Vegans unite and take in this news of the best vegan food according to us, George and Jules (Julia). So here it is, we bring you the vegan best.
George and Julia’s Vegan Best of 2012
Formal Dining = Candle 79
Although we have been told the Candle Cafe is much chipper (cheaper and hipper), it’s difficute to beat a romantic vegan dinner from C79. This restaurant has been bringing vegan food to the masses before it was trendy. It’s possible they actually made it trendy. This establishment was started using lottery winnings. Candle 79 is PaulMcCarthy’s favorite but you don’t need to be a Beatle to eat there. Just throw on an ironed shirt and clean pair of trousers. Take your Mom, your fiancé, or a business client you want to impress. Request a seat on the second level. Reservations are accepted and recommended and we recommend the polenta fries.
Candle 79 154 East 79th Street at Lex, NY, NY
Wings = Veggie Grill (Los Angeles) Word has it, Food Swings http://www.foodswings.net/ fry those fake bitty birds the best but we have never been there. Foodswings proximity to Champ’s makes it difficult to select. While spending time with Julia’s brother in Los Angeles, he recommended the fast vegan foodie paradise, Veggie Grill. Served classic cafeteria-style, this place cooks up great bang for your buck. Personally, I (that would be George) never liked wings. I always found them slimy and Neanderthal. Julia on the other hand, is always on the lookout for a chicken-less substitute to her former favorite. So yes, Julia says Veggie Grill’s wings win the prize. We’ve had wings at Soy and Sake’s but Julia insists Veggie Grill beats ’em. If you miss the burger king whopper (I do not), the Veggie Grill burger is an amazing meatless replica. I sound like a stuck-up jerk in this wings review. So here’s their new slogan: “Veggie Grill, yes I think I will.” V.G.’s has 17 locations in California, Oregon and Washington State but no New York chapter. Why not start your own New York Veggie Grill so I can eat it? Inquire here. various locations
Wings = Champs Family Bakery
Sorry Veggie Grill but their called Champs for a reason. The Champs specials board read “hot wings.” As the chef works to revamp their menu with some new and exciting options, they often test on their customers. The wings are everyone’s favorite and our server said it will definitely make the new menu. I like that they use tempeh instead of gluten or tofu. The texture is less slimey than a traditional wing (which I like) while still maintaining the item’s best characteristics. I’m talking about the sauce!! t made our pancakes buffalo saucy. This sauce is so perfect, so rich, the best wing sauce I have every tasted. Julia should really be writing this…If we go this weekend (which is quite possible), we will each be getting 3 orders of wings and that’s it. I love you Champs!!. If that’s not incentive enough, Super Bowl Sunday, they are offerring their wings $10.00/dozen (carryout only).
While their connection to Pure Food and Wine may be officially severed, a connection remains. Michael and the crew offer up some delish raw foods and vegan sandwiches. Their food is made out of some of the ingredients available and most are happy to pay extra for that. Once a monthly special, the Buffalo “Chicken” Wrap is a regular menu item easily tops the chart for Julia. In fact, I’m often recruited to bring a Buff Wrap home for her highness;-)
Me, I’ve got to go with Cinnamon Snail. It’s one of their staples and what keeps me coming back. While I am not much of a seitan man, when the snail puts together Lemongrass Sub or Cajun hoagie, I’m in love. Their sandwiches often incorporate 7+ delicious ingredients. It’s something I could never make at home and I like that. As Cinnamon Snail pointed out, most of the people who eat their food are not vegan so I guess that says something right there.
Free Foods 18 West 45th Street, btwn 5th and 8th Ave NY, NY,
Cinnamon Snail is mobile so check twitter for location.
Sushi = Beyond Sushi
This was a no-brainer. Beyond Sushi has taken sushi to a whole new level. As a vegan I appreciate that I no longer need to pretend to like raw fish sushi (yuk). I was ready to hang up my sushi galoshes when Beyond Sushi created a whole new world using fruits, nuts, wild rice, avocado, mushrooms, sweet potatoes and so many other fresh vegetables. The colors make these rolls works of art. And no fish means longer shelf life and your safe from mercury and fish parasites. Un-freakin believable. We were there for the opening. Two months later they went full vegan. Julia suggested this and they listened.
Beyond Sushi 229 East 14th Street New York, NY 10003
Raw Food = Pure Food and Wine
This place got my best of in 2011. This place has not gone downhill but my tastes have changed. Pure Food and Wine (PFW) has made raw food a delicacy. Bring your carnivores, they’ll love it too. BillClinton has a table there. It is still one of the most recognized vegan restaurant in the world and with good reason. Yes the prices are high but this romantic gem offers superb sight and taste. Try it, you’ll love it.
Pure Food and Wine 54 Irving Place (between 17th and 18th streets) , NY, NY
One Lucky Duck is the café adjoined with Pure Food and Wine and serves the same food in a coffeehouse environment. We had the Sundae and it was perfect. The waiter told us it was about the mixing for maximum fluff. Their hot fudge brought me a childhood flashback. While it is amazing, almost perfect, I still lust for Lula’s Sweet Apothecary. Set up like an old tyme candy joint, they have 10+ different flavors of ice cream, banana splits, classic sundaes and more. This place was named by the the Meetup group, “Eatup Vegan Lunch Bunch” as the pride of New York. In other words, if someone comes from out of town, you take them to Lula’s. It seriously blows minds. One Lucky Duck is the café adjoined with Pure Food and Wine and serves the same food in a coffeehouse environment.
One Lucky Duck 125 East 17th Street, NY, NY
Lula’s Sweet Apothecary 516 East 6th Street (btwn Ave A&B) New York, NY
Breakfast = Champs Family Bakery
This was not even close. Pancakes! These are fluffy mouthwatering flap jacks like no other. We brought a guy from France to Champs and Mr Fancy pants (apparently they don’t have pancakes in France) was blown away. Seriously, put Champ’s pancakes on your bucket list. The problem is, we go there for dinner and can’t help but get pancakes. How could you not. In addition, they’ve got the best tofu scramble I’ve ever had. The spicy version is called the Drunken Cowgirl which was the first and last meal I had at Champs. We moved farther away from Champs so we went there 2-3 times a week until our move date. They’ve even got a great bakery. We prefer the cookies over the cakes. You’ll need to take it to go. Champs serves up huge portions.
Champs Family Bakery 176 Aislie Street Brooklyn NY
Falafel = Taim
The Vegan Guide to New York City (by Rynn Berry, Chris Abreu-Suzuki, and Barry Litsky) kind of panned Taim as good, not great. We couldn’t disagree more. Crisp (another favorite of ours) reinvented this classic with untraditional gourmet toppings like sweet potato and peanut sauce. Taim has brought new life to the falafel ball itself. They have a spicy ball option and even their traditional falafel has a “zing” you won’t find at the other places. Talk about raising the bar. Julia and I housed them sammies. Simply the greatest falafel in the world. Taim’s wise to the whole vegan thing, so let them know. They’ll be no “tude.”
On a side note, Vegan Guide to New York City author Rynn Berry is best known for his book debunking the myth that Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian (Thank you Rynn! A lie invented by the meat industry (no doubt)). On a lighter note Julia would also like to point out that the Vegan Guide forgot to mention Atlas Cafe’ although I think I know why. My point being that the Vegan Guide to New York City is a great book to have in your pocket. Great job (except for panning Taim and omitting Atlas)!
Taim 45 Spring St, New York 10012 (new location!)
Taim 222 Waverly Place, New York10014.
When Julia wants to get her burger on we go to a pub of all places. Serving standard bar fare, they have two things on the menu we can eat, the veggie burger and the sweet potato fries. Initially upset at our limited selections, we shut up when we took a bite of their veggie burger and scarfed down sweet potato fries. Absolutely great. Not flashy but a well put together, made-with-actual-veggies pattie and fried orange potatoes on the side. Way to go JohnnyMack. Who would have known?
Personally I (George) prefer a more earthy burger. Zen Palate’s Zen Burger is piled high with sprouts and a virtual salad between an oat bun. The pattie doesn’t stay together like Johnny’s. This says to me it’s all vegetable goodness with no binders or breadcrumbs. Zen Burger was started by the parents of the Gobo guys.
Johnny Mack’s 1114 8th Ave (between 11th St & 12th St) Brooklyn, NY 11215
Zen Palate 663 9th Ave (at 46th), New York, NY 10036
You may think it’s unusual that we have a separate best for Vietnamese Sandwiches. In 2012, we lived in the infamous Vietnamese Sandwich warzone. It got pretty ugly and the competion was fierce but there was no better place to get a Vietnamese Sandwich than Park Slope Brooklyn, 2010-present. This still is the center of the Bahn Mi universe and it became a weekly choice for us. We had Henry’s, Home, Lotus but the true great was a place called Hanco’s. They had it down, the bread, pickled carrots, cilantro, jalepeno. Even having it vegan with tofu or fake pork with no butter or mayonnaise, it still ranked high. I wonder how many we’ve eaten.
Before we could depart the great Vietnamese Sandwich heaven, I met a couple of guys opening yet another Bahn Mi shop called Bahnmigos. No, it was not Vietnamese/Mexican fusion (although I thought that could work). Jay the manager asked for my honest feedback. Foon was the former chef at Hanco’s and was speading his wings to a new generation of Bahn Mi lovers. I fell in love with Bahnmigo’s modern versions of this classic sandwich. While I would never eat sausage Bahn Mi, they also offered one with a Portobello mushroom. More carrots than I was used to and less cilantro but the bun was super fresh and the mushrooms sauted to perfection. I fell in love that day.
Hanco’s 350 7th Ave. (corner of 10th ST.) Brooklyn, NY 11215
Bahnmigos 178 Lincoln Pl(between 7th Ave & 8th Ave) Brooklyn, NY 11217
I always hand-quote “bagel” when eating one that is not New York born. It’s just a fact that nobody beats us. The best of New York is the best in the world. One of my first experiences in NYC was a trip to the H&H bagels that used to be across the street from Zabar’s. Julia prefers Le Bagel Delight. They make a fine bagel and it used to be near our home. Many a day, we walked and shared a chewy and crispy circle of goodness. To me, the bagel place that wins, hands down is Ess-a-Bagel. This place is a New York institution. The guys behind the counter yell “Hey, who’s next” and always seem grumpy. The bagel though, you have to taste to believe. Perfect texture, chewy and usually hot from the oven. I love these bagels so much I skip the tofu cream cheese and just eat the bagel as is. Ess-a-bagel wins best bagel in the world with me.
Le Bagel Delight – 122 – 7th Avenue (Between Carrol & President) Brooklyn
Ess-a-Bagel 831 3rd Avenue, New York, NY 10022
Vegan Treats? Bethlehem? What gives? Although the Vegan Treats bakery resides in Pennsylvania, there’s a good chance you’ve eaten them in New York. They supply many restaurants with vegan sweets. This includes the Cocoa Room, V Spot, Moby’s Teany, Dao Palate and many others. My heart belongs to the Vegan Treat’s Peanut Butter Chocolate “bomb” cake (or is it “explosion”). Following them on Facebook is grueling and drooling to see. There’s a good chance the George and Julia wedding cake/pastry will be a vegan treat creation. Julia prefers the cute and always delicious Babycakes. They are set up to serve the gluten-free people of the world too. I had a mint chocolate cupcake that was so good, I wanted to buy a dozen. Julia put a stop to that. You seem I’m watching my weight.
Vegan Treats – 1444 Linden Street Bethlehem, PA 18018
Babycakes – 248 Broome Street (Btwn Orchard & Ludlow) New York City, NY 10002
Korean = Hangawi
Are you tense or have a tense friend. Bring him/her to surrender to serenity at Hangawi. Take off your shoes and get comfortable in the wooden seats and tables built into the floor. Are these floorboards heated? Yes they are. Most people naturally whisper as you experience this restaurant and its spa-like qualities. You’ll dine on colorful bowls of porridge, noodles, wild rice and soup. You’ll feel like Buddha. Have a tea and digest the cruelty-free meal you have just ingested. Romantic and often called a vacation from the city, Hangawi has more to offer than just food.
Hangawi 12 East 32nd Street, New York, NY10016
Japanese/Fusion = Gobo
Truth be told, this is a lot of people’s favorite restaurant. The menu offered rice, noodle, fake meat. It all looked pretty standard. Make no mistake, these kids know what they are doing. I invited a bunch of non-vegans to join me and they loved it. I often tire of Asian-inspired vegan dishes. The food they served had spice and flair. So here is another fan, big fan. Do yourself a favor and experience their flavor.
Gobo – 401 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY
Vietnamese Loving Hut
It’s hard to put your finger on exactly what Loving Hut is. You’ve got the eccentric philanthropist Supreme Master ChingHai who preaches vegan as the path to peace. It’s not a cult (at least I don’t think) but there is a feeling of love and energy in each restaurant. The Supreme Master is tied to these tasty establishments. There are now 200+ (40+in the United States). So if you end up in a place like NaplesFlorida, there will be Loving Hut waiting for you. Thumbs up from both of us. Even though every Loving Hut is privately owned and operated, their menus are similar. Julia was overjoyed with the Naples Florida Loving Hut. I dined finely at the Atlanta one. We have yet to experience the New York Loving Hut but I’m told it is great but small so it’s best to take it to go.- 348 7th Avenue (between 29th St & 30th St), NY,NY over 200 locations (including over 40 in the United States)
Loving Hut – 348 7th Avenue, NY, NY
Ethiopian = Ghent
I consider Julia an authority on Ethiopian cuisine which sometimes gets a bad name for its mushy consistency. I enjoy it and judging by the general health of the Ethiopian people, it is extremely good for your body. It also happens to be an easy place to get a vegan dish without missing out on 90% of the menu. Ghent is our favorite. Tucked away on 4th Avenue and Douglass, there is a comfortable vibe in an unusually noisy dining room. I think the acoustics need to be dealt with. We eat our lentils, beans, collard greens, chick peas and more on the sour bread. Delicious! You don’t even need teeth to enjoy it.
Ghent 348 Douglass Street Brooklyn, NY 11217
Indian = Dawat
Dawat was Julia and I’s first date so it has a special place in our heart. While not solely vegetarian, the waiter will set you up with a meat and ghee free combo platter. I love the combo as Julia often jokes. The place is a bit pricey and fancy with fine silverware and white tablecloths. The staff can be hit or miss, some reporting irate wait staff. What makes Dawat so great is the flavors. Spices are ground each day and whether hot, sour or mild, your taste buds will be giddy, even euphoric. Hands down the best I’ve had and lord knows we’ve tried a lot. If vegan doesn’t come up, always try Indian. Indian places recognize the word and will accommodate you pain in the ass vegans.
Dawat 210 E 58th St, New York NY10022 40.760397 -73.96639 (Btwn 2nd & 3rd Ave)
Pizza = Vinnie’s Pizzeria
Pizza is tricky as a vegan. Sure, I make one at home with so many vegetables, you forget about the cheese. Some pizzerias carry the cheese alternative Daiya to accommodate their vegan customers. We are not fans of Daiya People use it like real cheese (too much) and the taste is overwhelming and unappealing. So we order our pies without cheese which sometimes works (Grimaldi’s) and sometimes not (Joe’s). We took our bikes over to Williamsburg to Vinnie’s which we heard had the best vegan pizza in town. Yes you will have to navigate around hipsters. Hell, Titus Andronicus played a show in Vinny’s kitchen. So here’s what you are going to get: 7+ vegan slice options, vegan wings, vegan desserts (from vegan treats), daiya and daiya-free and tease vegan cheese options. The crust is crispy, the sauce tangy and a little sloppy just like an ultimate New York slice only here, vegan is King.
Vinnie’s Pizzeria 148 Bedford Ave(between 8th St & 9th St)Brooklyn, NY 11211
True Original Restaurant = M.O.B.
M.O.B. was opened by a French guy who happens to be obsessed with 80’s Brooklyn rap/graffiti culture and it shows. As the story goes M.O.B. is vegan because the owners girlfriend is vegan. Oh the French. What won’t they do for love? If you walk inside, it’ll all make sense. The long last-supper style tables, an occasional DJ, the stoned or just super-mellow staff and the décor, oh the décor. Everyone we ever brought there said they were going to bring an out-of-towner to experience this strange and completely unique phenomenon that is M.O.B.. Only in New York, right. Like some vegan places, they don’t announce themselves as vegan. In fact, when I asked if they were vegan, the waiter said, “we serve food that’s really really good for you.” Whatever, you’ll love their grits, yucca fries, soy nuggets, M.O.B.’s (mini pizzas shaped like the Brooklyn bridge) (yes I just said that), and our personal favorite corn soup with popcorn. Get over there before life is over. It might just be actual heaven.
M.O.B. 525 Atlantic Avenue – Brooklyn, NY 11217
Food Truck = Cinnamon Snail
If you can find it run to it. Boasting “Vegan Food Truck,” the Cinnamon Snail has long lines for a reason, the food is out of this world. Come 2pm, they are usually out of everything. I’m often pleading for the last muffin or special of the day. So if you go, expect a line that will be worth the wait. They do a fantastic breakfast in the morning and big hoagie sandwiches are the pride of their lunchtime. They even have desserts so grab a donut or pastry as you head back to work. Cinnamon Snail agreed and said they would be “stoked” to cater our wedding. We’ll see about that. This was an easy choice on the food trucks. We’d like to give honorable mentions to: Palenque and Crisp.
Buffet = Govinda’s at the Hare Khrishna Center
Not only is it tasty, cheap and hearty but it is one of those best kept secrets spots. No, they are not luring you into the Hare Krishna house to convert you although you might after you have a bite of their mango cheese cake. It’s 90 percent vegan, so ask. Monday-Friday, the Hare Krishna’s open their basement to the general public for a lunch buffet feast. This Indian-inspired grub contains the freshest ingredients grown and picked that day from the Hare Krishna garden. The food sometimes lacks spice but when you take a look at your cafeteria tray full of enough vegetables to credit you for the whole week, you’ll know you made the right decision.
Govinda’s 305 Schermerhorn Street Brooklyn, NY 11217 (basement of the Hare Khrishna Center)
I was sold when I tasted Sacred Chow Mama’s Soy Meatballs. The only vegan meatballs I could stomach and I used to be a big fan of meatballs. Julia and I had a great brunch on Sunday. She said the burrito was excellent. I suspect they put mustard in my scrambled eggs which I did not like but the potatoes where to die for. They have amazing latkes, Heroes (get Mama’s soy meatballs) and soba noodles with peanut sauce. You really can’t go wrong with this place. It’s unique to them. Apparently it was founded by a Candle 79 chef who wanted to do his own thing. For dinner go tapas style so you can sample all the delectable dishes. On a side note, you can get Sacred Chow sandwiches and desserts and the Angelika movie theatre. Yeah, vegan friendly movie theatre!
Julia as to mention a best food choice which happens to be the only choice in an oddity in this quaint tourist trap know as Alice’s Tea Cup. A waitress at Two Boots Brooklyn told us about Alice’s Tea Cup’s daily vegan scones. Intrigued, we travelled and had tea and the vegan scone of the day (very-berry scone). What the hell, it was unbelievable. It’s like Ovenly Bakery that makes one vegan item (salted chocolate chip cookie) and whatever reason, it rises to the top and becomes famous. The next time, I went with my Mom and the vegan scone was an mind-blowing banana-chocolate scone. Unbelievable. We recommend you go to the Alice’s on the West side because the East side scones are not as good. If I’m ever in the dog house with Julia, I bring home a couple of these babies and all is forgiven.
Sacred Chow (George) 227 Sullivan Street, NYC 10012 (b/w W3 & Bleecker)
Alice’s Teacup Scones (Julia) 102 West 73rd St, NY, NY
Best Overall Restaurant = Champs Family Bakery
What makes best Restaurant? A few things come to mind. It’s not what you might think. Yes, a speedy wait staff is great but at Champ’s I’ve (on occasion) had to ask for more coffee or experience a serious wait for my food. That doesn’t really matter when you go to a really great restaurant because you want to be there. You are not in a hurry to leave because you truly like being there and this is a moment to be treasured, not complained about. So what makes a customer feel that way? When Julia and I want to go out to eat and we can go anywhere and money is no object, we choose Champs. How could that be? You could be at Candle or Pure Food and Wine and you choose a diner? There is only one restaurant we drive to and that’s Champs. It’s located in a neighborhood where it is easy to park (but not always easy to navigate around). When we come in and we are brought to our table, I feel legitimately welcomed, like there is an assumption that these people like me or at least assume they are going to like me. Our waitress brings our water immediately, which acts as a natural excuse for a “how do you do?” Smiles all around and I’m not sure why but I feel I’m exactly where I am supposed to be. I don’t feel attractive, ugly or defensive, I just feel comfortable. We look around and the decor is kitschy and homey, like an old-time diner I went to as a kid. The booths are comfortable and there’s a positive vibe.
Then there’s the food, diner classics vegan-style. I don’t even like mock meats but the “chicken” fried “steak” was phenomenal. We’ve worked our way through the menu and loved everything. They made vegan cooking a creative challenge and redefined what vegans can eat. I already mentioned the breakfast but let me tell you some more of our favorites: Nachos, Kitchen Sink Salad, Chili, Bro Wrap, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Soltero Bowl, Oatmeal Cookie Crème Sandwich, and I could go on and on. The bottom line is we leave there a bit stuffed but always with a spring in our step. We then go home and dream of our perfect Champ’s dinner or breakfast as we smile because it’s all good.
Champs Family Bakery 176 Aislie Street Brooklyn NY
SUPER BONUS – CUT OUT AND PUT THIS IN YOUR WALLET
OR CUT AND PASTE THIS:
George and Julia’s NY Vegan Best of 2012 (Wallet Size)
Formal Dining = Candle 79154 East 79th Street at Lex, NY, NY
Sandwich(Julia) = Free Foods 18 West 45th Street,
Sandwich(George) = Cinnamon Snail mobile
Sushi = Beyond Sushi 229 East 14th Street New York, NY 10003
Raw Food = Pure Food and Wine 54 Irving Pl (between 17th& 18th st)
Ice Cream (Julia)= One Lucky Duck 125 East 17th Street, NY, NY
Ice Cream(George) Lula’s 516 E. 6th St (btwn Ave A&B)
Breakfast = Champs Family Bakery 176 Aislie Street Brooklyn NY
Falafel = Taim 45 Spring St, NY (new location!) & 222 Waverly Pl, NY
Burger (Julia) = Johnny Mack’s 1114 8th Ave Brooklyn, NY
Burger (George)= Zen Palate 663 9th Ave (at 46th), New York, NY
Vietnamese Sandwich (Julia) = Hanco’s 350 7th Ave. Brooklyn, NY
Vietnamese Sandwich(Geo)=Bahnmigos 178 Lincoln PlBrooklyn
Bagel = Le Bagel Delight (Julia), 122 – 7th Avenue Brooklyn
Bagel = Ess-a-Bagel (George) 831 3rd Avenue,New York, NY
Bakery (Julia) = Babycakes 248 Broome Street NY,
Korean = Hangawi 12 East 32nd Street, New York, NY10016
Japanese/Fusion = Gobo 401 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY
Indian = Dawat210 E 58th St, New York NY (Btwn 2nd & 3rd Ave)
Pizza = Vinnie’s Pizzeria 148 Bedford Ave Brooklyn, NY 11211
True Original Restaurant = M.O.B. 525 Atlantic Avenue – Brooklyn,
Food (George) = Sacred Chow227 Sullivan Street, NYC
Food (Julia) = Alice’s Teacup 102 West 73rd St, NY, NY
Overall Restaurant = Champs Family Bakery – 176 Aislie Street Bkln