New York City is famous for its diverse and vibrant food scene. From street cart hot dogs to Michelin-starred restaurants, there is something for every taste and budget. In recent years, New York has also become a hotspot for vegan dining. With more people adopting plant-based diets for health, environmental, and ethical reasons, the demand for high-quality vegan fare has exploded.
The Rise of Veganism in New York
New York has long been ahead of the curve when it comes to food trends, and veganism is no exception. While just 1% of Americans identified as vegan in 2014, that number had risen to 6% by 2017. New York City closely mirrors that growth, with more and more residents opting for plant-based foods. According to one report, New York saw a 600% increase in residents who identify as vegan between 2012 and 2017. Several factors likely contribute to New York’s enthusiastic embrace of vegan eating:
- Health consciousness – With tons of boutique fitness studios and wellness influencers, New Yorkers tend to be health-motivated in their food choices.
- Environmental awareness – NYC residents want to reduce their carbon footprint and eating vegan is one way to significantly cut an individual’s environmental impact.
- Access to specialty ingredients – As an international food hub, New Yorkers can easily find niche ingredients like nut-based cheeses, mock meats, exotic produce, etc.
- Culinary creativity – Experimental chefs in New York love demonstrating their skills with vegetable-focused tasting menus.
While veganism used to be seen as a restrictive diet, New York’s vegan fare is now creative, delicious, and accessible to all.
Types of Vegan Restaurants in New York
From quick-service joints to upscale eateries, New York excels at all types of vegan dining. Here are some of the top categories:
Fast Casual Vegan Chains
For a quick and casual plant-based meal, New York has outposts of several popular vegan chain restaurants. ByKeepers serves up tempeh sandwiches, salads, and smoothies in a bright, modern setting. Blossom Du Jour offers vegan takes on classic comfort foods like mac and cheese and chili cheese fries. Veggie Grill provides satisfying vegan burgers, bowls, and other grill-centric options. These types of restaurants are affordable and easy, perfect for a no-fuss lunch or dinner.
Vegan Food Trucks & Carts
If you’re exploring Manhattan or Brooklyn, keep an eye out for vegan food trucks and carts selling flavorful vegan street food on-the-go. The Cinnamon Snail serves massive vegan sandwiches as well as pastries and coffee drinks. The Sacred Chow mobile cart has vegan hot dogs loaded with sauerkraut, vegan chili, and other toppings. And Makina Cafe’s food truck specializes in vegan Ethiopian food like spicy lentil curries and injera flatbread.
Upscale & Michelin-Starred Vegan
New York is also home to some of the world’s best high-end vegan restaurants. Chef Amanda Cohen’s Dirt Candy was the first vegetable-focused restaurant to earn a prestigious Michelin star. The tasting menu features imaginative dishes like kimchee dumplings, leek pancakes, and eggplant tiramisu. At the upscale Hangawi in Koreatown, diners can enjoy artful Korean vegan creations along with tea service. Elegant Nix in Greenwich Village also offers a seasonal vegetable tasting menu as well as an extensive vegan wine list.
Those with a sweet tooth are also well served by New York’s all-vegan bakeries. Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC makes everything from “milk” and cookies to cupcakes and doughnuts, all without dairy or eggs. Modern Love Brooklyn serves vegan soft serve ice cream alongside chickpea blondies, breakfast sandwiches, and pizza. Vegan divas can also get their fix at Ladybird Bakery’s colorful cronuts, cookies, and beautifully-decorated custom cakes.
In addition to all-vegan establishments, scores of mainstream restaurants in New York highlight vegetables and offer ample appealing vegan dishes. ABCV focuses on creating artful vegetable plates sourced from local farms. At abcV chef-owner Jean-Georges Vongerichten applies French techniques to his vegetable creations. Luna Park sources produce from the Union Square Greenmarket to craft their Mediterranean salads and veggie plates. Even many steakhouses like Quality Eats now make vegetables the star of the show.
Most Popular Cuisines for Vegan Dining
New Yorkers can satisfy their vegan cravings with cuisines from around the world. Here are some of the most popular:
Middle Eastern food typically emphasizes vegetables, beans and legumes, making it a natural fit for veganizing. Modern vegan falafel shop Bklyn Falafel & Shawarma offers sandwiches stuffed with crunchy falafel balls, hummus, and fresh veggie toppings. Yemen Cafe in Brooklyn serves dishes like foul mudammes (fava bean stew) and excellent vegan baba ghanoush eggplant dip.
Italian food is rooted in pasta, sauces, and simple vegetables, all perfect for plant-based renditions. At upscale Italian spot Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria, nearly half the menu can be ordered vegan, including pasta bolognese with seitan. Locanda Verde crafts vegan ravioli stuffed with butternut squash and pear, while Via Carota does incredible vegan ricotta gnocchi in a Meyer lemon cream sauce.
New York chefs love blending Asian flavors and ingredients to make tasty vegan dishes. At Buddha Bodai in Chinatown, diners can enjoy vegan versions of Chinese classics like seaweed salad, kung pao chicken with seitan, and sweet & sourcrispy wontons made with tofu skin. At Farmer & the Seahorse in the West Village, Chef Dave combines Thai and Cambodian flavors in dishes like papaya & mint salad with cashew & lime dressing.
Mexican food already relies heavily on beans, rice, corn, and vegetables, making it adaptable to vegan tastes. Modern Mexican spot Cosme offers delicacies like banana leaf tamales filled with kabocha squash and almond mole, charred cabbage with black lime, and street corn esquites. At casual downtown taqueria Thelt, the vegan taco fillings include spicy seitan pastor, oyster mushrooms, and charred broccoli rabe.
Ethiopian cuisine offers complex spices, stews, and naturally vegan injera flatbread perfect for plant-based diners. At cozy East Village restaurant Bati, diners use injera to scoop up vegan lentil sambusas, misir wot spicy red lentils, and braised cabbage and carrots. Awash serves vegan combo platters with yellow split peas, collard greens, red lentils, and more stew options.
Best Areas for Vegan Dining in NYC
Certain New York neighborhoods offer exceptional clusters of vegan restaurants and options. Here are some of the top areas for plant-based eating:
This hip downtown neighborhood has one of the highest concentrations of vegan spots, including quick bites like Blossom Du Jour and upscale spots like Dirt Candy and Nix. There’s also vegetarian Momofuku Milk Bar, all-vegan Cinnamon Snail food truck, and organic vegan grocer The Organic Coup.
The charming West Village features both casual vegan options like The Butcher’s Daughter cafe and fine dining at Michelin-rated Narcissa. You can also get delicious vegan baked goods from Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC and Ladybird Bakery.
Brooklyn’s hipster capital Williamsburg offers trendy vegan eateries like the Butcher’s Daughter sit-down restaurant, Champs Diner, Screamer’s Pizzeria, and Buddha Bodai. There’s also longtime vegan bakery Dun-Well Doughnuts and newer Sweet Chick’s vegan chicken & waffles.
This Midtown West neighborhood near Times Square has several excellent vegan spots. Seasoned veggie restaurant Blossom offers an upscale prix-fixe vegan menu, while neighboring Hummus Kitchen focuses on vegan Mediterranean fare. Red Bamboo serves savory vegan comfort food.
NYC’s Top Vegan Chefs & Influencers
A new wave of talented vegan chefs and bloggers are creating incredible plant-based meals and fueling New York’s vegan dining scene. Here are some of the most influential:
This acclaimed vegan chef was the winner of Food Network’s Cupcake Wars. She opened the popular fast casual chain By Chloe in NYC in 2015. Her creative and delicious vegan menus like truffle mac n cheese have made her an influencer. She’s since expanded By Chloe to additional locations nationwide.
As owner and chef at Dirt Candy, Amanda Cohen became the first vegan chef to earn a Michelin star in 2015. She excels at crafting upscale vegetable-centric tasting menus that attract both vegans and carnivores. Dirt Candy offers an unparalleled fine dining vegan experience.
Ronen Seri and Pamela Elizabeth
This chef duo opened The Butcher’s Daughter, a plant-based cafe with locations in SoHo and Williamsburg. Their Instagrammable brunches, wholesome bowls, and alt-meat burgers attract legions of vegan and vegetarian followers.
As host of the Vegan YouTube channels Hot for Food and Hot for Food Vegan, Toyota has gained millions of followers with her drool-worthy vegan recipes. She also founded the vegan digital magazine PLANTiful and authored best-selling vegan cookbooks.
Jenny Engel and Heather Goldberg
The duo behind popular Instagram account @SpiceandEats share delicious vegan recipes with their 50k+ followers. Their creative recipes showcase global flavors and simple ingredient swaps. They’ve worked with numerous major brands like Daiya Foods.
NYC Vegan Chains Expanding Across U.S.
Several rapidly growing vegan chains that originated in New York are now spreading the plant-based love to cities nationwide:
|Vegan Chain||# of Locations||Sample Menu Items|
|By Chloe||16||Guac Burger, Pasta Bolognese, Cookies & Cream Milkshake|
|Cinnamon Snail||3||Maple Mustard Tempeh Sandwich, Berry Parfait, Kimchi Fries|
|Orchard Grocer||5||Norikatsu Ramen, Reuben Sandwich, Cookies & Cream Gelato|
|Terri||3||Chik’n Sandwich, Collard Green Wrap, Banana Bread|
As these homegrown NYC vegan brands open locations in cities like LA, Philadelphia, and Miami, they make plant-based eating more convenient for vegans everywhere. Chloe’s vegan fast-food, Cinnamon Snail’s vegetarian food trucks, Orchard Grocer’s plant-based delis, and Terri’s vegan comfort food are bringing NYC-inspired vegan fare to the masses.
Vegan Chains from Elsewhere Heading to NYC
At the same time, several rapidly expanding vegan chains from outside New York are now opening outlets in the city:
|Vegan Chain||Location Origin||Sample Menu Items|
|Veggie Grill||Los Angeles||Mondo Nachos, Crispy Chickin’ Sandwich, Vegan Tiramisu|
|Plant Power Fast Food||San Diego||Double Cheeseburger, Nashville Hot Chik’n Sandwich, Milkshakes|
|by Chloe||London||Soy “Fish” & Chips, Cheezeburger, Oreo Milkshake|
These out-of-town chains help satisfy New Yorkers’ cravings for vegan fast food and innovative meat substitutes. The influx of concepts from vegan hotspots like California highlights that New York’s scene is part of a broader national movement.
NYC Restaurant Chains Add Vegan Options
In addition to all-vegan spots, many New York chains have added vegan items to the menu. Popular spots like &pizza, Dig Inn,}+\paul’s burgers, and Le Pain Quotidien now offer clearly marked vegan choices:
|Chain||Sample Vegan Options|
|&pizza||Vegan Pepperphoni Pizza, Vegan Sausage Pizza, Vegan Cheezesteak|
|Dig Inn||Chickpea & Roasted Vegetables, Cauliflower Steak, Roasted Cabbage|
|Paul’s Burgers||Vegan Burger, Vegan Milkshake|
|Le Pain Quotidien||Vegan Breakfast Sandwich, Quinoa Taboulleh Salad|
Omnivorous chains expanding their plant-based offerings make it easier for vegans to dine with non-vegan family and friends. The availability of vegan options at familiar chains normalizes vegan eating.
NYC Vegan Grocery Scene
Finding vegan staples and gourmet specialty ingredients has also become infinitely easier in New York City. Shoppers can choose from natural food stores like Whole Foods Market and online grocery delivery services like FreshDirect and Instacart. There are also all-vegan bodegas like Orchard Grocer, plant-based markets like The Organic Coup, and vegan-friendly international grocery stores throughout NYC.
For locally made vegan cheese, ice cream, meat alternatives, and other products, shops like Vegan Supply and Orchard Grocer are one-stop shops. Food co-ops like Park Slope Food Coop carry affordable local and organic produce. Even mainstream retailers like Target and Trader Joe’s now stock a wide array of plant-based milk, cheese, meat substitutes that make vegan living convenient.
Thriving Community of Vegans & Vegetarians
With so many vegan dining options, grocery stores, and specialty suppliers, New York City has become a vegan destination where plant-based eaters can truly thrive. NYC is estimated to have well over 200,000 vegan residents, forming a built-in community. There are tons of vegan meet-up groups, festivals like the NYC Vegetarian Food Festival, and online groups devoted to sharing vegan restaurant intel and reviews.
For vegans relocating to New York City, it’s reassuring to know that the compassionate lifestyle is well-supported. Between dining out and cooking at home, locals can eat an incredible diversity of plant-based foods. Veganism is now firmly established in the mainstream of New York City culture.
New York City leaves little to be