictly vegetarian places in manhattan include saravanaas (south indian) in murray hill, pukk (thai) in the east village. queens has a good number of veggie indian places, including dosa delight in jackson heights and dosa hutt in flushing. there are a couple of good chinese veg options in flushing as well.

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: debinqueens

                      Since I am of Indian origin, I am really looking to try something BESIDES Indian food. I am not particularly keen on strictly vegetarian places. Just interesting ethnic food that's veggie-friendly. I have heard great things about Dosa Delight. I also remember eating great Chaat at a place in Murray Hill (can't remember the name of the place though!)

                      1. re: pranavc

                        Ethiopian is likely your best bet, then. Tons of vegetarian dishes to choose from. You better love lentils, tho.

                        1. re: linguafood

                          oh yeah..Love lentils! I know "Meskerem" in the village and "Ghenet" in Brooklyn are supposed to be pretty good. There was also a great Venezuelan place that I went to years ago (before I moved to New York) but I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the place.

                          1. re: pranavc

                            I liked Meskerem's midtown location and have been assured that their Village location is the same, but Zoma in Harlem is by far the best Ethiopian restaurant I've been to in New York, and I had a strictly vegetarian meal there, so I highly recommend it.

                            I don't know what Venezuelan place you're thinking of. If it's the Caracas Arepa Bar, I have found it merely good, but that could just be a difference in taste.

                            1. re: Pan

                              I thoroughly agree about Zoma. Much better than Meskerem, Awash, or Ghenet. I've eaten most of the items that are vegetarian and I can't recall one that I said "not good" about. You might want to try getting the vegetarian "sampler" style plate so you can have a little of many of the dishes.

                              1. re: LNG212

                                Zoma sounds great! Will give it a try.

                                1. re: LNG212

                                  I shared the vegetarian sampler plus another couple of items with my girlfriend and a friend of hers. It was a delicious and ample dinner, which we washed down with a bottle of very good tej (mead).

                                2. re: Pan

                                  I don't think it was Caracas Arepa Bar. I can't for the life of me remember the name but I know this wasn't it.

                                  1. re: pranavc

                                    Do you remember roughly where it was?

                                    1. re: Pan

                                      I'd have to ask my friend that dragged me there...he lives overseas now..I'll probably chat with him soon and find out

                        2. In theory there is plenty of vegetarian fare in the Middle Eastern repertoire, but it often gets short shrift in restaurants. I'd recommend checking out Byblos or ilili for a good idea of what Lebanese cooks can do with vegetables within your price range. Cigkoftem is a casual Turkish chain specializing in bulgur wheat wraps that you might want to take a look at as well.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: JungMann

                            I agree with this. For instance, I have never seen the combination of "Zaatar Bread and Labne" at ANY Lebanese restaurant. Yet, I used to get that every time I had a meal at a Lebanese friend's place back when I lived in Boston. Thanks a ton for the recommendations!

                          2. Manhattan:
                            Byblos and Al Bustan
                            All excellent.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Motosport

                              thank you so much..I will definitely check these out.