As a native New Yorker, there are a few foods that one finds hard to live without, having consumed them practically since birth, but most of them sadly do not fit the bill for vegan requirements. The following are a few suggestions for keeping to a vegan diet without sacrificing some classic NYC delights:
This is the quintessential NYC food that I thought I would never taste again after going vegan. However, there are two excellent alternatives now:
Two Boots Pizza, with locations on 45th and 9th, in Grand Central Station, and in the East and West Villages, has two vegan options, the delicious V for vegan with a cheese made from tapioca, artichokes, onions, and a decadent basil pesto sauce (my personal favorite) and the Earth Mother, which boasts an assortment of veggies on a thick whole wheat Sicilian crust. Recently they added the option of ordering any of their pies with the vegan Daiya cheese.
Viva Herbal Pizzeria has a location on 2nd Ave between 11th and 12th, and another one on Broadway between 97th and 98th streets. They have many options which are either cheeseless or use Daiya cheese, with endless combinations of veggies, tofu, and seitan toppings. The crusts are usually whole wheat or spelt, and there are gluten-free options. They also offer an assortment of terrific vegan pastries.
Bagels and Cream Cheese
There's just nothing like a toasted bagel with a schmear, and luckily, many bagel shops throughout the city now offer not one, but many, tofu cream cheese options.
Brooklyn Bagel, my personal favorite, has a location on 23rd and 8th in Chelsea and 3 more in Astoria, Queens. They have a host of delicious options for bagels and mini-bagels, as well as several flavors of tofu cream cheese.
Ess-A-Bagel, with locations in Gramercy and Midtown East, has an even wider selection of tofu cream cheeses and classic Jewish bagels.
These are merely the standouts-- the number of locations now offering tofu cream cheese is so large now that I could not possibly name them all in this post. If you're craving a bagel, it pays to just pop into the nearest bagel shop and ask if they have tofu cream cheese. The answer is increasingly likely to be yes!
Hot dogs, I have to confess, are the ONLY meat food I missed when becoming a vegetarian. When I have a craving, I usually just pick up some tofu hot dogs from the health food store and prepare them at home, but sometimes on a summer afternoon, a yen to walk down the street while stuffing my face with a hot dog will strike. If I happen to be on the Lower East Side, I have a few options.
Crif Dogs on St. Mark's offers a vegan dog with veggie toppings which is quite reminiscent of a hot dog stand hot dog. If you don't mind buying from a place which also serves meat, their dogs are quite yummy.
Kates's Joint on 4th and B has several hearty options for vegan hot dogs, including those topped with vegan chili, vegan cheese, onions, and BBQ sauce. Their restaurant is entirely vegetarian and offers a host of vegan junk food options.
While the foods mentioned here may not be stellar examples of healthy eating, their vegan versions certainly pack less of a fat and cholesterol punch than their originals. Who says healthy eaters can't indulge??