Friday, April 3, 2015

Vegetarian tourist in New York

I Finally managed to download the last images of our trip to NY, and just to set the records straights, we were there only for 4 days so don't read this as a specific 'guide' for vegetarians and vegans, but just as a reportage of our trip, a veg family of four on holiday, experiencing the city while avoiding meat and fish. By 'experiencing the city' I mean doing most of those things that tourists do: visit sites and museums, shop, and this does include eating the local food, mostly in proximity of the above locations.

I had two distinctive culinary memories from my previous visit to NY many years ago, one was NY style pizza, and the other was bagels. And of course we had doughnuts and coffee (and hot chocolate for the kids - far too sweet btw) on arrival, but these are not worth reporting of photographing… 
We started with the pizza on the first night, after a cool (and chilly) walk from 9th to 5th Ave and back. Near our hotel there was just the right place, one of Patsy's pizzerias. Of course the pizza is different from the ones that you find in Italy, but it was just what we expected, NY pizza served on those high trays at the centre of the table and with grated Parmesan cheese on the side (so US, you don't get that here or in Italy), and in a busy place with lots of families eating out and celebrating birthdays, plus real Italian immigrants (yes, funny that I would say that!) serving at the tables.

The morning after we wanted real Jewish bagels for breakfast, and once again we were lucky to be staying in  Chelsea, and near Murray's Bagels

My favourite kind, poppy seeds and cream cheese filling

The bagels were great but the bakery small and busy and didn't make for a relaxing breakfast - so the day after we had breakfast at our hotel, which I highly recommend as it was good value, varied, and with a lovely home-made feel to it. And the same goes for the hotel too, I'll go back there anytime!
It is central, with basic but large and clean rooms, and being an ex convent (still run by Nuns) incredibly well priced. Thank you Mallie for telling us about it!

The view from our hotel, with snow!

After two consecutives carbo loaded meals and a long visit to the Empire State we decided to have raw juices for lunch, and headed for a juice bar just across the Empire State. Here I had a bad experience though, the cashier, after realizing that I needed help understanding the dimes and cents, and I was obviously a tourist, gave a fake $50 note for change, and I only realized when I tried to spend it later on in another shop. Not only it was embarrassing to be told that it was fake, I found out that it was illegal even to have one on me. We ripped it up, not worth going back to the place where we got it, and took it as a lesson - always check your money, but not just from street stalls and small shops, even in mainstream chain stores!  

Food shopping: I really wanted to visit a Wholefood store, and it didn't disappoint! Everything they display is so good and fresh, we bought a few things to take back to our room and eat on the second night, too tired to go out again.

More food shopping can be done in Chinatown, and then Little Italy where I had to try the cannoli (not bad). Here I expected to see more Italians, but all the staff in the cafe were Latinos, and when I asked for a slice of lemon with my tea they told me that they didn't have it (and couldn't care less). Then I spotted a lady coming from a side door, she was the Italian matriarch for sure, I could tell! I went over with the excuse of taking photos and told her that an Italian cafe must have a slice of lemon somewhere (in a colloquial way, of course). And yes, she went behind the counter, opened the fridge, reached at the back, and found a lemon for my tea :-). 

But to tell the truth Chinatown and Little Italy were not exactly the 'destinations', but just on the way to Nolita (North of Little Italy) to find the Fjallraven store, where Arantxa wanted to buy her backpack. We were quite impressed by her finding the store on google and leading us to it, so determined to get the latest cool accessory before starting school. And Nolita is definitely a cool neighborhood in NY.

And the best Italian experience in NY was Eataly

I couldn't believe how good it was, just look at this fresh produce for sale!

One the third evening we went for Japanese, seeing that they always have Veg options:

We had vegetable tempura, tofu, and the usual variety of vegan sushi rolls with fresh and pickled vegetables...

… plus a new type that I have never seen before: peanuts rolls! Yes, little sushi rolls with salted peanuts inside. I wonder if this is a NY (USA) invention. 

On the last night we wanted to try a proper Vegan restaurant, so off we went to Angelica Kitchen with a local friend who we haven't seen in decades! The restaurant advertises itself as organic and plant based cuisine. Well, it was a bit like a blast from the past, I could just imagine Angelica (if she really exists) as a 60's hippy who hasn't changed the menu since becoming a vegetarian herself. Somehow I was expecting something a bit more 'modern' in NY, or at least not as bland as this. I liked the lemonade, the rest was… what can I say, 'interesting'. The two types of cornbread were so heavy it took me two days to digest them (and I only had a couple of bites), the hommus was ok (but really, you cannot possibly mess up hommus, could you?) but the portion was tiny, the kimchee didn't taste anything like kimchee, and the mains and soups were something out of a 70's British cookbook, (i.e. the kind of books that lost more people to the vegetarian cause that the smell of bacon).
Still, if you like this kind of cuisine here are some photos, sorry about the quality, it was quite dark, but everything was brown anyway.

Hommus and pita, and lemonade
Soup of the day and Angelica cornbread
Three bean chili and Southern style cornbread
Noodle soup
Can't quite remember...
Tempeh sandwich
On our way out from Angelica's Kitchen I noticed the Italian restaurant next door which probably took advantage of passing Vegans to advertise a Vegan menu. Well, it didn't look half bad, especially the mains and desserts, maybe next time I'll straight there, unless you can advise something better :-).

We spent most of the last day in MoMa, and the restaurant looked quite good, but it was far too busy and with long queues, so we only opted for coffee and pastries at the coffee stand, but it didn't matter, sometime you must put art before food!

And the most unexpected and pleasing Veg experience in NY? Well, you won't believe this, but for me it was at the airport! We had a late flight from Newark Liberty International Airport and we managed to get into one of the lounges to kill the time. Well, I usually don't expect much from most airport lounges, but here I was pleasantly surprised: there were lots of vegetarian options, both cold and hot, and quite sophisticated! Salad with artichokes, eggplant involtini, noodles with tofu… and lots of fruit and nice drinks and snacks. Veg travelers really appreciate these things, so thank you EWR.

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©


  1. Adoro NY è semplicemente magica!!!
    Ti abbraccio e ti auguro Buona Pasqua



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