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?”
Following are excerpts from "Unleash the Girls, The Untold Story of the Invention of the Sports Bra and How It Changed the World (And Me)" By Lisa Z. Lindahl
There is an idea that has popped up everywhere from Chaos Theory to Science Fiction and New Age memes known popularly as the "Butterfly Effect." Simply put, it is the notion that one very small thing—the movement of a butterfly's wing say, or the ripple in a lake caused by a pebble being thrown into it—can cause tremendous effect far away: the butterfly's wing a tornado, the ripple a large wave on a distant shore. Cause and effect, does it have limits? The field of physics is telling us that it takes only observation to bring a thing into being. We cannot consider these areas of investigation and not acknowledge that everything—everything—is in relationship in some way or another with everything else.
So, it is evident to me that commerce of any kind is, also, just about relationships. It all boils down, on every level to this simplicity. While we usually think of relationships as occurring between people—it is far more than that.
I used to teach a course in entrepreneurship specifically for women in The Women's Small Business Program at Trinity College in Burlington, Vermont. I made this concept of relationship and its importance central in how I taught the marketing thought process. I would stress that for a product or service to be successful, it had to meet a perceived need. There is a need, and it wants to be met; or it may be thought of as a problem to be solved. Or there may be an existing solution that is less than adequate.
For example: In my universe as a runner there already were a plethora of bras available, but they were inadequate for my purpose. The relationship between my breasts, my running body, and my bra was creating discomfort and distraction. A new solution had to be found, the relationship occurring when all these things came together had to be fixed. Utilizing this point of view, one sees a set of issues that need to be addressed—they are in relationship with each other and their environment in a way that needs to be changed, adjusted.
Nowhere is this viewpoint truer than in business, as we enter into more and more relationships with people to address all the needs of the organization. Whether designing a product or a service or communicating with others about it—we are in relationship. And meanwhile, how about maintaining a healthy relationship with ourselves? All the issues we know about stress in the workplace can boil down to an internal balancing act around our relationships: to the work itself, to those we work with, to home life, friends and lovers. So quickly those ripples can become waves.
Because Jogbra was growing so quickly, relationships were being discovered, created, ending, expanding and changing at a pace that makes my head spin to recall. And truly challenged my spirit. Not to mention how I handled dealing with my seizure disorder.
"My Lifelong Partner"
Let me tell you a bit about my old friend, Epilepsy. Having Epilepsy does not make any sort of money-making endeavor easy or reliable, yet it is my other "partner" in life. Husbands and business partners have come and gone, but Epilepsy has always been with me. It was my first experience of having a "shadow teacher."
While a child who isn't feeling she has power over her world may have a tantrum, as we grow older, most of us find other more subtle ways to express our powerfulness or powerlessness. We adapt, learn coping mechanisms, how to persuade, manipulate, or capitulate when necessary. These tools, these learned adaptations, give a sense of control. They make us feel more in charge of our destiny. As a result, our maturing self generally feels indestructible, immortal. Life is a long, golden road of futures for the young.
This was not the case for me. I learned very early on when I started having seizures that I was not fully in charge of the world, my world, specifically of my body. There are many different types of epileptic seizures. Often a person with the illness may have more than one type. That has been the case for me. I was diagnosed with Epilepsy—with a seizure type now referred to as "Absence seizures"—when I was four years old. I have seen neurologists and taken medications ever since. As often happens, the condition worsened when I entered puberty and I started having convulsions as well—what most people think of when they think of epileptic seizures. The clinical name is generalized "Tonic-clonic" seizures.
In such a seizure the entire brain is involved, rather like an electrical circuit that has gone out as a result of a power surge. I lose consciousness, my whole body becomes rigid, the muscles start jerking uncontrollably, and I fall. Tonic-clonic seizures, also known as "grand mal" seizures, may or may not be preceded by an aura, a type of perceptual disturbance, which for me can act as a warning of what is coming. The seizure usually only lasts for a few minutes, but I feel its draining effects for a day or two afterwards. Although I would prefer to sleep all day after such a physically and emotionally taxing event, I have often just gotten up off the floor and, within hours, gone back to work. It was necessary sometimes, though definitely not medically advised. I'm fond of saying that having a grand mal seizure is rather like being struck by a Mack truck and living to tell the tale.
Having Epilepsy has forced me to be dependent on others throughout my life. While we are all dependent upon others to some degree—independent, interdependent, dependent—in my case a deep level of dependency was decreed and ingrained very early on. This enforced dependency did not sit well with my native self. I bucked and rebelled. At the same time, a part of me also feared the next fall, the next post-convulsive fugue. And so I recognized, I acquiesced to the need to depend on others.
The silver lining of having Epilepsy is that it has introduced me to and taught me a bit about the nature of being powerless—and experiencing betrayal. I could not trust that my body would always operate as it should. Routinely, it suddenly quits. I experience this as betrayal by my brain and body. It results in my complete powerlessness throughout the convulsion. Not to mention an inconvenient interruption of any activities or plans I might have made.
Hence, I am the recipient of two important life lessons—and I was blessed to have this very specific and graphic experience at a young age. It made me observant and reflective, giving me the opportunity to consider what/where/who "I" was. I knew I was not "just" my body, or even my brain.
So, who or what did that leave? Who, what am I? Much has been written about trauma, and about near-death experiences, both of which seizures have been classified or described as. I won't delve into that here except to say that experiencing recurrent seizures and the attendant altered states of consciousness that sometimes accompany an episode (the euphemism for a seizure) changes one. It deeply affects you. It is both illuminating and frightening. It opens you up in some ways and can close you way down in others. For me it made it easy to consider the possibility of other ways to perceive, of other realms. And as an adult I became interested in quantum physics, where Science is pushing and challenging our long-held perceptual assumptions. Me, who was poor in math and disinterested in Science while in school! So if not merely body and brain, who am I? Spirit. And with Epilepsy's tutelage, I was encouraged to question, seek, try to understand what lies beyond.
Living with Epilepsy has also given me great strength. In realizing the futile nature of trying to have "power over" Epilepsy, I developed a deep well of "power within"—that inner strength that comes in the acceptance of that which one cannot change—and looking beyond it.
Through my experience building the business of Jogbra with the unique lens afforded me by my Epilepsy partner, I came to understand more fully the nature of power and what it means to be truly powerful.
Specifically, that having power and exercising it is not simply a manifestation of the ego. It need not be "power-tripping." It is how I wield my power that matters, making the all-important distinction between creating a situation of power over, power with, or empowering and having and creating strength in oneself and others.
Being powerful is a big responsibility.
To put all this another way: do I choose to create situations in which I am able to wield power over others? Or do I choose to empower others, sharing my strengths with them, while nurturing their strengths as well? The first is not true power. It is control. The second I believe to be the essence of true and positive power: strength. And integral to creating a more harmonious world, oh by the way.
While this may be apparent, even basic to others, it was an "aha!" moment for me. Too often in the years ahead I would give away my power and question my own strengths,. Time and again, however, my inner strength, my shadow teacher's gift, helped me survive and thrive until I could take responsibility for and embrace more fully my own power.
© Lisa Z. Lindahl 2019