NYC’s Hottest (and Coolest) Vegan Eats

Dining out expert Crystal Pang, aka VeganEatsNyc, curates a definitive list of her hometown’s can’t-miss vegan dishes

by crystal pang
illustration by Anna María Sánchez
Friday, July 23, 2021

If you ask me, this summer is made for eating your way through New York City’s most outstanding vegan dishes. My cooking isn’t the best, but I lasted through most of the pandemic in my 500 sq foot studio apartment thanks to “top ten pantry meals” articles. However, no dish I made could replace the joy of eating at a restaurant—packed together with friends over drinks, watching other people get their food first as my hunger swelled until it was finally my turn to feast. Now that the city has reopened, the sun is out, and we are vaccinated, it’s time to eat. And I have some tried-and-true recommendations for what to order.

Why should you trust my expertise? I was born and raised in Queens, New York City’s most diverse borough, where I went vegan a decade ago as an angsty pre-teen at age 12. I saw PETA’s YouTube video “Meet Your Meat” about factory farming and immediately ran to my mother to inform her of my new diet. Surprisingly, she was very supportive. I’ve been searching for the best vegan food ever since and sharing my experiences on my Instagram and blog @veganeatsnyc that has somehow amassed over 50 thousand followers. This list is what you could call my love letter to New York’s vegan dining scene, so come indulge with me.

1. NY Dosas

GET THE: Special Pondicherry
I went to school at NYU, which is right next to Washington Square Park. It’s always full of personality, especially in the summer. Right in the middle of all the competitive chess games, music, and sunbathing is NY Dosas, a South Indian vegan food cart. Owner Thiru Kumar (aka “Dosa Man”) posts selfies with customers to his Twitter and Instagram accounts to alert people when he’s open; and whenever he would be at the park, I was there. NY Dosas got me through many study sessions with his Special Pondicherry dish, which is a huge, flaky, crunchy dosa stuffed with potatoes, peppers, veggies, and a spicy sauce.
50 Washington Square S, New York, NY 10012

2. Terms of Endearment

It’s a personal mission for all vegans to find the perfect croissant that’s buttery and impeccably layered. This vegan bakery in Brooklyn has nailed that flawless croissant, and then they decided to add crispy (vegan) bacon, egg, and cheese to that carb heaven for the ultimate breakfast sandwich. Once I stuff my face with that B.E.C (bacon, egg, and cheese), I grab a few sweet and stuffed croissants for the road.
135 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11249

3. Spicy Moon

GET THE: Vegetable Wonton in Chili Oil
I lived in Sichuan Province for a summer when I was a teenager, and I remember how difficult it was to find good vegan food. Spicy Moon specializes in authentic vegan Sichuan cuisine, so all those cravings for chili oil were met when they opened in the East Village two years ago. The Vegetable Wonton in Chili Oil is a real winner here — the wonton skin is thin, stuffing is generous and meaty, and the chili oil leaves the perfect tingle on your tongue.
328 E 6th St, New York, NY 10003
68 W 3rd St, New York, NY 10012


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4. Kopitam

GET THE: Criss Cross Shrooms
By definition, a kopitiam is a coffeehouse serving traditional Malay and Chinese fare. This Lower East Side restaurant is not fully vegan, but they have a lot of incredible plant based options, and my personal favorite is the Criss Cross Shrooms. In this dish, you’ll find lots of red chilies, wok sauteed mushrooms like wood ear, and lotus served with fluffy coconut rice. Be warned, this dish is SPICY, so don’t forget to load up on the house-made mochi to add some sweetness to your palate.
151 E Broadway, New York, NY 10002

5. Bunna Cafe

GET THE: Feast for 2
When you’re looking for stellar vegan Ethipoian food, head here. You’ll be eating one of the most colorful dishes of your life, all with your hands. This feast gives you all 9 vegetable combinations (mushrooms, collards, beets, split peas, etc.) with four pieces of Injera, an Ethiopian sourdough bread. Definitely bring friends to share this filling and memorable spread.
1084 Flushing Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11237


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6. Beyond Sushi

GET THE: Mighty Mushroom Roll
The sushi at this famous vegan chain is not just your average avocado and cucumber roll. When husband and wife Guy and Tali Vaknin founded the restaurant in 2012, they sought to elevate casual plant-based dining. There’s a lot of unique and tasty things on the menu, but the Mighty Mushroom Roll is my go-to lunch order. It features black rice, shiitake and enoki mushrooms, tofu, micro arugula, and a fancy shiitake truffle sauce. Light, yet flavorful.
Multiple locations. Original: 229 E 14th St, New York, NY 10003


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7. Superiority Burger

GET THE:  New Creation Burger
This six-seat little vegetarian spot in the East Village is known for their amazing burgers that even meat-eaters love. Many items are “accidentally” vegan, as the restaurant puts it, or can be made vegan upon request. You can’t go wrong with their classic burgers, but the New Creation Burger is layered with griddled yuba creating almost a faux-philly cheese steak sandwich that I still dream about. This sandwich is massive, messy, and one of my favorite things to eat.
430 E 9th St, New York, NY 10009


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8. Confectionary

GET THE: Tahini Meltaway
Right down the block from Superiority Burger is Confectionary, a vegan sweets shop specializing in handmade chocolate, macarons, and cookies. The tahini meltaway is a truffle that has a layer of white chocolate tahini and then a layer of dark chocolate. It’s salty, yet sweet, and also creamy. The only bad thing about it is that you can finish it in one bite.
440 E 9th St, New York, NY 10009

9. Spring Cafe

GET THE: Braised Tofu Skin Bun
When I’m eating in Chinatown, I’m often looking for something cheap and quick to match the hustle of the neighborhood. This Asian-inspired vegan cafe sits right on top of the Canal Street station, and serves up one of my favorite bao buns in the city. At only $4.25, it’s huge, stuffed with tofu skin, pickled mustard greens, peanut, and cilantro. This bun has excellent  texture thanks to the soft bun and crunchy peanuts, with the right combination of sour, savory and sweet.
153d Centre St, New York, NY 10013

10. Fong On

GET THE: Matcha Rice Cake
This family-run tofu shop is Chinatown’s oldest, and I never skip a visit there when I’m in the area. Since 1933, Fong On has produced fresh batches of tofu for the community. And, yes, the tofu is incredible, and you need to take some of it home, but don’t forget to get their rice cake. These sweet, spongey, steamed desserts are incredibly popular in Southern China. The shop makes several flavors, but the Matcha Rice Cake is always my top choice  because of how the slight bitterness of matcha balances out the sweetness from the rice cake.
81 Division St, New York, NY 10002


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11. Very Fresh Noodles

GET THE: Vegan Spicy Noodles with Mock Duck
Although it’s a tourist trap, I love going to Chelsea Market because it’s the location of one of my all time favorite noodle spots. From the window, you can actually see their chefs make their famous hand-pulled noodles. This technique, and the fact that they’re fresh, makes a big difference in quality. The noodles have the perfect chewiness and pick up the flavor of the sauce so well, that every bite is heaven. The Vegan Spicy Noodles come in a tasty, tingly, mushroom broth seasoned with cumin, Sichuan peppercorn, chili oil, and are topped with celery, cilantro, pickled mustard greens, herbs, mock duck, and mushrooms.
409 W 15th St, New York, NY 10011

12. Paulie Gee’s Slice Shop

GET THE: Vegan Pepperoni
New York is known for pizza, so this list wouldn’t be complete without a classic slice from Paulie Gee’s. This Greenpoint pizzeria shop has regular and vegan slices, and the vegan pepperoni is a must. It feels like a true NYC slice to me with its crispy, thin crust, light tomato sauce, melty mozzarella (made with the popular Numu cheese), and yummy little bites of pepperoni. Fun fact: after I got engaged, my friend surprised me with a box of Paulie Gee’s vegan pizza slices, so it’s marriage-level-worthy pizza.
110 Franklin St, Brooklyn, NY 11222


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13. Seitan Rising

GET THE: Single Layer Cake Slice
This vegan, queer and worker owned cafe in Brooklyn stocks the best sandwiches and pastries, made daily by hand in-house. If you can only get one thing, go for the single layer cake slice. The flavor changes regularly, and any cake that comes out of here will be one of the fluffiest and moist you’ve ever had. I’ve gotten Seitan Rising cakes for my birthday for the last two years, and they’re always a hit among my vegan and non-vegan friends.
2 Morgan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11237

14. Glur

GET THE: Ground Impossible Gra Prow
This little Thai restaurant has made a name for itself in recent years due to the abundance of vegan options on their menu. They serve tempeh, Impossible meat, Daring Chicken, tofu and mock duck as just a few of their vegan proteins. The Ground Impossible Gra Prow is one of their vegan specials that should not be missed. Stir-fried ground “beef” with basil sauce, chili garlic pureé, and string beans with a side of fluffy white rice. It has the ideal kick in every bite.
144 W 19th St, New York, NY 10011

15. Nami Nori

GET THE: The Vegan Set
Nami Nori is one of those trendy West Village Japanese restaurants that happens to be vegan-friendly. They serve temaki, which is a Japanese hand roll (similar to sushi). Their vegan set includes 5 temaki pieces with vegetable-forward ingredients. A roll can feature avocado, or eggplant, another maitake mushroom, or ginger scallion squash, or cucumber black sesame. It’s a unique dining experience with tastefully selected combinations for a great meal in a beautiful setting.
33 Carmine St, New York, NY 10014

16. Veggie Castle

GET THE: Large Meal
This list wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t include anything from my home borough, Queens, and the good news is it’s close-ish to JFK, so you can load up before a flight. Get the Large Meal, which is a DIY platter that includes a little bit of everything you’re in the mood for. You’ll have a handful of Carribean-inspired items to choose from, but I always recommend the creamy mac and cheese, BBQ Chick’n wing, collards, jerk tofu, and fried rice.
132-9 Liberty Ave, South Richmond Hill, NY 11419


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16. Orchard Grocer

GET THE: Vanilla Soft Serve
The best vegan soft serve can be found at NYC’s first vegan deli, opened in 2017. Here, you can get your pantry items, snacks, sandwiches, and then a creamy, beautifully swirled ice cream to balance your diet. This soft serve is cashew based, palm-oil free, and can be topped with some beautiful rainbow sprinkles. They have seasonal flavors, but I’m a sucker for a good vanilla. P.S.: This space is next door to Mooshoes, a vegan shoe shop, so you can upgrade your wardrobe and eat!
78 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002

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