A Beginner’s Guide to Being Vegan In New York City.

“Veganuary,” an experiment where my friends and I became vegan for a month, opened my eyes to the unique and exciting world of eating plant-based food. Sure, there were animal-based foods I missed, like Ferris cheesecake, Liz’s Place muffins, and Milstein Sushi’s tuna-avocado rolls, but the incredible vegan dining options that New York City has to offer ended up making up for it. 

The first spot on our list was Le Botaniste on Columbus Ave and 66th St, an entirely vegan and gluten-free fast-casual restaurant where we would start our vegan adventure. The veggie sushi roll was slightly bland and lacking flavor, so I recommend adding hot sauce to elevate the taste. 

The pasta bolo was delicious, but the “bolognese” sauce did not accurately imitate meat and had a surprising, if not unpleasant, crunch. The saffron aioli dressing on the botanical salad was spectacular. I recommend coming here for lunch and ordering a salad with your protein of choice.

Rating: 7/10

Next, we went to Spicy Moon, a vegan Szechuan restaurant in the West Village. The upbeat yet sultry ambiance makes this spot perfect for a girls’ night out. It lived up to its hype and massive popularity, so I recommend making a reservation as it was packed upon arrival, even on a Wednesday night. I still dream about the classic dan dan noodles; they had a perfectly thick and creamy texture with a savory and nutty flavor. The chicken bao bun does not accurately imitate a chicken taste but is delicious nevertheless. The veggie wontons had a chewy wrapper, reminiscent of ravioli. It has a delectable inside with a hint of peanut flavor. 

The bun itself had a slightly sweet taste and exquisitely fluffy texture. The mapo tofu does not compare to the other options on the menu; it is slightly bland and simply just not as special as the other meals we tried. For dessert, mochi perfectly refreshes the tongue after the burn of all the spicy appetizers and entrees; the passionfruit and coconut flavors had an excellent balance between sweetness and tartness. Even if you do not normally eat plant-based, I still strongly recommend Spicy Moon for its lively, vibrant vibe and, most importantly, the dan dan noodles. 

Rate: 10/10

Finally, we checked out Kame, an industrial-chic Japanese restaurant in Midtown. Their normal menu serves meat, so we asked for their separate plant-based menu. To my surprise, it is filled with many delicious vegan alternatives to their typical dishes. I started with the shishito peppers, then moved on to the vegan gyoza filled with the gentle flavors of mushrooms and cabbage inside a layer of chewy dumpling dough. Both appetizers were paired nicely with a ponzu sauce, which held a slight hint of citrusy sweetness. Both ramen dishes have green noodles with the perfect amount of chewiness, flavor, and flawless presentation. 

The shoyu tofu ramen has two pieces of grilled tofu inside a light broth with a deep, almost umami flavor; I would have liked the dish to consist of a wider variety of vegetables, rather than the vague few pieces of seaweed and scallion. The spicy vegan miso ramen lives up to its heat, but it was not overwhelmingly hot for me, thanks to the balancing miso flavor. The impossible meat on top of the noodles is so mind-blowingly similar to real ground beef that I thought I accidentally cheated on Veganuary! This spot is perfect for vegans to go with their non-vegan friends and still feel as though they are getting all the delicious classic dishes.

Rate: 9.8/10

Although Veganuary ended, it opened up my diet to a new range of sustainable yet delicious foods. I have incorporated vegan alternatives like tofu and lentils into my day-to-day meals and I found some of my new favorite dining spots in the city–emphasis on Spicy Moon. Even if you do not want to change your diet for a month, I encourage you to check out all of the above restaurants and explore what vegan fare has to offer.

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