Over the past few years, I’ve scoured the streets of New York City to try and find a replacement for Candle 79, the beloved — and one of the oldest — vegan restaurants in New York City, after its doors shut at the end of 2019. But narrowing it down to just one proved rather tricky. Whether you call yourself vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian, or merely interested in adding more plant-based dishes to your diet, I’ve cherry-picked some of the Big Apple’s best vegan restaurants below.
Aunts et Uncles – Flatbush, Brooklyn
Between the friendly staff, upbeat music, and bright ambiance, one might forget they came for the food until the delicious-tasting explosion of plant-based flavor arrives on the table. Located in the Little Caribbean area of central Brooklyn, the Black-owned Aunts et Uncles serves everything from breakfast to dinner. The owners, Michael and Nicole Nicholas, also support young local artists by selling books, clothes, and other merchandise. Their lobster roll and bake & saltfish dishes, made using sustainably-raised hearts of palm, are menu best-sellers, and even for those who aren’t fans of ‘mock-meat’ dishes, these options don’t miss. And if you’re a lover of spice, their hot sauce alone is worth making the trip to Brooklyn
Blossom on Columbus – Upper West Side, Manhattan
Not only does Blossom serve delicious-tasting recipes, but their beautiful Upper West Side location serves as the ideal spot for dates, get-togethers with friends, and even private events for up to 50 people in their elegant upstairs dining area. The mouth-watering buffalo arancini bites or the nachos are a must-order for the table or can be enjoyed entirely by yourself. The French toast on their weekend brunch menu is also divine! Blossom’s refined vegan dining is also certified Kosher and is fully wheelchair accessible!
Ladybird – East Village, Manhattan
If it’s flavorful tapas, creative wine-based cocktails, or aesthetically-pleasing decor you’re after, look no further, as Ladybird has all three. Reservations are recommended, especially on Thursday and Friday nights and on the weekends when they offer veganized brunch favorites such as French toast, chikin & waffles, and their gluten-free frittata. Besides the convivial environment perfect for date nights, the best part about Ladybird is that their menu rotates regularly to spotlight what’s in season.
Peacefood Cafe – Downtown & Upper West Side, Manhattan
Both uptown and downtown Peacefood Cafes have a superb selection of nourishing sweet and savory dishes that will make either location your casual go-to spot. The chickpea fries, made with their award-winning recipe, are a must-try appetizer. Pumpkin lovers have a few options, with both Peacefood Cafe locations offering a delicious pumpkin quiche, a Japanese pumpkin sandwich, and a plant-based teriyaki cutlet served with pumpkin. There’s also a variety of freshly-baked desserts, such as macaroons, cookies, tiramisu, raw cacao mouse pie, banana bread, and raw cashew cream cheesecake.
Amituofo – Bushwick, Brooklyn
Amituofo is the latest addition to Brooklyn’s growing list of vegan dining options. If mock meats are your thing or you want to bring a defiant omnivore to a vegan restaurant you think they’d enjoy, then look no further. The vegan Asian fusion cafe in Bushwick is heavy on the meat-substitute trend, offering menu items such as Impossible Burgers, General Tso’s “chicken,” sesame “beef,” crispy “pork chop,” salted “duck,” and my personal favorite, the sweet and sour “chicken.” Their avocado sweet potato rolls, steamed red bean paste buns, and scallion pancakes are also perfect for sharing.
Double Zero – Lower East Side, Manhattan
Double Zero, by celebrity chef Matthew Kenney, offers plenty of delectable options to satisfy your Italian fare fix with menu items such as their cacio e pepe pasta made with almond parmesan, black pepper, and cashew cream and their truffle cashew cream pizza. The chic East Village restaurant also provides an ample selection of organically and sustainably-produced wines from mostly family-owned estates, all of which are naturally vegan and designed to be paired with the extensive range of Italian-inspired dishes.
Sutra – Flatiron District, Manhattan
Another exquisite plant-based eatery from Matthew Kenney, Sutra offers a creative Japanese-inspired menu on the rooftop of Alo Yoga in Manhattan’s Flatiron district. Highlights from this hidden gem include yuba lettuce wraps, macro bowls, golden beet carpaccio, and if you’re a matcha fan, they have a terrific-tasting matcha-cream tiramisu for dessert! When weather permits, Sutra’s outdoor dining oasis lets you forget, just for a moment, that you’re sitting in the middle of a concrete jungle.
Bunna Cafe – Bushwick, Brooklyn
Coffee is everything in Ethiopia, and for this plant-based Ethiopian cafe, it’s literally in its name (bunna means “coffee” in Amharic). Coffee ceremonies occur daily at Bunna Cafe, where complimentary coffee is served in demitasse cups. While the spacious restaurant is dimly lit with a dark wooden aesthetic, the eatery feels intimate, as if you’re having dinner in your friend’s dining room. All of Bunna’s delicious Ethiopian delicacies pop with flavor and color, from their shiro (silky split peas simmered in garlic and herbs) to their misir wot (stewed lentils). They also offer a rotating seasonal dish. Their ‘feast for two’ menu option costs $48 and comes with injera bread. And for those with a sweet tooth, their light and crispy baklava served with pistachios, roasted walnuts, and coffee-infused demerara syrup will melt in your mouth.
Slutty Vegan – Fort Greene, Brooklyn
Slutty Vegan, the burger chain with a cult following in Atlanta, recently opened its first location outside Georgia. New Yorkers welcomed it with an opening party and long lines down the block. The restaurant is black-owned and women-led and offers a variety of plant-based burgers made with Impossible or Beyond Meat patties with cheeky names such as Hollywood Hooker, Fussy Hussy, and Side Heaux. It’s expected to expand even further in New York City by opening a Harlem location soon. They also have the Slutty Vegan food truck, which can be booked for vegan catering for private events. The staff is kind and patient to Slutty Vegan virgins, offering all the details about the extensive burger options but expect a queue to get in.
Eleven Madison Park – Flatiron District, Manhattan
When chef Daniel Humm reopened Eleven Park Madison after a 15-month COVID hiatus, he removed all animal products from the menu. At the time, the fine-dining spot made history by becoming the first plant-based three Michelin-starred restaurant. It’s located at the base of a historic Art Deco building overlooking Madison Square Park. The dining room tasting menu sells out fast and consists of 8-10 courses that cost a nonrefundable $365 per person, a fee that needs to be paid in advance when booking. In addition to dining at a beautiful plant-based restaurant, it’s nice to know that every dinner purchased allows the restaurant to provide meals to New Yorkers experiencing food insecurity via their Eleven Madison Truck.