Shena Louise takes a bite out of the Big Apple
New York: home of JFK Airport, iconic yellow cabs…and an abundance of wonderful vegan food. Our journey started with a nerve–wracking flight and a tumultuous taxi ride, excitement mounting as we careered over Brooklyn Bridge.
On our first night in New York we just had to have some of the city’s famous pizza. Heading over to Pala Pizza on Allen Street we were delighted to see a full separate vegan menu on offer. I went for funghi e salsiccia–which was veggie sausage, field mushrooms and hot pepper with Daiya Cheese, and my partner Ian opted for spaghetti e polpette–vegan meatballs with Daiya cheese. We split potato chips with truffle oil and herbs, and ended the meal with torti di carote with ice cream. Everything was delicious–a good taste of things to come.
“In true tourist style we enjoyed a guided tour around the Statue of Liberty, astounded to learn more about New York’s fascinating history.”
And there was a lot penciled into the diary: before any upcoming trip, as long time vegans we know to research, research, research–and I had plenty of time to do it. Two years in fact. To say the planning of this trip was stressful is an understatement, as it had all been done in secret. My partner Ian has always wanted to visit New York and it was a standing joke in our family, as every Christmas after a few glasses of red he would tell us all. I’d booked the entire thing in secret, using the time to find exciting vegan diners as well as deal with my fear of flying.
Jet lag meant we kept some strange hours over the next couple of days: wide awake at dawn we found ourselves snapping photos of other bleary–eyed tourists at 6am in Times Square–surprisingly busy even at that hour. Hunger for breakfast took us to VLife on 7th Avenue–a tiny restaurant with an extensive menu and takeaway service, where we were glad to rest after our long walk. We feasted on smoothies and breakfast wraps.
Fortified with the excellent grub, we took a water taxi. In true tourist style we enjoyed a guided tour around the Statue of Liberty, astounded to learn more about New York’s fascinating history.
Upon our return to dry land, we decided to enjoy another culinary experience, but a retail–based one this time. Whole Foods has become something of an institution–with its incredibly vast offerings and niche products. It was a vegan paradise–so much so I was glad I didn’t live near a shop like this, with its huge potential for spending too much money!
We quickly filled a basket, choosing from the many baked goods and cakes, frozen pizza, sliders, and meatballs, all kinds of cheese and mayonnaise. There was also a hot food station and salad bar, both with plenty of vegan options clearly labelled, and we filled a delicious carton each.
The next day after a sombre visit to the World Trade Centre we stumbled upon Peace Food Café on E 11th Street. It wasn’t one on my list of places to visit and I wondered how I had missed it during my planning. It was an opportunity not to be missed though so we went in.
The café was large, bright and very different to the other eateries we’d already sampled in New York. We both settled for the raw lasagna containing zucchini, mushrooms, walnut cheese, spinach basil mix and tomato sauce. To accompany it, we also chose PFC un–chicken basket with a ranch dip and chefs potato salad. The portions were substantial and I struggled to eat everything. After a short break, I did manage to devour most of a chocolate chip cookie sandwich and Ian, a portion of Tiramisu.
For Ian’s birthday treat, I pre–booked tickets for a showing of Les Miserables, beforehand we went for dinner and Quantum Leap on Thomson Street was our next port of call. Meatless fare with Asian and Mexican accents, soy milkshakes and vegan pancakes beckoned us. I opted for the Malibu vegan burger–a soy patty topped with avocado, portabello mushroom, roasted corn and black bean salsa. Both the food and the atmosphere were lovely.
East Village, a friend reliably informed me was a must for vegan food and home to Superiority Burger. So after a day of touring the city by bus we found ourselves there. Superiority Burger recently found itself all over social media after winning the World’s Best Burger Award. A vegan burger achieving the accolade has got to be a world first.
We expected great things as we approached the underwhelming building. As if in line with the small exterior, the burger itself was also tiny. With a nutty consistency, it was delicious and I could understand why it won.
Our New York trip would not have been complete without a visit to the popular Candle 79 on E 79th Street. The restaurant boasts deluxe, eclectic, vegan dishes made with organic produce and served in elegant surroundings. The taste and presentation of the food was excellent. I had a dish named angel nachos which incorporated layers of corn chips, ‘mozzarella’, guacamole and chilli beans. Ian opted for a starter of soup and we both had spaghetti and wheat balls for main. The restaurant was expensive but the portions were large and the food was well worth it.
With a midnight flight, we had the whole of our last day to enjoy. We met up with a friend of mine in Soho and dined at Wild Ginger Vegetarian Kitchen on Broome Street. The food was excellent, miso soup, seitan skewers; pan fried vegetable dumplings, followed by black pepper seitan–a delicious end to our trip.