In the November+December issue of VegNews, New York City and Los Angeles faced off in the Ultimate Vegan City Showdown. Even though the vegan behemoths battled it out in seven categories, we know both have a lot more to offer—way more than the pages of one magazine can hold. To alleviate the issue, we asked our local experts, Jasmin Singer and Andrea Wachner, to share their top 10 stops for vegan nosh in NYC and LA, respectively. Get ready to book some flights.
LA: 10 Places to be Vegan and Full, in No Particular Order
The Bazaar. This place is so good, you save it for special occasions like birthdays, holidays, or … Saturday. A truly unique dining experience both in terms of the physical space and the world-renowned molecular gastronomy style of cooking, Chef José Andrés gifts us with an entire vegan menu (if you ask for it) that will blow your mind and your taste buds. The jicama-wrapped guacamole is so delicious you should probably order two of them. You won’t want to share.
Craig’s. This Italian joint makes you realize someday, some day not too far from this one today, every restaurant will have vegan options. At that point, I will sell off all my kitchen gadgetry in order to have cash to be able to eat out for every single meal and possibly gain 100 pounds, but boy will it be worth it. I tried five of the nine things on Craig’s new vegan menu section and they were all delicious, upscale Italian, and, hopefully, trendsetting!
Flore. You’re going to want to live directly above or adjacent to Flore, so that you can eat there like it’s your own personal kitchen. The vibe inside is a little too hippie for my liking, so the best plan is to sit at one of the tables outside while you eat half a piece of cake, a breakfast burrito, and then the rest of the cake.
Green Peas. Mixed party? Green Peas offers nosh you and your friend/lover/relative who isn’t vegan will both love. The fine people of Green Peas are PhDs of Daiya and Gardein, and they doctor up some higher-level sandwiches including the Curry Chicken, the Chicken Picatta, and the Steak, not to mention the pea soup, which I don’t even like normally. Green Peas also has vegan cake and free Wifi, so it’s a great place to stuff face whilst laptopping.
M Café De Chaya. M Café has a diverse menu ranging from salads to sushi (Carolina-Style BBQ Seitan Sandwich! Kale with Spicy Peanut Dressing! Vegan Benedict!) and great desserts (strawberry shortcake! chocolate cake! lemon tart!). Beware the dishes with fish, but order one (or two) of everything else.
Mama’s Hot Tamales. Mama’s serves the kind of Mexican food that LA is known for, only it can veganize everything just for you. Not only is Mama’s food incredibly delicious, but her mission is too; Mama’s is an apprentice-operated business and job training restaurant to help low and moderate income residents in central LA. I’d like to help by buying a gallon jug of her avocado salad dressing and drowning everything I eat in it.
Mandoline Grill. This Vietnamese food truck serves up the most delicious tofu I have ever eaten, but at different spots around the LAiverse. The bánh mì, the tacos, the bún … they are all good enough that it doesn’t matter if you have to eat them standing up, squatting on the sidewalk, or in your car.
Sage Organic Vegan Bistro. Ask about Sage’s job openings when you sit down, because you’ll want to get a job there just to eat its offerings, all day, every day. From the mac ‘n’ cheese balls to the croissandwiches to the tacos to the brunch, Sage will serve you one of the best meals you will ever eat. I am sad to say I have not had everything on the menu yet, but so far the Pesto Croissant Club Sandwich is my favorite.
Shojin. Sure it’s in a mall, but great things come in large packages, too. Serving macrobiotic Asian fare inside the Little Tokyo Shopping Center in Downtown Los Angeles, everyone is waylaid by the sushi menu. While it’s amazing that they do things like torch a roll to make it taste fishier, trust me, the Seitan Steak with garlic herb butter and the Molten Lava Cake are must-must-must-orders.
Vinh Loi Tofu. Believe it or not, but Vinh Loi is worth driving all the way to Reseda from … anywhere. Ignore the tofu part of the name (though it does make its own) and prepare yourself for some fine faux meats prepared a hundred different ways (approximate), with pictorial representations on the veganamese (vegan vietnamese) Wall of Food. Go with a group and eat family style so you can try 10 different things, especially the Curry Chicken Noodle.
NYC: Hold Onto Your Seitan Piccata
Angelica Kitchen. The oldest vegetarian restaurant in the city, this East Village mainstay is for more than just hippies, though the overall vibe can nonetheless be described as charmingly crunchy. Make sure you witness, first-hand, the magic created by blending walnuts and lentils and turning them into a surprisingly rich pâté.
Blossom. There are now a handful of locations throughout Manhattan, all fabulous, but my favorite of the Blossom chain remains the original Chelsea location. Wear your fancy sweater, because this place is classy, and order the Phyllo Roulade (partly because, let’s face it, you can’t make that yourself). Date night!
Buddha Bodai. There is a vegan version of literally every single animal product out there, including—yep—faux shark fin soup. In the heart of Chinatown, Buddha Bodai is a favorite among locals (including this one), thanks to its robust menu of traditional Chinese cuisine, including everything from General Tso’s Vegan Chicken to unusual items like Tapioca Dumplings.
Candle Cafe West. Visiting this beautiful, newest member of the Candle empire is like stepping into a Frank Lloyd Wright house. Order Chef Angel Ramos’ favorite, the moody and spicy Tempeh Mole. This exquisite restaurant is the most delicious new culinary addition to Manhattan.
Dun-Well Doughnuts. Whether you’re a dunker (go for the Cinnamon Sugar), or you like your doughnut straight up (don’t miss the Peanut Butter and Jelly), take the L train to East Williamsburg for the treat of your life. I once witnessed a small child down an entire doughnut sundae (the vegan ice cream was courtesy of Lula’s Sweet Apothecary). If she can do it …
Lula’s Sweet Apothecary. I’ve always wanted to bring my grandma here so she can step back into her 1940s heyday. This old-time ice cream parlor, with an inspiring menu featuring malteds and egg-creams (minus the egg and the cream) is perhaps best known by locals for the cake batter soft serve. Put that in a gluten-free cake cone, top it with peanut butter fudge, and you will likely find yourself verklempt.
Pine Box Rock Shop. I feel like I dreamt this, but no, it’s very real. This all-vegan bar in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood is perhaps the only place in town where you can indulge in a Bloody Mary that has vegan Worcestershire sauce. If you’re a lightweight like I am, get your grounding with three varieties of empanadas from nearby vegan café, V-Spot.
Soy and Sake. Vegan sushi reminiscent of your fish-eating days? Check. Lively, boisterous West Village location? Check. I eat here weekly, so heed my advice: Order the fresh summer rolls. (You’re welcome.)
Sun in Bloom. Nestled in the cozy neighborhood of Park Slope, Brooklyn, Sun in Bloom is perfect for those with a keen appreciation of wholesome, healthy grub. Here, you can get your raw on (the Bloom Burger is worth trying just for the sunflower-dill dressing), your gluten-free (the Hearty Macro Bowl is substantive and “clean”), and you can even engage your kid inside (almond butter and jelly sandwiches with bananas on sprouted wheat toast, anyone?).
Uptown Juice Bar. Hop on the 6 train to 125th Street, and right there in East Harlem you’ll find the mother of all vegan must-haves. Don’t let the name deceive: Uptown Juice Bar (which recently moved to new, expanded quarters) has delightful juices (try “The Fatigue,” aimed to enliven sleepy city dwellers using carrots, grapefruit, spinach, lemon, and orange), but it’s the vegan soul food- and Caribbean-inspired grub that will make you giddy you made the trek.
Jasmin Singer is the co-founder of Our Hen House, a multimedia hub of opportunities to change the world for animals, and co-host of the popular Our Hen House podcast. Follow Our Hen House on Twitter: @ourhenhouse. Andrea Wachner shares food reluctantly and opinions freely as the managing editor of supervegan.com.