A vegan, a vegetarian, a pescatarian and an omnivore walk into a restaurant. Just kidding, they’d never agree to eat anywhere together. We’ve all been there: You eat anything, Cindy is a vegan and Tom is a weekend-vegetarian who occasionally eats fish. Now try finding a restaurant that all of you are excited to go to.
But guys! Cindy is the coolest, and you don’t want to spend a lifetime not going out to dinner with her! Tom’s cool too, but more malleable on the subject. Is there a way to bridge the gap between the two worlds without sacrificing taste, paying way too much for a single meal or listening to each other grumble? Of course, all vegan restaurants are also omnivore-friendly but what about that stubborn friend who feels like they will die if they don’t eat a dead animal for every single meal? Brooklyn is home to many restaurants that can appease every diet without starting a civil war across the table, if you know where to look.
Now, there are a number of great vegetarian restaurants in Brooklyn, of which this list is not a definitive ranking. As a lifelong carnivore and vegan skeptic, my goal is to find restaurants that don’t just replicate a meat-based diet, but instead, use all of the clubs in the vegan bag to create a menu that works for everyone (except Paleo, let’s save that for another day).
The vegan says: Hi it’s Tim, your friendly neighborhood vegan Brokelyn editor, weighing in throughout this post for Team V. Just a reminder that vegan food is still food; your vegan friends have definitely sustained themselves on french fries and whiskey at many restaurants you’ve insisted on going to for dinner, so don’t be scared to check out some new things at a few of these places!
329 Flatbush Ave., Prospect Heights
Cuisine: Pan-Asian, vegan
Dao Palate is a great staple on Flatbush Avenue that has quelled many dining debates in my time in Brooklyn. This is a restaurant that does so much so well. Straightforward vegan dishes like vegetable medley lettuce wraps are a delight, and General Tso’s soy protein with broccoli does the trick if you’re in dire need of protein or have a whiny carnivore on your hands.
As a vegan skeptic, I’ve forgone other local Thai joints in my neighborhood and instead called up Dao Palate for my Pad Thai fix when I want something that feels light without sacrificing flavor. Did I mention the sauces? The homemade mango salsa is usually paired with the scallion pancakes, but I recommend ordering it as a side and adding it as the perfect sweet undertone to any of the grilled protein on the menu. The portions are robust, with fresh vegetables sourced locally and the most expensive item on the menu coming in at a very reasonable $14.50.
The vegan says: This place is legit, high-quality pan-Asian cuisine that can appeal to everyone. It’s less greasy than your typical Seamless Chinese food order but it still does the trick for treating a hangover. Any of the soy protein dishes are solid and filling, and appetizers like the curry samosas are super tasty.
197 Meserole St., East Williamsburg
Cuisine: Diner-style American comfort, vegan
Oh man, do I love a good diner, and Champs does not disappoint. It has all the vibe of an old-school diner, checkered linoleum floor, art deco booths and counter service for those not lucky enough to get a table. Staples like biscuits and country gravy and strawberry cream milkshakes line the menu, and are served by a friendly staff of tattooed pixie punk dream girls.
But Champs isn’t just trying to put a vegan spin on the diner experience; the chefs have put together some truly creative dishes. With offerings like seitan asada fries, or the Soltero Bowl (made of soy-based chorizo, quinoa, home fries, garlic sauteed kale and bell peppers … yum) they’re not trying to sell you on a healthy lifestyle, they just want you filling up on really delicious food. The joint is very popular, so get there early if you want a table, or grab one of their vegan scones to go if you just want a delicious pastry to kick off your morning.
The vegan says: Champs is a great homage to the memories of the Jersey diners of my youth, except minus the greasy disco fries, cigarette smoke and everyone I went to high school with rapidly plotting how they would never end up leaving our home town. You’d have a hard time not getting fully satisfied here no matter your diet — all the meals are hearty, delicious and cruelty free. I’ve yet to take a meat eater here who didn’t walk out satisfied.
60 Greenpoint Ave., Greenpoint
Cuisine: Pizza, vegan and omnivore
Paulie Gee’s is a restaurant that 100 percent knows its audience. The dine-in only pizzeria splits its menu 50/50 for the vegan and carnivorous set. From starters to pies to desserts, the menu can accommodate even the most fickle eater. And it’s not limited in scope either: the vegans at your table will have as much to choose from as the omnivores.
Baby arugula and cashew ricotta dollops sound good? It’s on the menu. Numu vegan mozzarella and pickled grape halves more your speed? There’s a pie for you too. Paulie Gee’s also makes its own vegan tomato sauce, vegan sausage and jackfruit meatballs, so you know they mean business. Don’t worry omnivores, no one forgot about you. There are literally two different types of pizza that have brisket as a topping.
This is a great spot if you want to have a night out that feels festive but not over the top. The interior looks like a renovated carriage house, and combined with candle lighting and the large wood-burning oven, the restaurant has a very cozy feel that’s perfect for a special occasion without breaking the bank — the personal pizzas start at $12.
The vegan says: Definitely the most romantic vegan pizza spot in town, Paulie Gee’s is a huge mixed-menu win too. The creative stuff like jackfruit meatballs and NUMU cheese are at the forefront of vegan dining trends.
Although most famous for their perfectly seasoned jerk chicken and oxtail, vegans should not count out the Crown Heights Caribbean staples. The Islands offers a vegetarian menu that includes eggplant in a (dairy-free) coconut cream sauce that is so rich and filling, with their famous spicy rub just daring you to take a breather in between bites.
A few avenues over, the menu at Glady’s may only advertise a few vegan main dishes (jerk seitan and Guyanese chow mein) but with the exception of a few items on the main menu everything is vegan, including the free ice cream they bring over at the end of your meal (which I only discovered after many meals there). The jerk seitan is flavorful and tender, and the sides like spicy slaw and bok choy make for good group sharing no matter your dietary restrictions.
Don’t forget to order one of their fantastic frozen cocktails, but look out for the Painkiller; it sneaks up on you FAST. Neither restaurant takes reservations and the Islands is famously tiny, so either make a plan to arrive early or get your dinner to go.
The vegan says: Glady’s is one of my favorite restaurants in Brooklyn right now, and it’s a place that really gets it (“it” being that you don’t have to gunk up all side your dishes with meat and dairy for no good reason). It’s a rare place where you can get a huge shareable order for everyone at your table.
525 Atlantic Ave., Boerum Hill
Cuisine: Americana, vegan
MOB is one of those vegan restaurants I was tricked into going to by some wily friends on a health kick who knew I would protest if told the whole truth about our brunch location. With the tagline “Vegan for Carnivores” I was obviously skeptical. But, damn, MOB was absolutely delicious. Each menu item is so well thought out, flourishes like the chamomile blueberry syrup on silver dollar pancakes, or the savory combination of sweet potato and cashew cream that makes for a light mac & cheese substitute. I’ve returned several times, even sans vegan friends.
The extensive menu gives you plenty of options. You can go for a heavier meal like a seitan meatball sub or go lighter with the chilled honeydew soup—paired with a glass of lavender champagne, it makes for the most refreshing snack on a hot day. The vibe is cool as well, long communal tables in the dining room, quirky art decorating the walls, coin free arcade games, plus a spacious backyard for sipping iced coffee and relaxing. If you’re going for brunch, make a reservation; though spacious, it fills up very quickly over the weekend. [UPDATE: MOB announced that it’s closing after five years on July 24, so get there while you can!]
The vegan says: RIP MOB 😭
1084 Flushing Ave., Bushwick
Cuisine: Ethiopian, vegan
After a few years raising their profile through different events around Brooklyn, Bunna was able to open its first brick and mortar shop following a successful Indiegogo campaign. Bunna is an Ethiopian restaurant that serves only vegan cuisine, but between traditional coffee ceremonies, communal plates and live music, the cafe is a great place to have a long leisurely meal, sharing a feast plate of spicy red lentils in berbere sauce or sauteed beets with a group of mixed-diet friends.
Bunna may be one of the newer restaurants to open its doors in Brooklyn, but between the flavorful food, traditional coffee ceremonies and relaxed vibe, it’s becoming a neighborhood favorite.
The vegan says: Most Ethiopian restaurants have lots of vegan dishes, but Bunna really nails its commitment to the cuisine. It’s a welcome break from the trendier restaurants opening in Bushwick of late.
1032 Union St.
Cuisine: French Caribbean fusion, vegan and pescatarian
A lesser-known hub on this list, Ital Kitchen marries classic French dishes with Jamaican flavor. Opened in 2013, the restaurant is one of many Caribbean spots in Crown Heights, but one of the few to offer an almost entirely straightforward vegan menu (they do have fish on the menu, if you cannot be without a dead creature on your plate for a single meal).
The neighborhood spot has an unassuming vibe, brightly colored walls, a few two-tops and picnic tables in the dining room. The kosher-vegetarian menu includes a number of items that change daily based on local produce and featured dishes like the ackee stew, burgers made of sun-dried tomatoes, and chickpeas and coconut pancakes with sorrel syrup. The restaurant has a cozy backyard that’s perfect for diners who want to enjoy the summer nights and a spicy avocado salad on wheat bread. Note: Ital Kitchen is BYOB, so plan accordingly.
The vegan says: Caribbean places are traditionally vegan-friendly; I haven’t been to Ital Kitchen yet but the creativity on the menu here should be appealing to everyone.
Couldn't help it! Two Boots Super Vegan slices are AMAZING!!!! pic.twitter.com/S7cvFgb9DC
— E. Joey Torres (@ThePrimalVegan) November 16, 2015
Cuisine: Pizza, vegan and omnivore
Oh Two Boots, you lovable, quirky New York staple. Did you know that Two Boots has a TON of vegan options? I did not. The chain is known for its pop-culture inspired pies and rotating slice options, as well as seemingly strange pairings that somehow blend together to create a slice of thin crusted heaven.
The Earth Mother, named for Bette Midler, was the first vegan pie on the menu; V is for Vegan, a pesto pizza created in 2011 in honor of the Occupy Wall Street movement, has only grown in popularity in the last few years, leading Two Boots to add more options for their hungry vegan clientele. Meat and cheese lovers need not worry: The Bayou Beast is always available for anyone who likes their ‘za topped with crawfish, shrimp and andouille. Or, keep it simple, and go with my favorite, the Grandma Bess, a grandma slice with fresh basil, San Marzano tomatoes and mozzarella. Once again, pizza steps up to melt away the discord between New Yorkers.
The vegan says: Two Boots is great for embracing vegan pizza so thoroughly in recent years, but a piece of advice: Don’t be limited by the special pies: Build your own pizza using vegan cheese/ingredients off the menu.
Do you have a favorite Brooklyn spot that caters to both vegans and omnivores? Let us know in the comments!