New York City is full of restaurants that deliver the unexpected. A nearly 80-year-old Jewish deli run by a Yemeni family, scallion pancake burritos lowered from someone’s fire escape by bucket, bagels to rival New York’s delivered from Connecticut. After all, isn’t that why we live here? The ever-present possibility that something exciting could be right around the corner.
That’s what I had in mind when I started thinking about restaurants that aren’t vegetarian, but treat vegetables and other non-meat dishes in such a surprisingly loving way that they feel as if they were made for vegetarians? Here are just a few options that I find so thrilling they have me reconsidering my omnivore status altogether.
Misi, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is the first to come to mind. You might be thinking, a pasta restaurant? Really, Nikita? But Misi is so much more. It has one of the most impressive and well-considered antipasti lists you’re likely to find on that side of the East River. Consider the earthy trumpet mushrooms sprinkled over the Instagram-famous crostini with whipped ricotta. Or the plump little butter beans in a shimmering pool of olive oil. Maybe Swiss chard studded with pine nuts is more your steeze. I’m so enamored with how the vegetables are treated here that I’m just as inclined to choose a vegetarian pasta for my entree: Run, don’t walk, to the corzetti.
Look to the Middle East
A tip I cannot emphasize enough: Middle Eastern and North African restaurants always have a way with vegetables. One place that perfectly represents this is Miriam, an Israeli restaurant with locations in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and the Upper West Side. So much of the menu is vegetarian-leaning that adding meat is an option. Think turmeric-dusted cauliflower over a swirl of green tahini, and kebabs made with “meat” from Impossible Foods.
My colleague Kasia Pilat — whose adorable illustrations you may have seen as part of the meal plans that Tanya Sichynsky puts together for her New York Times Cooking newsletter, The Veggie — is mostly vegetarian. She says (and I agree) that my above theorem holds up at Sofreh, a Persian restaurant in Prospect Heights, calling their smoked eggplant with frizzled onions “BONKERS good.” What’s more: The cauliflower entree with walnuts and pomegranate is not a sad excuse of a vegetarian main. That’s truly the highest praise a vegetable lover can give a restaurant that also offers a lamb shank the size of a pro wrestler’s fist.
And Something Just For You
Or perhaps you’re simply tired of accommodating meat eaters. I hear you: Going out to eat should be a two-way street. But New York is full of uncompromising one-way streets that work just fine, thank you very much.
Let this then be your umpteenth reminder that Superiority Burger, in the East Village, is finally open. The namesake burger is one of the best veggie burgers in the city, though I find myself drawn to the focaccia sandwich stuffed with long-cooked collard greens. (As a lifelong anemic, I need the iron.) Beets sprinkled with fried pretzels? Yes, please. Spiced lentils and cornbread, absolutely.
You can enjoy those veggie burgers until 1:45 in the morning if you have a hankering and are in the East Village on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night, as part of the restaurant’s pared-down Night Shift menu. New York is (maybe) back, baby!
In Other News …
I received so many great responses to last week’s newsletter about where to eat with picky parents. (I also got your recipe requests; thank you, please hold!) Kenzie D. said that Periyali, a Greek restaurant in the Flatiron district, “can accommodate groups” and is on the quieter side. Matthew R. took his parents to Vic’s, in NoHo, where they enjoyed the simple menu while rubbing elbows with the “N.Y.U./hipster crowd.” Lacey B. says her “picky mom” loves Frank, in the East Village, not least because she “has crush on the bartender.” And Michael R. said he usually takes his parents to Turkish Grill, in Sunnyside, Queens, which is “delightfully low-key but still delicious” and offers dishes his parents can’t get in their hometown.
Pete Wells reviewed the Mexican restaurant Tobalá, in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, founded by a chef and his wife who fell in love with Oaxaca while on vacation. The restaurant, which serves carajillo cocktails and dishes like duck enmoladas with mole negro, “tries to stay true to Mexico without getting precious about it,” he writes.
Openings: Jaffa Cocktail + Raw Bar, from the CookNSolo team, joins Laser Wolf and K’Far at the Hoxton hotel in Williamsburg; Donna, which closed during the pandemic, is reopening in the West Village as a cooperative; and 929 and Gulp is serving Taiwanese takeout and Chinese-inspired cocktails in Long Island City, Queens.
Restaurant service charges are here to stay, even though diners and employees don’t always know where the money is going, Priya Krishna reports.
The Chino Latino restaurants of Manhattan have found a new audience, Christina Morales writes, from viral TikTok videos explaining their history and menus of dishes like lo mein and mofongo.
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