The first month of a new year has already come and gone, so let’s get on with this. Here are my top ten vegan eats from spending the month of December 2012 in New York, New York. These are in no particular order and some are more specific than others. Qualifying factors and fun notes at the bottom.
Contender: Chocolate chocolate chip, peppermint buttercream-stuffed cookie sandwich, Champ’s Family Bakery
Totally adorable, totally vegan, Brooklyn diner with so many greasy spoon staples and newer vegan favorites, from faux egg benedicts to grilled tofu bánh mìs. I’ve enjoyed so many meals here now, but this cookie from their stacked dessert case was just tops for me.
Contender: Anything from Dun-Well Doughnuts
Here’s a little story.….A couple of years ago, I remember debating whatever the new hot dessert item was with my sister, Jen. The topic quickly turned to doughnuts and she remarked how some hip, new doughnut shop had opened up across the street from her in Brooklyn and always seemed to have a line out front. Ridiculous, right? Fast forward to my first hiatus this past October, with her living a few minutes away now, and we discovered that this popular little spot was actually an artisan, entirely vegan doughnut shop. Really. And Dunwell’s Doughnuts, those of the yeasted variety, with a small batch of baked making an appearance (much to J. Legume’s delight), are wonderful. Every single one I’ve tried, from the toasted coconut to chocolate frosted with sprinkles, from freaking mojito glazed to peppermint stick, apple spiced and onto cherry cola, and so on- has been light and airy, perfectly sweet, and are served on fancy little tree stumps. Somehow, I resisted their famous doughnut sundae. Not quite a breakfast option?
I don’t know if you can find these doughnuts anywhere outside of Montrose Ave, so go check them out there – you want these fresh (don’t do what I did, and insult them by taking a box across country and offering them to friends in Seattle two days later)! I never thought vegan doughnuts would come this far.
Contender: Falafel sandwich, Oasis in Williamsburg
Yeah. I like mine with tahini, harissa, pickled red cabbage and even more sliced pickles. Don’t worry, I made sure to hit up Mamoun’s later in the week.
How I miss cheap falafel lunch.
Contender: Pickles! The Pickle Guys
Another thing I am forever lamenting/complaining/dreaming about in the Northwest is the absence of legit dill pickles. The local bounty is fabulously pickled all over the place, but it’s never quite what I want, deep down.
In New York, The Pickle Guys sell some of the best pickles around…anywhere. I love their new dill, I dig their super spicy and so, so much else (garlic! tomatoes! green beans! more!), but combine those two in the same container and later that night, get the pickles I long for. Hello, midnight snack. Dear sister, get ready for another pickleback.
Contender: Crispy avocado with habañero guava sauce, Cubana Social
Moving on, we were seeking something a little different for dinner one night, and while not really off the beaten path (er, Bedford Ave.) Cubana Social’s seasonally-focused vegetarian menu proved to live up to its promise – even the crisp avocado bocadito, pictured above, was vegan! Our group began with bubbly and moved on to small plates. J. Legume loved her flavorful black bean hamburgesa (with a spiced base of the house black beans, red beet and shiitake mushrooms) and my winter root asado was uniquely warm and wholesome and perhaps, the most locally sourced dish I enjoyed in New York outside of my sister’s kitchen.
Contender: BAGELS…this time around from Bagels on the Square, Bagelsmith, Bagel Store, etc.
Toast it, slather on some tofu cream cheese, and consider me happy. That’s chewy bread for ya.
Easily the most inexpensive, cost-effective vegan meal that I just can’t get enough of when I’m back in New York.
No matter how much withdrawal I go through later on – NOTHING EVER COMES CLOSE to a New York bagel in New York. I may not reminisce fondly much about growing up on Long Island, but I sure have a soft spot for Bagel Boss.
Fun fact: the nearest quality coffee spot by day, hipster bar by night in my sister’s current neighborhood, Skytown, serves Stumptown, which is pretty amazing to learn, but their milk selection features cow, hazelnut, and almond, much to my vegan, treenut-avoiding woes. Fortunately, Swallow Cafe is a well-worth-it walk away for a stellar soy latte, frequent witty signage and bagels with tofu spread. I mean, both are pretty dang Portlandish spots, which goes on to make them frequented in Brooklyn, and some type of spiral from there.
Contender: Americano, Brooklyn Roasting Co.
No real offense to Stumptown (it’s just everywhere in Portland, now all over NYC and I simply like to try new roasts, you guys) and plenty to Dunkin’, but it’s not always easy to find a great cup of joe in New York. Sure, they’re out there, but this was the best of the best so far and a really interesting spot.
Contender: Lunch special, Buddha Bodai
Perhaps you’re thinking, ‘Hey, an Americano doesn’t count!’. Well, this is my incredibly personal list, and if that wasn’t the case, you’d surely be seeing Lula’s by now. (Is it still open by the time I’m posting this?)
Alas, rest assure that my must-visits always involve vegan eats in Chinatown, with trips to Vegetarian Dim Sum House, House of Vegetarian, and the best of the bunch on this hiatus, braised bean curd strips in a thick brown sauce with brown rice at the relatively newist kid on the block, Buddha Bodai.
Contender: The Holiday Vegan Shop-Up Experience at Pine Box Rock Shop
To think, the Vegan Shop-up event clued me into the fact that not only was a vegan bar a short walk from where we were staying in Bushwick, but it hosted a monthly vegan pop-up shop….full of really, really exciting vegan eats and treats and sweets and more. This includes food vendors that you can’t find elsewhere, let alone altogether in one place.
For starters, I was finally able to try the Cinnamon Snail truck, and consider me quite impressed, which is not an easy thing to do via cart these days!
J. Legume and I picked up ridiculously good doughnuts (good job, NYC vegans!) to enjoy with our coffee from nearby Swallow (beer glazed cake for her and pumpkin cruller for me) and later on, shared this Maple Mustard Tempeh sandwich (requested on baguette, because everything is better on a baguette) for lunch. Parenthesisin’, complete.
Cinnamon Snail’s inviting bakery case:
Not pictured: the totally rad dinosaur cactus planters. J. Legume couldn’t resist getting a T-Rex for Jen. So appropriate.
Hell yeah, vegan twix-style bar! I can’t find the name of the confectioner behind these decadent candy bars, which were also available gluten-free, do tell if you know…
One of the most memorable baked goods I’ve tried in a while: S’more cInnamon roll from Cake Thieves – and J. Legume and I shared it one day past its freshly purchased prime, to boot.
As for Pinebox itself, it’s not quite Brooklyn’s answer to the Sweet Hereafter (Why? Sports were on and Tim’s Chips and hot pretzels are great, but not quite buffalo soy curls), but the look and drink listings are very welcoming.
Here’s my Kentucky Cough Syrup, which I’d love to explain to those out of the know, comes down to grape soda and bourbon.
Contender: slices & garlic knots, Vinnie’s on Bedford Ave.
One more to go, and it’s by no means the only place to get vegan pizza in the city, but it’s thin crust, offers very creative vegan toppings, crappy booths, not loaded with the cloying d-cheese goop for once (okay, it’s been known to happen), and home to a Dharma Initiative banner and garlic knots. Count me in.
Here are some slices we’ve had the pleasure of knowing:
Thank you guys for having vegan garlic knots!
After Sasspie’s first New York slice….
Runner’s Up: Pukk, Babycakes, fresh tofu in Chinatown, Mr. Kiwi’s then-$3 juice bar, and Julia’s pick: Slice. For even more of J. Legume’s own New York hiatus, read her posts, I Heart Brooklyn and ‘Cause Everyone’s Your Friend in New York City’.
Some clarifying factors to point out: I’m on a budget. I’m a native New Yorker. I tend to prefer to cook meals that will cost me more than $9. My objectives on NYC visits are primarily pizza, cheap falafel, pickles, plates of vegan Chinese food, all the bagels I can manage, and now, croissants and even more importantly, doughnuts (Dunwell’s and if I can find it, Cinnamon Snail). I’ve developed a mysterious treenut allergy and that rules out anything with creamy cashew bases. My heart weeps for Lula’s (plus, I just heard they’re closing?!) and for the closure of dear Stogo’s.
More notes…I was based in Bushwick, and I had much in the immediate area to leisurely explore. Having been in town less than two months prior and taking this break on a whim, I did not have my vegan-adventure hat on as much as usual. Like I said, this was my little ‘ol hiatus and I’ll dine where I want to.