Top Vegetable-Focused Restaurants in NYC
The word “vegan” has a reputation. I didn’t say this reputation was good or bad, since it really depends on who you ask, but when someone says the word “vegan,” a certain lifestyle and diet comes to mind. For one of my friends, when he hears the word “vegan,” he thinks of people who do yoga, eats salads, and hugs farm animals, but that is just a stereotype (I do hug farm animals though). To avoid these associations, restaurants are focusing on being vegetable-focused/vegetable-forward/plant based/vegan-friendly. No matter what they are calling themselves, these restaurants are making vegetables the center of a meal. Most of the time, these restaurants are expensive, high-end, and come from the minds of one of the most famous and creative chefs. Here are some of my favorites:
Westville was founded in 2003 to provide food that is fresh and reasonably priced. They currently have 5 locations with a 6th location opening up in the financial district later in 2017. Westville believes that if the freshest and highest quality ingredients are used, their preparation need not be fancy. Many items on Westville’s menu do not have heavy sauces, garnishes, or bells and whistles, letting the ingredients of the dish shine through. This is going to be the most affordable spot on this list, and it’s great for any meal at any time.
Each of Westville’s locations are designed a little differently, but it’s a space where vegetarians and meat-eaters alike can enjoy the extensive menu in an unpretentious and welcoming environment. There is often a chalkboard menu with the vegetable specials. Westville has really made an impression on me through its market plate. The market vegetable menu contains 15+ lightly seasoned veggies like broccoli with garlic, asian style bok choy, roasted butternut squash, and more that honors the natural flavors of vegetables.
Beyond Sushi is the pioneer of plant-based sushi. It’s a 100% vegan eatery that celebrates the flavors and beauty of locally-sourced, seasonal produce. Chef Guy and his wife are the founders of this eatery, and they fuse unconventional pairings of fruit and vegetables with whole grains to create sushi, paper wraps, dumplings, noodle salads, and noodle soups. The sushi is healthy, made with fresh veggies, and it's beautiful, causing long lunch lines during the day.
The 37th street location has a full-service menu including alcohol and amazing dinner specials (think: ravioli and fresh spreads) that you don’t want to miss.
Kajitsu is a high-end Japanese restaurant that specializes in Shojin cuisine. This refers to a type of vegetarian cooking that originates in Zen Buddhism. The menu changes every month, focuses on seasonal vegetables, and carries a Michelin Star. The food and dining experience is incredibly unique, and I love eating here for special occasions. The seasonal menu costs around ~$97, but it’s worth the money.
Nix is a one Michelin star restaurant from Michelin-starred chef John Fraser, drawing on his personal passion for cooking with vegetables. This restaurant is fully vegetarian with many vegan options including the cauliflower tempura with steamed buns (personal favorite). However, they really know how to make veggies taste good in every dish they make..
Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Paulette Cole has done it again with its new addition to the ABC family (ABC Kitchen, ABC Cocina) with ABCV, the V standing for vegetables.
ABCV is located in Union Square with elegant furniture from ABC Carpet and Home (the restaurant’s neighbor and partner). There are pink and white accents that create a dream-like state for the eater. Everything is plant based, non gmo, sustainable, artisanal and organic whenever possible sourced locally and globally from small and family farms. The breakfast menu is my favorite, with sections of the menu dedicated to a feeling like "energizing and fresh" and "warm and sustaining." Not only does the food make you feel, but it's also beautifully presented like a work of art.
The juices are served in wine glasses too, so this place really makes you feel classy.
Another Chef John Fraser restaurant, DoveTail offers an award-winning contemporary American cuisine with creative use of seasonal, farm-fresh ingredients.
Dirt Candy was the first vegetable-focused restaurant in the city and the leader of the vegetable-forward movement. They focus on the power and beauty of vegetables in their dishes.
Market Table serves seasonal American food in an airy dining room with exposed brick walls and large windows offering a view onto village life.
Avant Garden and Ladybird are owned by the same hospitality group who really knows its veggies, These are the kind of restaurants that just name dishes after different vegetables. to emphasize where they get most of their inspiration from. The toasts here are my favorite, especially the sunchoke toast (see what I said about naming dishes after a vegetable ingredient?). Avant Garden is high-end, but so worth it for any special occasion.
One of my favorite vegan restaurants in NYC and self-proclaimed “vegetable bar”is Ladybird! Everything is meant to be shared, which means you get to try more of everything! I highly suggest getting the fondue! They also have a late night menu that includes fried mac and cheese balls! (not vegetable-forward, but still delicious).