Obviously, if you’re one of those fragile carnivores who says salads are for rabbits and will talk about consuming bloody animal flesh in detail to make vegans feel uncomfortable, you won’t like any of these restaurants, either. And that’s okay, because you’re likely a jerk with no friends and won’t be eating in public with anyone anyway!
But if you’re an omnivore who is at least a little open to eating a vegetarian meal that doesn’t feel lacking, read on: this list is for the next time you and your veggie-loving friends want to pick from a menu where everyone can eat everything (and you won’t have to eat General Tso’s soy protein or a lame veggie burger).
12 E 32nd St
New York, NY
Most restaurants in NYC’s Koreatown are full of thinly sliced pork belly, beefy stews, and other meat-heavy meals. Hangawi is different — in more ways than one.
Not only is every dish vegetarian or vegan, but when you’re welcomed into the space, you’re asked to leave your shoes at the door and to sit on pillows next to long, low tables in a dining room that feels like a Korean home. Order one of their unique teas, like chrysanthemum green or citron, and settle into the relaxing mood.
Instead of being divided by type of meat, the entrée menu is separated by headers like “tofu” and “mushroom.” Try the spicy rice cakes with vegetables and bean curd skin, a dish full of excellent textures and unique flavors, or the avocado stone bowl, a vegetarian version of the crackling classic. Hangawi has a great prix fixe lunch, too — a starter, appetizer, entrée, and dessert for $25 is a steal for a chill lunch oasis in the middle of a Midtown workday.
72 University Pl
New York, NY
Unlike many high-end vegetarian dining experiences, nothing feels sacrificial at Michelin-starred restaurant Nix. This is an impressive spot to suggest for dinner, even if you and your dining partner aren’t vegetarian.
Start with the tandoor bread and try the avocado dip with mint pesto, or the onion dip served with onion blossoms. Then try the pea dumplings, served in a lightly spicy ginger soy-based sauce and topped with a colorful salad of sugar snap peas and watermelon radishes. The cauliflower tempura is tossed in a sweet sauce, then assembled at your table into a bao with homemade pickles and a soft steamed bun. Or get cozy with the shiitake “cacio e pepe” served on creamy polenta.
And it’s perfect timing to try their “Ready for Spring” cocktail, made with sweet rhubarb and white grape juices, mixed with mezcal and bitter aperol. Seriously, everything on this menu is beautiful and delicious.
229 E 14th St
New York, NY
“OK, this is too far,” I can hear you saying. “Like, why would I eat vegan sushi if I’m not vegan?” And, yeah, I sort of agree. Regular sushi, filled with fresh sashimi or topped with salmon roe, is so damn good that nothing can really replace it.
But just forget about fatty tuna for a minute and try Beyond Sushi.
Nothing on the menu tries to replace your old favorites, so nothing disappoints in that sad “vegetarian replacement meal” way. Each roll is handmade with black or six-grain rice and an assortment of fresh vegetables and fruits, then served with a unique sauce. Take the Spicy Mang roll, for instance, featuring black rice, avocado, mango, and cucumber, topped with spicy sliced veggies and toasted cayenne sauce. Or the Pickle Me, where six-grain rice is rolled around an assortment of pickled veggies and avocado, then topped with carrot ginger sauce.
If you absolutely refuse to eat vegan sushi, well, you’re boring, but you should try one of their vegetarian dumpling options that completely lack the bland veggie mush of other restaurants’ non-meat dumplings. The Smokey Tom dumplings are filled with sundried tomato, charred onions, and smoked butternut squash, and topped with lemon panko, citrusy sumac, and creamy tahini sauce. You won’t be bored.
409 3rd Ave
New York, NY
Vatan isn’t just another all-you-can-eat Indian spot. Painted with scenic murals and decorated with faux trees and thatched roofing, it’s definitely the Indian restaurant with the most unique ambiance in Murray Hill (and maybe all of Manhattan?).
But don’t let the kitsch fool you; the space is comfortable and the food is fantastic. Take off your shoes and grab a seat in a cozy booth for unlimited offerings of a four-course, 31-dish meal. There are commonly found dishes like mini samosas and the lentil-based soup toor dal, as well as unique regional dishes like chole (sweetly spiced garbanzos) and sev puri (potato-and-yogurt-stuffed fried bread). Best of all, everything offered is entirely vegetarian.
Servers bring food to you on metal trays and dishes, rather than letting you serve yourself like at other all-you-can-eat neighborhood joints. Eat as much as you want, for as long as you want — but by the time your mango ice cream and petit glass of handmade masala chai arrive for dessert, you might have to roll yourself home.
86 Allen St
New York, NY
Even if you’re an omnivore, you’ve probably heard of Dirt Candy (or at least the long wait to get dinner there). This intimate, perfect-for-a-date restaurant serves carefully crafted tapas just dying to be shared. It just so happens to also be entirely vegetarian.
Dirt Candy is one of those places that gets vegetarian “versions” of meat dishes totally right, without using mock duck or beef-flavored tempeh. And you really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. Try as many dishes as possible, like the popcorn beets (their version of popcorn shrimp — get it?), the addictive Korean-style fried broccoli, or the jalapeño hush puppies with maple butter … are you hungry yet?
There’s spinach spaetzle, broccoli “hot dogs” with broccoli sauerkraut and mustard-based barbecue sauce, and pumpkin pad thai. For something bigger to share, the cabbage hot pot is the perfect warm meal to share with friends, and the build-your-own Brussels sprouts tacos are so freaking tasty. The wait for a table here is so worth it.
1084 Flushing Ave
Ethiopian food is one of the most vegan-friendly cuisines in the world, and Bunna Cafe in Bushwick is entirely vegan.
You can order full entrée sizes of every dish they offer, but bring your friends to get a taste of everything and order the feast. Hearty portions of each of their nine dishes (from berbere-spiced mashed split peas, to chilled sautéed beets, to garlicky collard greens) will come served on a thin layer of injera, the traditional Ethiopian flatbread that’s spongy, slightly sour, and the perfect accompaniment.
Or, come during brunch to try dishes you can’t find at other Ethiopian spots in the city. Dinch Azifa, described as “Ethiopian home fries,” is made of smashed potatoes with mustard seed, jalapeño, and onion. For something sweet, go for the Fetira, fried filo dough tossed with dates and agave. No matter what you decide on, it’ll be delicious, filling, and (surprise!) totally vegan.
197 Meserole St
I know I said “no fake meats,” but everyone loves Champs. Everyone.
This is the spot to take your multi-vore friends after a night of too many drinks. The menu is everything you love about your favorite greasy-spoon diner, but it’s totally vegan.
Sure, you can get a green juice or a quinoa bowl with tofu scramble, but that’s not the reason you go. You go for a massive breakfast burrito, filled with veggie chorizo, tofu scramble, tater tots, vegan cheese, and chipotle mayo. You go for the s’mores pancakes, made with gelatin-free marshmallows. You even go for the vegetarian reuben, made with corned beef seitan, or the deep-fried cauliflower po’ boy.
Top it off with an egg cream, specialty milkshake, or slice of vegan cheesecake. I promise you won’t miss the meat.