Food

10 Best Restaurants for Vegetarian Food in New York (Even if You’re Not a Vegetarian!), 2013 Edition

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There are plenty of vegetarian-friendly restaurants in New York. Some deal in chewy gluten strips and meat facsimiles, others turn out raw foods and seed pastes, but there are plenty of places where you don’t need to be a devotee to enjoy the food.

Go for a meatless meal at these restaurants for a reminder that vegetables are wonderful, complex, and crucial, and that vegetarian cooking is truly a thing of beauty. From cheap-eats counters to sophisticated tasting menus, here are our 10 favorite places to eat like a vegetarian in New York right now:

Maimonide of Brooklyn
There’s a lot to love about this upbeat vegan restaurant on Atlantic Avenue, named for the Jewish physician-philosopher who made a splash in the Middle Ages. We know it’s hard to take stuff like kale chips and veggie burgers ($15) seriously in 2013, but the Brooklyn café makes insipid vegan staples fresh again with house-made sweet potato rolls, yucca fries, and a little hip hop. 525 Atlantic Avenue, 718-797-2555

Cocoron
It can be tough for vegetarian noodle-soup lovers in New York. But while most shops’ broths are made sweet and silky with pork bones, Cocoron’s meatless version finds depth and flavor from seaweed and dry mushrooms. The broth is a lovely accompaniment to the fresh buckwheat noodles that Yoshihito Kida and Mika Ohie prepare each day ($7.80 – $14). The shop hasn’t been making yuba regularly lately (ugh, soy-milk supplier issues), so consider yourself lucky if the creamy folds are available. 37 Kenmare Street, 212-966-0800

Saravana Bhavan
Some of the most delightful vegetarian food in the world comes from southern India, and at this sunny outpost of the Saravana chain in Kips Bay there are fine renditions of regional dishes like crisp dosas stuffed with spicy, half-mashed potatoes, and thick, pleasingly greasy uthappams. The best dish here might also be the cheapest: hot idli and sambar ($5): Tender steamed rice cakes served with an excellent rendition of the complex, spicy stew, and a side of coconut chutney. This isn’t the lean monkish fare you might be imagining — don’t be shy to ask for extra ghee. 81 Lexington Avenue, 212-679-0204

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Le Verdure
Eataly is a theme park of Italian food, packed with tourists and well-dressed office workers here for espressos, quick lunches, and salumi gawking. Elbow your way through for a seat at the small, but bustling little Le Verdure, one of the most underrated spots in the city for Italian-style vegetarian food. Try risotto made with farro, semolina gnocchi baked with mushroom ragu, and simple charred eggplant rolled up with fresh ricotta. The prices are a bit steep for a cafe (entrees average at $18), but the food is quality. Eataly, 200 5th Avenue, 646-398-5100

Taïm
This wee counter offers hearty Israeli street food in the West Village, and it’s been a Fork in the Road favorite since we first tasted its delicious falafels dosed with house-made harissa, roast peppers, or fresh herbs. When we’ve got a really big appetite (or a really bad hangover), Taïm’s glorious, messy sabich still beckons — an overstuffed pita of fried eggplant, hard-boiled egg, salad, and hummus. 222 Waverly Place, 212-691-1287

Dovetail
Head to the Upper West Side on Monday evenings for Dovetail’s sophisticated, vegetable-centric prix-fixe, where you can choose four courses of John Fraser’s excellent cooking ($46), or visit any evening for a long-form vegetable tasting ($85). Pastry chef Michal Shelkowitz’s fine desserts make use of vegetables too, like the sticky toffee cake made with sweet parsnips. 103 W. 77th Street 212-362-3800

Danji
You may have forgotten, but there’s plenty of excellent vegetarian food among Hooni Kim’s small plates in Hell’s Kitchen, including glass noodles with Korean peppers, dressed tofu ($8), and a couple of seriously deluxe rice dishes ($12). And for those vegetarians who usually have to turn down Korean-style fermented pickles, Kim offers several kinds of kimchi made without the traditionally fishy ingredients. 346 W. 52nd Street 212-586-2880

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Blue Hill

Dan Barber’s West Village restaurant serves some of the most elegant vegetarian dishes in the city, with a menu that changes every night (5 course/$85; 7 courses/$125). At the moment, all sorts of winter produce is getting the VIP treatment — a recent menu included parsnips cut and cooked to mimic risotto, and sweet celery root noodles garnished with shavings of cured “immature” eggs. The kitchen has a way with vegetables. 75 Washington Place 212-539-1776

Dirt Candy
Amanda Cohen’s little restaurant in the East Village is as smart and fun as it is delicious. Vegetables (a.k.a. dirt candy) are the stars of the menu, and you’ll find them presented in unexpected ways, even brightening up the desserts (eggplant in the tiramisu!). Cohen’s kitchen stands out with its strong, unique point of view, and it’s a must-visit for food lovers in New York — even the ones who aren’t over that whole pork belly thing. 430 East Ninth Street, 212-228-7732

Kajitsu
Ryota Ueshima has been running the kitchen at this East Village gem for about a year, continuing the restaurant’s tradition of Shojin, the elegant, vegan Japanese cuisine that evolved in the country’s Buddhist monasteries. Ueshima changes the menu each month as his predecessor did, to show us seasons within the seasons. January’s menu features beautifully prepared arrowhead, burdock, and lotus roots, snow peas, golden beets, and chayote, to name a few. It’s ideal for a special occasion (8 courses/$80) or a quiet, life-affirming dinner (4 courses/$50). 414 East 9th Street 212-228-4873

Read the most recent posts on our food blog or check our longer weekly reviews. Contact the writer at trao@villagevoice.com, @tejalrao.