My Favorite Dishes in NYC (That Don't Contain Meat!)
If I'm going to waste my money on any little luxury, it's probably going to be food. My jewelry is cheap, my jeans are from GAP, my face masks are from Target, and my socks are 1.00. And I want my money where my food is---completely gone, licked clean, sitting in my stomach, and probably covered in a sauce. Why not? Everything disappears eventually, no matter how much Lisa Vanderpump covers her house in purebred dogs that don't walk and diamonds and expensive roses and things. So I'll get my fleeting joy where I can get it, and that's carried on a platter and topped with parsley. Also: I'll probably never get over the joy I get from food after depriving myself from enjoying it for so long. That's an added bonus.
Still, dining in NYC is expensive. It's hard to navigate. And oftentimes, you can spend your hard-earned cash on rubbery noodles or nachos that have oily shredded cheese that has melted to the state of barbie doll plastic. So that's why I'm giving you a list of my tried and true favorite dishes. These particular ones don't contain any meat (as far as I can tell, although if you're vegetarian you may want to ask your server if the pasta is rubbed on a chicken or something beforehand). Why? Well, I talk a lot about eating meat less on this blog, but the truth is this: I think the creativity of a good restaurant is sometimes showcased by how they handle their vegetarian (or vegan) dishes. Here are some of the best ones I'd be happy for you to spend your money on:
1. Butter Lettuce Salad from L'Artusi
L'Artusi is my "birthday dinner" choice almost every year. The service is really great, the food is relatively well-priced (for a special occasion dinner), and literally every dish I've ordered is fantastic. It's got a great wine list, too, if you don't mind reading for a few hours. It's also very pretty--there's wood and dark blue walls and little candles everywhere. And the olive oil cake! And the fresh pastas! But there's something I have to order every time I go--the butter lettuce salad. It's basically a giant chunk of perfectly crisp butter lettuce with shaves of blue cheese, toasted hazelnuts, and olives in a lemon cream dressing. It's the perfect. Salad. Crisp, creamy, crunchy, and that good ole uptown funk from the cheese. I love it.
2. Broccoli Hot Dogs from Dirt Candy
My bff and I love going to Dirt Candy, as it's all vegetarian (and vegan-friendly) and she's vegetarian, so it's rare we can go to a restaurant where she can get anything on the menu. But somehow, we always end up ordering the broccoli hot dogs. Yes, they are grilled and smoked stalks of broccoli in hot dog rolls. Kind of. But try them. They taste like real hot dogs, sans the weird texture of hot dogs. And the bread is fantastic. And the mustard barbecue sauce is spoon into your mouth good. Dirt Candy's dishes are all great, by the way, and the cocktails are weird-delicious and made from vegetables.
3. Sheep's Milk Agnolotti from Lilia
Lilia is a new restaurant in Williamsburg that is hard to get into and worth making a reservation 1 month ahead in many regards, but nothing was better than the sheep's milk agnolotti. I last went there...maybe six months ago and I'm still thinking about it. The other stuff was good, albeit a little expensive, but this dish makes a glass of wine and a bowl of pasta one of the better dinner experiences you can have in NYC. They're like boyfriend pillows filled with ricotta that's a little smoother and a little tarter than cow's milk ricotta. It's topped with saffron and honey, for this bit of sweetness that makes this one of those salty/sweet combos I know you'd literally run to empty your wallet for.
6. Hummus from Newtown
This is my favorite brunch, really, in Williamsburg (which is where I live so yes, a lot of the places on this list are around there...I'm a hermit, okay?). I love hummus, but I'm over crappy storebought hummus. You have to find a good place that serves it freshly made. This tiny little place is that for you. Share a couple of hummus plates (topped with tahini or falafel or warmed chickpeas or hardboiled eggs) and then get their egg sandwich or their labne sandwich as a main course. Get the pickles. Get the chai. This place is cash-only, so just throw your money in the air or whatever you do when you have cash on you. Then go to one of the bars around there.
7. Vegan Tomato Ramen from Samurai Papa
I love ramen, because getting ramen broth all over yourself and your clothes is fantastic when you're an adult like I am, but I don't like pork. This place solves all my problems. The tomato ramen is creamy and spicy and tomato-y, the vegetables are soft and oily, the scallions crunchy, and the noodles. Are. Perfect. Add an egg on top if you can!
8. White and Greens from Roberta's
Roberta's is one of the cooooolesttt placessss in Brooklyn, and you've probably heard about it a million times and I'm here to say: not a lot of things are extremely worth it about this place when you factor in the hassle it takes to get a table. If you can get here during the summer, early on when their good happy hour is available, you might have a great experience. You can sit outside on their patio and drink something frozen. But if you go here when it's cold during their normal hours, you're stuck waiting for an hour or two, either crammed in the entry way or at a bar nearby. Then you sit in a communal table stuffed with people, in a place with a long bathroom line, and you drop a lot of cash. But! All that aside, some of the food is super dope. Take the White and Green pizza---a dream for freaks like me who love their salad pizza. It's a white pizza with plenty of spicy greens on top, lemony and covered in parm. Definitely. Yes.
9. La Muleta Arepa from Caracas
If you haven't had an arepa, you should get one from Caracas. There are a few locations in the city (and at Rockaway Beach, so if you go in the summer, stop there!) and they all have delicious food, although the East Village location is very small if you want to bring friends. The crispy, buttery arepa shells are filled with all types of things, and the hot sauce here is actually my favorite hot sauces of all time. But my favorite one to order out of all the choices is La Muleta-- with jalapeños, plantains, and a griddled cheese that tastes a bit like halloumi, it's so darn good. As a Puerto Rican who is obsessed with sweet plantains, I have to get it every time. Caracas can be crowded, so get there kinda early, order at least one michelada, and the plantains with guac.
10. Grilled Romaine Caesar from Modern Love
Yes, I really love salads. Modern Love is a new vegan comfort food kinda place, and while a lot of the options are delicious, kinda decaddenttt, and filling (the rice balls are all three!), my favorite thing is the Grilled Romaine Caesar salad. It has polenta croutons. The dressing is garlicky and briney from capers. The parmesan is made from crushed up pumpkin seeds. And the quick grill done to the romaine brings out a smoky flavor while barely wilting the outside and still keeping it crisp. It's really interesting and delicious.
11. Cadillac Nachos from The Commodore
Okay, The Commodore is a pain in the ass bar that you have to fight for a seat in. The bathrooms are disgusting. You order your food at the bar, which is nearly always packed. Nothing about this would be worth it if the food wasn't so damn incredible and the cocktails weren't fun and a little tiki-ish without being too all-inclusive resort. But the food! I have to order The Cadillac Nachos every time. They are on my "what is your last meal" list. I don't even want to share them. They are covered in white cheese sauce, spicy refried beans, a few different hot sauces, crema, scallions, and topped with radishes. I love these even though I HATE cilantro and pick it off. It is the best thing in the world. I cannot stress this enough.
12. Vodka Pizza from Rubirosa
Thin crust pizza, crispy without being burnt, coated in delicious vodka sauce and rounds of fresh mozzarella. That's it. While the White and Green pizza from Roberta's is charred and doughy, this is the exact opposite--well-sauced, and really so crispy. Load it up with red chili flakes and get the Rubirosa salad with it, too. Or top it with roasted red peppers.
13. Jackfruit Crab Cakes from Black Flamingo
A lot of the (all vegetarian/vegan) food at Black Flamingo is good, and the potato latke tacos are very good, but my favorite part about this meal was the Jackfruit Crab Cakes. I seriously couldn't get enough of them. The jackfruit was flaky, much like a regular crab cake, and had all the flavors typically associated with crab. The slaw on top and the chipotle aioli were *kisses fingertips*. I'll get it every time I go, and I think about it often.
14. The Snob from Brooklyn Burro
This used to be right near my house, and I still miss having the option to get it. B'klyn Burro is fantastic for many reasons, including the avocado salsa and the pickled jalapeños, but this burrito was just perfect. Filled with avocado, salsa, crema, cheese, rice, and refried beans (get the refried black beans!) it's the perfect San Francisco style burrito, and the proof I give to people when they tell me that Mexican food or Tex Mex food in NYC sucks.
15. Cacio e Pepe from Upland (pictured in first photo)
Pretty self-explanatory. Al Dente Pasta, mixed with parmesan and lots of ground pepper. Upland has a lot of fresh, farm-to-table stuff, but who cares? Pasta does not seem farm to table, but I can make plenty of jokes about "table to my mouth."
16. The Beet Ketchup and Fries from By Chloe
By Chloe is trendy, crowded, and over-instagrammed for a reason: it's delicious, healthy-ish, creative, and colorful. And it's all vegan. And while the other stuff is very good, go there simply for the beet ketchup and air fries. THE BEET KETCHUP. The potatoes are fried in air, but who knows how the hell anyone does that? They're crispy and salty and perfect. And you can get them in sweet potato form, if you're out of your MIND.