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Veggie spring in New York

Vegan southern chicken burger

New York is amazing for vegetarians. This is my main discovery from a week in the insomnia city. From high to low, all sorts of establishments cater to vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians and other kinds of -ians. Shops store veggie-friendly ingredients rarely seen in Brussels, and cheap, well-run restaurants serve meatfree delicacies seemingly without blinking.


Since I spent most of my holiday in the city strolling around cherry blossomed streets and eating myself into heaven, I didn’t photograph much. But here follows my list of veggie greatness in New York (ordered by fancyness):

  • Dovetail. This Michelin-starred establishment has a Monday night special with a four-course “vegetable-focused” menu, and it was absolutely fabulous. The top notch included grilled fennel with avocado cream, black girolles and deep fried squid.
  • Neighbouring the Dovetail, also on upper West side, is the vegan Blossom café. I opted for their Southern seitan sandwich (like a southern friend chicken burger), and was completely floored by its juicy, chipotle-y, avocady amazingness. It was so American and heavy that I couldn’t finish my plate, and I ate nothing else for the rest of the day.
  • Zizi Limona in Brooklyn. Cute and ambient, offering mouthwatering meze and smoked eggplant.
  • Five guys. This cheap and cheerful chain serves up dripping, meaty burgers with any toppings you like (there are 15 of them, so the burgers easily get overstacked). I picked grilled mushrooms, pickles, lettuce, bbq sauce and onions which made the burger almost impossible to hold together. But the best part is that because of their slightly exaggerated toppings, we discovered that their pseudo-option for vegetarians (a hamburger minus the meat) is actually really tasty.
  • Supermarkets. If you manage to go outside Manhattan, the posh superfoods markets are great for veggie options. Granted, they’re pricey, but not really compared to European standards if you’re bringing speciality ingredients home. Seitan and tofu is found in abundance. Of course, they are difficult to bring back, but there are other goodies to be found: I came back with full stocks of New York pickled cucumber, kosher salt, Chipotle chillies and supergrains to add to smoothies.

Classic vegan burger with cheese and bacon

More than anything else, New York impresses by having so many restaurants that caters for all tastes – there isn’t such a clear meat/non-meat division as in many European cities. So while there’s often meat on the menu, there’s no let down if you decide to eat simply veggies, or simply fish. I take it that the trend of making more with vegetables, hailed by the likes of Noma’s Rene Redzepi is established much more firlmy here than in Brussels. Sadly, we never managed to get a reservation at veggie hotspot Dirt Candy, but their motto seems telling for the status of NY greens: “Anyone can cook a hamburger… leave the vegetables to the professionals”.

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