Plant-based diets have soared in popularity over the past few years. In fact, according to GlobalData, there has been a 600% increase in people identifying as vegans in the U.S. alone in the last three years. And contrary to popular belief, there’s more to these diets than just simple salads—you CAN get creative. While meat lovers around the world may be skeptical of enjoying a meal made of mostly grains and greens, these New York vegan/vegetarian restaurants prove that plants and meat substitutes can be delicious.
Sol Sips - Williamsburg
Far wiser than her 22 years, Francesca Chaney opened the permanent location of Sol Sips this past April in Brooklyn. The homey “bevs and bites” location is inspired by everything soul, from music to food. The name Sol Sips was even born from Chaney’s musical past; she sang in a duo called Sol and Luna, believing in the power of music healing therapy.
Now she’s more focused on food therapy, putting a heavy dose of healthy ingredients into all of her vegan drinks and snacks to fuel her customers. “The wellness perspective on food has always been a big interest to me, using food as preventative medicine and ways to heal ourselves has been my passion,” explains Chaney.
Sol Sip's Sawai Sweet Smoothie outside their Brooklyn shop
Chaney is happily incorporating her roots into her restaurant. One of Sol Sips’ standouts is the green banana tamale, a traditional recipe from Belize that she learned from her grandmother. “That’s a simple dish that has always been vegan, and it wasn’t necessarily branded as vegan in the culture,” says Chaney.
Her favorite thing on the menu? The bacon, egg and cheese. Sol Sips brings a vegan twist to the New York breakfast staple, using tempeh bacon, chickpea egg, and Violife cheese. “It’s something that is hard to find anywhere else,” says Chaney. “It’s very earth-based.”
In a year, she hopes to see her business expand to other areas of New York via pop-ups. She also has her eyes on a Zagat award and is looking to extend her own community outreach. Within a few months, we might find some Sol Sips bottled drinks on our local shelves.
Erin McKenna’s Bakery - Lower East Side
In 2005, Erin McKenna set out in the Lower East Side to create a bakery free of harmful ingredients while wearing cute uniforms. Her first bakery is still there, with additional locations in Los Angeles and Orlando and a nation-wide shipping reach if you’re ever caught craving her desserts anywhere else in the U.S.
Erin McKenna’s Bakery looks exactly like what you’d expect any other bakery to look like. There are pastel-colored cakes displayed in the front window and a small counter with a glass display, for you to point to your choice of dessert if you feel so inclined. However, this commonplace seeming spot comes with a large title: It’s the country's leading gluten free, vegan, certified kosher bakery, and McKenna herself is a bit of a superstar.
Erin McKenna's Lemon Sugar Cookies. Photo courtesy of erinmckennasbakery.com
Having appeared on Martha Stewart, the Today Show and Rachel Ray, McKenna has forged her path as one of the best bakers for those with food allergies and sensitivities—or just those who are looking to indulge in a better-for-you sweet.
The crowd pleasers are the red velvet cupcakes and delectable donuts.
Little Choc Apothecary - Williamsburg
First-time restaurateur Julia Kravets sought to create a healthy restaurant that offered food that was good for your body. It wasn’t until she watched Earthlings, a documentary about human economic dependence on animals, that she decided she couldn’t ethically make a living supporting animal cruelty. The result: New York City’s first fully vegan creperie offering an array of sweet and savory options.
“I'm enjoying the challenge of convincing people that vegan and gluten-free crepes are not going to resemble the experience of eating chalk. The difficult part is getting people past their preconceptions, and actually trying our stuff--after that, they're hooked,” says Kravets. Photo courtesy of Patrick Yandoc
Besides crepes, Little Choc Apothecary is also stocked with 100 different herb varieties for any custom tea combination imaginable, earning the term “apothecary.” Herbs are also available to be taken home by the ounce.
Her advice to other women starting off in the restaurant industry? “Be a Jane of all trades. I encourage people to keep a calm demeanor, and work through each problem as it comes along. There's a problem to be solved at every corner, and you can't be discouraged or overwhelmed by that, because that's what's going to drown your business.”
The Butcher's Daughter - Nolita
As a self-proclaimed “vegetable slaughterhouse,” the Butcher’s Daughter avoids the mess of meat in favor of carving deliciously fresh pant-based options incorporated into mouth-watering meals. Serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch, they truly do it all, and have built quite the plant-based empire.
The Butcher's Daughter opened their West Village location in 2016, their second in NYC, having already established itself as a popular venue. There are also locations in LA, and another coming to Brooklyn soon, so keep your eyes peeled. Tierney is dedicated to buying locally-sourced ingredients and relies on Head Juiceologist, Brandi Kowalski, to develop the tastiest of juices.
Smashed avocado toast with a sunny-side-up egg from The Butcher's Daughter
If visiting the cozy Nolita location, you’ll immediately notice the Butcher’s Daughter settled snugly on the corner of Kenmare and Elizabeth St.
It looks as if it were dropped there from a hygge-filled Danish town. The entrance is flanked by wooden benches always teeming with hungry customers, not matter the time or day. Sunshine yellow flowers, vibrant juices boasting the colors of the rainbow, and wicker baskets brimming with fruits and greens are just a few of the enticing sights. That being said, the dishes are the real stars: avocado toast topped with a sumptuous, runny egg, creamy açaí bowls with coconut granola, spiced wellness lattes, and a plethora of other healthful delicacies. Even the most carnivorous of carnivores would find themselves sated after a Butcher’s Daughter meal.
Dirt Candy - Lower East Side
After an impressive ten years of professional cooking under her belt, Amanda Cohen decided to start Dirt Candy in 2008. Chock-full of creative recipe ideas with no outlet to test them while working for someone else, Cohen found the ultimate solution: become her own boss.
Dirt Candy’s menu is inventive and ever-changing. From classic dinner items with a plant-based twist, like the jalapeno hush puppies and brussels sprout tacos, to unexpected desserts, like onion chocolate tarts and carrot meringue pies, expect to be surprised. How does Cohen pick what to put on her menu? Whatever idea pops out of her brain and onto the plate. “Unlike a lot of places that lock their menus, I’m constantly putting new dishes on the menu. Come here in January then come back in December, and you won’t recognize the meal. I love making new dishes, it’s where my heart is.”
Dirt Candy's Onion Chocolate Tart with Almond Ice Cream
Not one to romanticize her niche industry, Cohen admits her vegetables aren’t handpicked from a garden or market. “I love this image of chefs strolling through the green market with a wicker basket, sniffing carrots,” she says. “I get my vegetables where pretty much everyone in the city gets their vegetables: in a box, off a truck. People already don’t eat enough vegetables, so I don’t see the point in making them sound even more elitist and ridiculous.” Forgoing an idealistic stroll past leafy produce does not pose a problem for Cohen’s popularity, as Dirt Candy has been praised by the New York Times, the Village Voice, and the New Yorker.
"I’m constantly putting new dishes on the menu. Come here in January then come back in December, and you won’t recognize the meal. I love making new dishes, it’s where my heart is"Though she has received her fair share of positive press over the years, Cohen acknowledges the glaring disparity in recognition of women versus men in the food world, women typically receiving less coverage than their male counterparts. She advises other women to “put [their] head down, work harder, and figure out a way to do more with less” as well as to support each other. “If we’re not helping each other, then what’s the point?”
Dr. Victoria Bateman, an esteemed economist best known for her nude protests for gender equality, uses her body as a form of art that serves to challenge the stigma around women's bodies and women's rights, in the world of economics. In March 2018, Bateman attended the annual conference of the Royal Economic Society in Brighton stark naked with the word "respect" written across her chest and stomach. Unbashful in delivering her message, Bateman was determined to start a conversation.