A Vegan Foodie Weekend During a Pandemic…Downtown NYC Style
Living in the Hudson Valley is filled with many riches and I pinch myself often, but surprisingly we are a bit limited on vegan culinary experiences. The type of experiences that cities like NYC and Philadelphia can abundantly supply. Due to the pandemic, I have been reluctant to plan a weekend in the city, but felt it was finally time. While my cooking skills made the last 7 months easier and more bearable, I was aching for some wining and dining. Labor Day weekend seemed like the perfect opportunity for a foodie getaway and my taste buds have been relishing the weekend ever since.
My husband and I tend to gravitate to the East Village, West Village, and LES areas of NYC. Maybe we are drawn to the areas where we once bounced around happily and carefree, years ago, with a falafel sandwich in our hand, going in and out of bars/clubs and not wasting our time on boring things like food. Fast forward to now and our perfect downtown night is enjoying a delectable dinner and a more modest amount of booze. It happens to the best of us (sigh).
For this trip, we rented a studio in the East Village and enjoyed the culinary gems of our immediate area. We love our go-to favorites but also wanted to change it up a bit. These weekends are far and few between and we wanted to maximize the experience. If you are also feeling hesitant to venture into the city for an overnighter or extended weekend, I hope to put you at ease. NYC no longer resembles the apocalyptic scene from months ago and has worked hard on getting back up and running. Restaurants offer outside dining with safety procedures in place, very few people aren’t wearing a mask on the streets, stores are limiting the amount of people allowed at one time, and sanitizer is flowing. I have always dreamed of NYC having more sidewalk tables so I’m hoping this new dining situation lasts long after the threat of COVID.
Our One-Nighter Weekend List (you can’t go wrong):
Ravi DeRossi’s Ladybird and Avant Garden
(We look forward to dining at Night Music in the future!)
Ladybird offers tapas, wine, beer, and dessert. This place has been on my bucket list for a while. We ate outside, but I was able to peek inside and I can’t wait to return. It’s interior is a cozy, stylish, and decadent cocoon perfect for meeting a friend or a date and sharing some plates and conversation. Vegan eateries tend to be casual and café style, so a place like this really reinforces that vegans can have it all!
What we ordered:
Buffalo Maitake Buns, Green Pea Fritters, Eggplant, and Grilled Cheese
The steamed Bao buns were fluffy and doughy. The contents were balanced in flavor and texture. The Green Pea Fritters were crisped to perfection with a center that popped with acidity and fresh peppercorn. The Lebneh (“yogurt” sauce) was a silky counterpart to the crispy shell. If you enjoy a classic eggplant parm, you will enjoy the Eggplant plate. It consisted of two round, breaded, crispy eggplant patties topped with rustic marinara sauce, fresh basil, and creamy “ricotta”. The grilled cheese was a spin on the classic, and if you miss a good grilled cheese sandwich dipped in tomato soup, this one is for you. This was comfort food at its best and Ladybird proves that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to be special. As I always say, go with a classic but make sure you do it well!
There’s plenty of fine beer and wine on the menu but I went with a cocktail made with prosecco and cider. It was as delicious as it was gorgeous. Ladybird doesn’t offer hard liquor but who needs it with cocktails like this?
111 E 7th Street, East Village
Avant Garden is down the street from Ladybird, towards Tompkins Square Park. There are definitely some similarities between the two, but we were perfectly content visiting both on the same night. Like Ladybird, the plates are great for sharing. It is in a livelier location (near the corner of Avenue A) and great for people watching…something I took for granted the last few months.
What we ordered:
Brussels salad, Artichoke Toast, and House Made Spaghetti
I typically eat whole foods with little to no oil, so at this point I was in need of some crisp veggies and the Brussels salad seemed like the perfect choice. Nothing too innovative- candied walnuts, some fruit gastrique, crispy green apple, and Brussel sprouts- a salad that was greater than the sum of its parts and it really hit the spot. Flat breads and toasts don’t usually get me excited but I saw artichoke and I was in. Think of the most fresh and delicious spinach artichoke dip with a touch of black truffle flavor, a little acidity, and crunch from jicama and cashew on top of rustic bread. Let’s just say, I woke up later that night, fumbled in the dark of our rental’s kitchenette, and ate the leftover piece. The Artichoke Toast was indeed satisfying and tasty. My husband enjoyed the spaghetti and while I only had a taste, it was reminiscent of a carbonara pasta I once had, many years ago, in Italy. The frizzled green onions were not overlooked and such a delicious touch. Both Ladybird and Avant Garden put the emphasis on the veg, rather than substitutes for meat, and I really appreciate that. It truly amazes me how far vegan food has come and it’s only getting better!
130 E 7th Street, East Village
Matthew Kenney’s Double Zero opened in 2016 and it filled a void in me. When I first became vegan, I wondered how I would give up oysters on the half shell, lobster, a good Bolognese, and pizza. Cravings went away pretty quickly but the pizza craving continued. I grew up in North Jersey surrounded by some of the best pizza outside of Italy. You know the pizza I’m talking about. Thin-crust, made in a brick oven, with buffalo mozzarella. My father-in-law even makes his own mozzarella and still taunts me with it, but it’s all good now. I have lost the taste for many of the foods I once enjoyed. However, it helps to know that I can get my pizza fix at Double Zero. We decided on brunch, for this trip, because we may have had one too many cocktails the night before. What settles the stomach better than pizza?
What we ordered:
Potato Pizza and Truffle Cashew Cream Pizza
My husband ordered the Potato Pizza with thinly sliced potato, cashew cream, roasted garlic, and rosemary. He felt he made the right choice. I didn’t try it but his quote, “It was delicious. It was rustic and savory. Really good.” He ate the entire thing to back up that statement. Let’s get to the good part...my pizza. Truffles are polarizing for some reason and I have no idea why. People either love them or loathe them. My husband is the latter and it’s very annoying. Luckily, I didn’t have to share. My pizza was perfection down to the crust and on top of that crust was a generous amount of mouthwatering wild mushrooms, sautéed baby kale, creamy truffle cashew cheese, and a pop of acidity from the lemon vinaigrette.
Did I mention the charred pizza bubbles on the crust? DREAMY.
Double Zero has an upscale and unique beer list so we each had a beer. Hair of the dog…
65 2nd Avenue, East Village
We love Urban Vegan Kitchen in the West Village. Although we didn’t get a chance to dine there this time around, I had to get my favorite meal, Chick-Un and Waffles, to go. As far as dining in, I love it for it’s awesome staff, killer food, and incredibly cool vibe.
41 Carmine Street, West Village
Red Bamboo, in Greenwich Village, is a crowd favorite and great for bringing your non-vegan friends. It has a diner-sized menu filled with American and Asian comfort food. My husband is addicted to their Barbecue Buffalo Seitan Wings. We can never leave the city without an order, or two, of these caramelized “meaty” beauties.
140 W 4th Street, Greenwich Village
Divya’s Kitchen was around the corner from our rental. Although it’s vegetarian and not completely vegan, there was plenty for us. When we first arrived, and checked in, we got takeout from Divya's. We ordered the homemade mozzarella plate, focaccia, and spiced coconut chips (all vegan) to munch on for lunch, along with some wine, before heading out for the day. The food was fresh, organic, healthy, and delicious! Perfect food for bringing on a picnic in the park.
25 1st Avenue, East Village
Well my friends, it’s time for you to book your own foodie adventure! The weather is still beautiful and the food is calling. Next stop, Philly!
Plant-Based Consultant and Vegan Chef
Powered by Plants Consulting, Owner
New Paltz, NY
Powered by Plants Consulting is a comprehensive consulting business committed to providing individuals and organizations the support necessary to transition to plant-based food and practices through the development of a "soup to nuts" plan designed to streamline personal and business objectives.