The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

NYC Vegetarian Eatery Recommendations, Part I (1-5)

While some vegetarian restaurants may be disappointing or just plain suck, there are more places that don't suck. I hope.

Here's the first half of my list of top ten favorite vegetarian and vegan eateries.


FALAFEL TIME!!! Taim fries
Falafel pita sandwiches!

I don't look at Taim as a vegetarian eatery—I just call it, "BEST FALAFEL EVER!" Or in NYC. And aside from the sabich, which contains hard boiled egg (and is one of the best sandwich-like things you could ever eat) and some smoothies, I think most of the items are vegan. Few other places make falafels so light and crisp, or pita bread so thick, soft, and fluffy. The fried-on-the-spot french fries are also great, although best shared between two or more people (unless you're really hungry). The only downside is the lack of seating, although I've been lucky and have always been able to grab a stool or space on the outside benches. 222 Waverly Place, New York, NY 10014 (at 7th Avenue; map); 212-691-1287

Related: Amy Ruth's, Cafe Mogador, Taim, NYC eats: so many, oh dear god, Merry Christmas + McDonalds, Random Russian Stuff, Pudding and Falafels, Tristan Week: Day 2 (Israeli Sandwiches and Mild Tipsiness)

Tiffin Wallah

Rava Masala Tiffin Wallah poori bread!
Tiffin! Wallah!

I used to live just a few blocks away from Southern Indian restaurant Tiffin Wallah more than a year ago, but I only visited for the first time in May. It's too bad I didn't try it sooner since the food is tasty, inexpensive (nothing is over $10), and full of spices I'll never be close to being able to recognizing. I liked the uttapam, pancakes made with rice and lentil flour, like fat, savory, slightly chewy pancakes. I was a bigger fan of the rava masala dosa, a crispy, super thin rice and lentil flour crepe filled with mashed spiced potatoes whose flatness is made up by having the span of a large baby. The menu indicates what dishes have dairy in them; I figure the non-dairy dishes are vegan. 127 E 28th Street, New York, NY 10016 (near Lexington; map); 212-685-7301

Chennai Garden

Chennai combo dinner Chennai Garden assorted appetizers
Fried things and other things!

Chennai Garden is another vegetarian South Indian restaurant. I mostly remember the appetizer assortment full of fried goodies, more specifically ali tikki, salmon pakora & bajjia, not that I know what any of those things really are. I'll go with "fritters, doughy things, things stuffed into dough." It's good for the indecisive, fried stuff-loving eater. Also good for the indecisive eater is the Chennai combo dinner consisting of iddly, medu vadai, vegetable, masala dosai, coconut chutney, sambar, and badam halwa. Don't know what that stuff is? Neither do I! Well, lots of lentil and rice flour-based things accompanied by sauces and whatnot, if I had to guess. You'll like it, assuming your taste buds aren't too sensitive. 129 E 27th Street, New York, NY 10016 (near Lexington; map); 212-689-1999

Related: Quick rundown: cheese, Thai, brunch, and Indian

Buddha Bodai

Fried taro duck Buddha Bodai vegetarian lamb with mixed veg
Good enough for Buddha

I'd go to the vegetarian/vegan/kosher-friendly Buddha Bodai just to get the fried taro duck, which tastes nothing like duck, but a lot like taro. It's some kind of flattened, mashed taro loaf wrapped in a few layers of tofu skin (the common composition of Chinese mock duck), breaded, and fried to a flaky crisp. Each bite is crispy (outer crust), chewy (tofu skin), creamy (taro), and somewhat stomach-deadening due to the heavy taro. A good kind of stomach-deadening. While the vegetarian lamb with mixed vegetables was a satisfying meat substitute, I'd rather go with non-meat-substitute tofu with organic mushroom and basil featuring jiggly baby butt-soft tofu cubes. The rich vegan cheesecake was good for being tofu-based and would surely qualify as one of the best desserts you could get at a Chinese restaurant. 5 Mott Street, New York, NY 10013 (near Bowery; map); 212-566-8388

Related: Vegan Fried Taro 'Duck' at Buddha Bodai

Vegetarian Dim Sum House

Monk Dumplings Vegetarian Dim Sum House Mashed Taro Treasure Boxes
Dim sum, yes!

I prefer the typical hectic, cart-filled, lunchtime, banquet hall dim sum, but when in need of vegetarian/vegan-friendly cuisine I'm all for Vegetarian Dim Sum House. Monk dumplings are awesome, even if I don't know what's in them. The spinach dumplings, less so, because they're not chock full of spinach. Mashed taro treasure boxes, similar to Buddha Bodai's fried taro duck, are another favorite of mine—what's not to love about balls of mashed taro that are breaded and deep-fried? The fluffy mock roast pork buns were pretty good with their central splodges of meat-like bits in sweet roast pork sauce. And although it was my first time eating rice flour rolls with deep fried dough (chewy eep fried dough sticks wrapped in rice noodle sheets), it won't be my last. 24 Pell Street, New York, NY 10013 (b/n Mott and Elizabeth; map) 212-577-7176

Related: Vegetarian Dim Sum House in Chinatown Can Be Enjoyed by All


SuperChomp / September 18, 2008 8:20 AM

There are monks in the monk dumplings. *Ahem*

I suppose it makes perfect sense that the best eateries in vegan foods are from cultures with a long long history and religious significance of vegetarianism. I mean, it's perfectly normal to have a veggy day at Chinese New Year and no-one ever dreads bland boring food (let's ignore the New Year's Eve killing fest...)

Steph / September 18, 2008 1:31 PM

Finally! A place I've actually been to!
Dooode, you need to try the mock roast pork at Buddha Bodai. I actually had to call in reinforcements (my carnivore parents) to reassure me that it wasn't actually real meat.

Oh, and those "deep fried dough sticks wrapped in rice noodles" are called "jia lerng" -- and I LOVE THEM. We must talk.

- S

PS: When are you guys going to announce who made it to be the new SE interns? Since I applied and all.....

Angeline / September 18, 2008 10:19 PM

I once had a "vegetarian fish" that tasted suspiciously like "vegetarian duck" wrapped in seaweed. Naturally I ate most of it.

I also had "vegetarian chicken curry" that reminded me more of "vegetarian beef".

If you can't already tell, I like quotation marks. Mind you, I thoroughly enjoyed the above dishes and hope to eat them again one day.

roboppy / September 18, 2008 11:26 PM

Superchomp: Mm, monks are tasty.

Julie: Your brain is delicious.

Steph: Okay, next time...mock roast pork! I shall get. Why don't YOU come with ME!!

As for the interns, I think we've already chosen them (we have two now). ;_; Which is enough for our lil office...FOR NOW...



ila / September 19, 2008 3:22 PM

mmmm, dosas... i'm so jealous how you have not only 1 but 2 in the area! there's only ONE south indian (or rather, non-buffet) indian place in the area, and it is faaaaar.

Alison / September 19, 2008 5:46 PM

I love LOVE love the vegetarian dim sum house. So dingy looking from the outside, and so perfectly tasty on the inside... sort of like some of their dim sum that are wrapped in the soft rice noodles. It might look gooey and gross but it's great! And the mushroom dishes, the perfect texture... I am so hungry right now, I think I'm always in the mood for the dim sum house!

roboppy / September 20, 2008 10:01 AM

Biz319: Falafels are awesome! YES, YOU MUST TRACK EM DOWN!

ila: There are more than two places..I just haven't been to all of em yet. :D Yay nyc!

Alison: Ahh yeah, dinginess is the style for most Chinese restaurants..but then they (hopefully) serve awesome food. Sometimes I'm attracted to a place because it's dingy. ;)

Kate / September 20, 2008 8:01 PM

Vegetarian food seems to use a lot of deep frying...I think I like that:)

Everything looks yummmmmy tho...I kinda wish I could reach through the screen and eat things:)

roboppy / September 21, 2008 5:20 PM

Kate: Or at least some of the more delicious vegetarian foods involve deep frying...siigh...

Chubbypanda: Monks are from Vegetarian Dim Sum House. Mm monks.

Melinda / September 23, 2008 2:05 PM

I tried the "shrimp" w/ mayo, broccoli and walnuts at the Vegetarian Dim Sum House, it was good and taste just like the real dish! you should try it!

leigh / September 28, 2008 10:01 AM

now, let me tell you. I'm a total carnivore. I mean it. I very rarely eat anything that has no meat content. But this - and in particular those felafel pita - look amazing. Keep it coming

Anastasia / October 5, 2008 11:41 PM

I just had the 'taim falafel for the second time after scheduling my Saturday around it. Then headed over to Batch for a caramel salted carrot cake cupcake, only to be wonderfully surprised by their new selection of macarons. Yes, macarons. I had the peanut butter and jelly and my companion had the coconut passion fruit. Mine was the clear winner. I kept thinking to myself about what a Robyn Afternoon I had - 'taim falafel and macarons. MMMMMMM. Oh, and I tried the hot sauce and mango chutney this time. So good.

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