I’ve been exploring New York’s vegetarian cuisine for less than a year, but I’ve already come across some great restaurants, dishes, and chefs. Here are the 10 best meat-free dishes I ate in 2014.
10. Patisserie des Ambassades‘ comoros curry ($15)
Patisserie des Ambassades offers an in-depth menu of both Senegalese and French dishes. The comoros curry is a great place to start for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. This traditional dish from the tiny East African island nation of Comoros is loaded with a number of vegetables, including broccoli, corn, carrot, potato, green beans, peas, and onion, which sit in a yellow coconut milk curry, tinged with sweetness and soft spice. It’s heartier than soup, and it comes accompanied with a mountain of rice.
9. Veselka‘s vegetarian plate ($13.75)
Veselka’s vegetarian plate is a well-rounded example of Ukrainian cooking, and it features both the classic cheese and potato pierogies for which the restaurant is known. The pierogies also come with dipping sauces — the apple sauce is especially good.
8. Queens Kickshaw‘s gruyère grilled cheese ($9.50)
If you’re in the mood for grown-up grilled cheese, head to the Queens Kickshaw in Astoria. The restaurant’s gruyère grilled cheese is built on two slices of thick and crispy rye bread and garnished with caramelized onions, cornichon, and tangy pickled red onion, which curb the pungent taste of the gruyère and keep it from overpowering the sandwich.
7. Blossom du Jour‘s skyscraper burger ($8.50)
Sometimes what vegetarians miss most is a filling burger, which makes Blossom du Jour’s veggie burger a real treat. It’s loaded with vegan bacon, vegan cheese, and onion rings. Can’t really ask for more.
6. Crif Dogs‘ veggie special and waffle fries ($9-$9.45)
Another food vegetarians often crave: hot dogs. Crif Dogs fills that void! The restaurant’s veggie special swaps the regular hot dog out for a soy dog, and garnishes it with onions, tomato, cucumber, and jalapeños. (You can also sub that soy dog in for meat in any of the combinations on the menu.) Be sure to add the waffle fries.
5. Pies ‘n’ Thighs‘ hippie banjo ($7.50)
While Pies ‘n’ Thighs specializes in chicken, the restaurant does a superb job with the hippie banjo sandwich, which slides an over-easy fried egg, cheddar cheese, avocado, tomato, sprouts, and mayo between two slices of anadama bread, a thick, yeasty loaf with huge crunch. Get it at lunch — I wish it were available for dinner.
4. Dassara Brooklyn Ramen‘s mushroom ramen ($12)
It’s hard to find vegetarian ramen — most ramen is made with meat-based broth, and meat-free versions often fall flat. Enter Dassara’s mushroom broth. It’s laden with ramen noodles, cabbage, chives, wild mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and a soft-poached egg.
3. Empanada Mama Express‘s empanadas ($2.65-$2.85/empanada)
If you’re looking for a quick bite, Empanada Mama Express is a must. You’ll find many, many empanadas to choose from, but you should opt for the pizza empanada and broccoli and cheese empanada. You can’t go wrong with either.
2. Le Marécage‘s accra ($8)
Le Marécage’s accra appetizer is kind of like an excellent version of hush puppies. The dish features fried balls made from black-eyed peas — a vegetable popular in Africa — taro, shallot, and onions. The outside is crispy while the inside is soft; the dish is served with a side of light hot sauce, extracted from peppers.
1. Arepera Guacuco‘s vegetariana arepa ($6.50)
Arepera Guacuco’s offers a superb lineup of arepas, the best of which is the vegetariana. This cornmeal pocket contains a combination of slices of avocado, Venezuelan guayanes cheese, sweet plantains, and tomato; the contrast of the creamy, delicate avocado and cheese and the subtlety of the sweet plantains is particularly enjoyable.