Everyone likes a list, and this list is especially list-like since I’m about to name my favorite picks for every vegan category a human bean could possibly imagine up. This year (for me, at least) was the year I decided to really expand my scope of what truly defines delicious vegan food.
Just because something is organic and fair-trade doesn’t merit a higher spot on my list just by that criteria… you can have the most ethically sound vegan burger but have it taste like cardboard, and no one is gonna buy it.
Conversely, slathering your food with tons of Daiya and seasonings also doesn’t impress me. It’s all about the whole experience, from the courteousness of the waitstaff to the coziness of the bathrooms (just kidding… kind of).
So with that in mind, let’s get on with it!
Best vegan restaurant
Once again, the spot for my favoritest (sic) vegan restaurant has to go to one that has also been open the longest. Buddha Bodai is cheap, delicious, reliably filling and unparalleled in making me feel totally satiated and happy after each visit. Their vegan dim sum is the stuff of my foodie wet dreams.
Favorite dishes: Shrimp Rice Roll, Pan-Fried Seafood Noodle, Dry Sautéed Beef Chow Fun
Yeah, so they don’t have an A letter grade. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? And they miscalculated my bill one time, by adding the tip onto the fixed price, but they fixed it. NBD!
Blossom on Columbus (UWS)
For when I feel like being semi-fancy and on-vegan-trend, I head over here for some stellar, high quality neo-Americana cuisine. Since they moved to a new location a few blocks north, the space looks and feels roomier, more chic, and romantic, all pluses in my book. And the waiters seem to be nicer. Can anyone say upgrade?
I also forgot my eyeglasses here after a particularly late night… and they held onto them for me! BOC, you’re 110% awesome.
Favorite dishes: Seitan Scallopini, Mushroom Ravioli, Southern Seitan Sandwich
Eating here can get a bit pricey, if you decide to eat a full meal with apps and wine, but then again, why bother making money if you can’t enjoy it in the form of yummy vegan food?!
This is a very recent addition to my best-0f list, since I literally tried Champs for the first time over the weekend. Where have you been all my life? Oh yeah, all the way in goddamn Brooklyn, no wonder.
I’ll begrudgingly trudge out to hipsterville for this joint’s finger-lickingly delicious entrees when I have the stamina for that ridiculous hour-plus commute there, though. Because damn, it was worth it.
Favorite dishes: everything I had when I went: Nachos & Country-Fried Seitan.
I’ll say it again: the soul-crushing commute.
Ahh, Hangawi, the restaurant that makes you take off your shoes. I’ve been a solid patron of this place since I first discovered it about 3 years prior, and ever since, I make sure I wear my cutest socks when I visit.
But seriously, besides the whole shoes-off thing, I really do like their food. Korean vegan isn’t super common… mainstream kimchi has anchovy, shrimp and fish extracts in it, so I shed a sad tear whenever I go to a regular restaurant and can’t eat it. Hangawi makes me feel more human by having complimentary vegan kimchi with every dish.
Like most of my complaints, this place is $$$. But the ambiance and stellar service really can’t be beat (and for those prices it’d better be great!).
Best non-vegan restaurant with vegan options
Everyone knows you can’t go to a vegan restaurant all the time. Thankfully, many restaurants nowadays have one or *gasp* two vegan dishes so you don’t feel like a culinary leper each time you go out with your friends. Yay for not needing to starve around omnivores!
This super-popular Thai joint is a hit with both laypeople and Yelpers alike (all 1,500 of them!). They have a dedicated, expansive vegetarian menu that can satisfy the pickiest vegan (me), and a slamming outdoor space that’s super breezy and refreshing to sit in during the summer.
Plus, the portion sizes, flavor, and overall yumminess of their food is incomparable when you’re looking for a solid Thai joint.
Ok, so the staff is pretty rude. They ignore you for awhile unless you’re really flailing your arms. Shooting eye daggers at them doesn’t help, either. I’m pretty sure they hate me unless I eat with another Asian person, because all the times I’ve brought friends/dates that weren’t Asian, they totes ignored me. Racist much? I kid, I kid. Kinda.
Vegan Mexican, I can never get enough of it. Complimentary salsa and chips? Check.
Super nice waitress? Check.
Huge burritos that don’t break the bank? CHECK CHECK AND DOUBLE CHECK!
Benny’s is my new favorite Mexican joint in the city, because honestly, Hotel Tortuga just hasn’t been cutting it recently. Sorry, turtle, I still sorta love you.
I can’t really think of anything bad about this place, besides that the bathroom is tiny and the place is kind of dark. Oh, and they didn’t have cloth napkins? Yeah, that wasn’t even a complaint.
Ok, so maybe it’s unfair to have TWO Mexican places on this list, but I can’t help it! Maybe once Mexican food stops being so tasty in vegan form, I’ll stop. No, never.
The only reason why I put De Mole second here is because it’s all the way in Sunnyside. But they have THE most delish guac, chips, and hibiscus flower water I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting.
Their menus are also very Día de Muertos chic, colorful and cute… along with the matching wall décor.
Plus, super nice service! If I could eat here three meals a day… I might just do that, but they’ll probably think I’m totally insane.
It’s all the way in Sunnyside. That is all.
Best vegan bakery
Vegan Treats – Atlas Cafe
No doubt about it, VT always has a place in my sweet-tooth-satisfied heart. And Atlas always makes me happy with their delish vegan goodies straight from VT HQ… tiramisu, blueberry cheesecake, whoopie pies, strawberry shortcake… yeah, let me stop before my drool destroys my keyboard.
Best place to shop for vegan food
Whole Foods –
It’s convenient, it’s almost everywhere, and no, it’s not particularly affordable, but you’ll get the latest mainstream vegan products here, along with plenty of vegan baked goodies to choose from. Sweet and Sara, Tofurky, Wholesoy & Co., Daiya, they have it all. Whoop whoop!
Best vegan makeup line
Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics –
Recently, I’ve been into highly concentrated, colorful eye shadows, and there’s no better company to trust my makeup cravings with than OCC. One of my favorite items they make is their eyeliner pencil, which goes on smoothly and lasts through a rough night of dancing.
Plus, their lip tar tubes go a long way: I’m still using mine from a year ago! Don’t tell anyone that…
Best vegan skincare line
Tata Harper –
If I could afford to buy any skincare line in the world, I would go with Tata’s. Everything she makes smells super delicious and naturally fragrant, and it’s literally a pleasure to put it on.
My favorite item is their Rebuilding Moisturizer, which smells like a live flower garden and makes my face all dewy and happy, like #iwokeuplikethis.
Also, for some inexplicable, I-really-hope-they-never-change-this reason, her Refreshing Cleanser smells exactly like Froot Loops. Hey, I might not want to eat it, but smelling like organic Froot Loops? TOTALLY.
Best drugstore vegan skincare line
Obviously, girl likes a deal. So for those cheapy fixes, I turn to Shea Moisture’s wholesome products. They’ve been ramping up their presence in my local drugstores, to my utter delight. And almost everything they make smells awesome and makes me feel happy I didn’t pay $80 more for something I’d use up in a week!
My favorite item of theirs so far is their Lemongrass & Ginger Bath, Body & Massage Oil, which is refreshingly citrus-smelling and goes on fast, soaks in quick, and totally relaxes me when I put it on.
Best place to shop for vegan clothes
Everyone has a favorite store, and mine happens to be one that pretty much everyone knows. I’ve found some awesome vegan hats here, and supercute vegan dresses that don’t break the bank, at up to 90% off with TONS of brands to choose from (I sound like an ad now, lol).
Their generous 90-day return policy also can’t be beat (although with such good deals, why would you bother?)!
Best place to shop for vegan shoes & bags
Excess is the word: and DSW has a lot of it. Tons of vegan shoes to choose from, and even dedicated vegan brands like Mix No. 6, Madden Girl and Pink and Pepper. Plus, if you love the hunt, you’ll definitely be rewarded here: I’ve found vegan Sam Edelman patent loafers and BCBG two-tone platform heels here that are still two of my favorite pairs out of my very large shoe closet. I just can’t get enough!