Round-Up! The Top Five Best Vegetarian or Vegan Restaurants and Joints in New York City

August 30, 2012 3:58 PM EDT | By Anthony Smith
Vegan Slider
Chickpea and Olive's Vegan Slider takes over your mouth (Photo: Chickpea and Olive)

Don't have a cow: this is the ultimate guide to the top five best vegetarian and vegan restaurants in New York City.

Eating vegan or vegetarian in New York City used to be something of a chore. With few exceptions, many of the restaurants that we think of as synonymous with the cruelty-free green-scene have only garnered that honor through getting their first. With little in the way of competition, mediocre food that sought to eschew animals and/or animal products were slapped onto our plates with little consideration for flavor or presentation and served to us at top dollar.

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Full disclosure here: I'm not a vegan or a vegetarian. I'm an omnivore, and proud of it, but that doesn't mean I know a thing or two about vegan cooking. For one thing, what I'm looking for isn't how closely a restaurant emulates meat. Though there's something to be said about the nostalgia factor of finding something that tastes "just like chicken" but is made from a combination of tempeh and bamboo air, I'll also be looking at restaurants that have prepared vegan and vegetarian food that stands on its own merits.

In other words, this will be less about how perfect a meatless meatball is, and more about how awesome a piece of broccoli was cooked. Here's FoodNRecipe's ultimate guide to the top five best vegetarian and vegan restaurants in New York City

Fifth Place: B.A.D. Burger - L.E.S.

Okay, so they're definitely still getting their act together. I can venture to guess that anyone who's been there as many times as their no-frills menu and twenty-four hour service encourages you to go has had their order messed up at least once. That said, there's something to be said about the friendly people at that decidedly Brooklyn take on the diner that, unlike Diner, you can't accuse of pretense.

B.A.D. Burger gets a spot on our list because the food hits the spot, and they have a whole separate vegan kitchen to prepare your food in. For a non-specialty restaurant, that's pretty dope.

Fourth Place: Foodswings - Williamsburg

Foodswings in Central Williamsburg is what B.A.D. Burger wants to be when it grows up, or if it just dropped their meat kitchen. This is junk food done right, and cruelty free. It's all utterly delicious, even if some of the names are indisputably repulsive (4Skins? No thanks).

Although we really like just about everything we've eaten, we absolutely love the Milkshakes-- especially the Crunchberries milkshake, which is made with vegan strawberry ice cream and has cookie pieces blended in.

Third Place: Vegetarian Paradise 2 - West Village

One of the wonderful things about asian cuisine is that if you're eschewing meat, you're pretty much getting rid of dairy altogether, too. If you're looking for vegetarian takes on your old favorites, pop on by to Vegetarian Paradise 2 in the West Village, which has a huge menu loaded with meat substitutes on it.

What makes theirs a cut above the rest of the city? My ex once nibbled a bite of the Crispy Soul Chicken leftovers that I took home from there, and he remarked that it was the best chicken he'd ever had. High praise from a meat eater, considering it wasn't even chicken at all.

Second Place: Candle 79 - Upper East Side

For about as long as I can remember, the Candle 79 empire reined supreme, unchallenged, over the vegan scene. It's not like they didn't deserve it, either: their jet-setting menu (at the higher end of the vegan price point spectrum, to be sure) is perfectly executed. Our advice: eschew the meat emulations like the Spaghetti and Wheat Balls and stick to things like the Tomato-Zucchini Lasagna and the Moroccan Spiced Chickpea Cake. These people really know how to make those veggies sing.

First Place: Chickpea and Olive - Williamsburg

Holy smokes, right? The 'Chickpea and Olive' act isn't even a brick and mortar restaurant yet; it's a food stand in Smorgasburg with high ambitions. In the words of Danielle Ricciardi, one half of the brain and heart behind the joint, their goal is to open "a fleet of restaurants and a small vegan empire of natural, artisanal vegan packaged foods."

And though they've yet to "entice a Tyrannosaurus Rex" with one of their vegan sliders, every single meat-eater I've encountered who's tried their slider absolutely adores it.

Some extra advice? The potato salad is absolutely amazing as long as you like the taste of dill (we could say the same for any potato salad), and their cold watermelon gazpacho and bread pudding were equally mind-blowing. But you haven't lived until you've tried their vegan slider. Bursting with flavor and boasting the perfect crunch against the teeth, these babies rank among the best bites of food we've ever had.

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