The Best Sustainable Restaurants in New York City

The nachos at Modern Love.
••• Modern Love
  • 01 of 11

    The Best Sustainable Restaurants in NYC

    NYC boasts over 45,000 food and beverage options.
    ••• NYC boasts over 45,000 food and beverage options. Oscar Wong/Getty Images

    New York city is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, and home to some of the best restaurants on the planet. With an expansive metro system boasting the most stations in the world, it makes getting around quite easy, and helps New Yorkers avoid the expense of driving a gas-guzzling car.

    But if you’ve got a taste for sustainability, there’s nothing more impactful than switching up what’s on your plate. You probably know that livestock, and not car emissions are the second-highest contributor to atmosphere-altering gases. They’re also the biggest culprits in land degradation, air and water pollution.

    When it comes to our resources, studies show a varied vegan diet requires only a third of the land needed for conventional Western diets and 100 times less water. These numbers become even more important as our population is predicted to double in the next 70 years, which will place an insurmountable stress on the already dwindling supply of fossil fuels, land, and water. To...MORE say nothing of the fact that 3.5 billion humans could live off the food currently fed to livestock.

    So while there’re no question that a vegan diet is more sustainable, you’re probably left wondering what the heck you’d be able to eat. 

    Lucky for us, the world of plant-based cuisine has blown up since its humble beginnings, with many celebrities coming out as vegan, famous restauranteurs serving vegan options, and delicious plant-based products taking supermarkets by storm. Even back in 2007 when I started Regal Vegan, good vegan offerings were paltry. That said, this is New York City - home to some 45,000 eating and drinking locations, and as a native New Yorker, I can tell you we take our food very seriously. Here’s ten great spots that get the Regal Vegan stamp of approval as the truly sustainable cream of the crop. 

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    Modern Love

    The nachos at Modern Love.
    ••• Modern Love

    Modern LoveFamed cookbook author Isa Chandra has come home to roost with a Williamsburg outpost of her Omaha resto of the same name. Come very hungry because the portions are huge, and you'll want to try everything. Stuffed Avocado, Hen of the Woods Piccata and Mac ’n’ Shews are big favorites. Somehow, you’ll have to try to save room for the excellent desserts, though as of this writing, I’m still full from the Truffled Poutine

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    Nix

    The famed Avocado Plancha at Nix.
    ••• Nix

    Nix:  The Avocado a la Plancha in tomato broth had me swooning the first time I went, and continues to impress me every visit. With a dedicated vegan menu, Jon Fraser’s sexy vegetarian restaurant focuses on making vegetables sing.  The food is luscious and flavors are surprising, carefully curated so you can go here with your hottest date, your finickyest foodie coworker or your friend with the expense account

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    Bunna Cafe

    Ethiopian food is not only delicious, but artful too.
    ••• Ethiopian food is not only delicious, but artful too. Toby Adamson/Design Pics/Getty Images

    Bunna Cafe: Forgive the cliché, but you must come to the neighborhood made famous by HBO’s Girls to eat with your hands at this cool vegan Ethiopian restaurant. You literally can’t order wrong - everything is delicious. The drinks are great, the coffee is special, and live music creates a very authentically Ethiopian experience.

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    Superiority Burger

    The best vegan burger in town.
    ••• The Washington Post/Getty Images

    Superiority Burger Once only open for a few hours a day to lines that wrapped the East Village block, feel grateful that this spot is now open for business all day (except Tuesday). Come for the hearty, drippy, signature burgers and stay (though it’s really more go) for the tiny menu of sides which are new and old, delicious and bold, and will leave you saying more please! 

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    Champs Diner

    Champs Diner serving up award worthy eats.
    ••• Champs Diner serving up award worthy eats. Champs Diner

    Champs Diner: Comfort food abounds at this retro, popular diner with delicious, plant-based spins on breakfast classics. Get the Bennedict and the banging Kale Caesar Salad, Tempeh Wings and some sweet baked thang as you hang with the vegan cognoscenti. For an even sweeter bonus, get thee to all-vegan Dunwell Donuts around the corner.

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    Kajitsu

    An example of traditional Kaiseki-style dining.
    ••• An example of traditional Kaiseki-style dining. Rhonda Gutenberg/Getty Images

    KajitsuThere’s something unassumingly simple about this midtown Zen Buddhist restaurant that seems to belie its Michelin Star. But hang on to your prayer beads because there’s nothing unsophisticated about this Kaiseki-style eatery. In fact you may just find magically plated, deeply flavored, gustatory Nirvana here made of harmoniously in-season vegetables you've never tasted in combinations you’ve never imagined.  

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    Clementine

    Don't miss these vegan cakes!
    ••• Jennifer McGee

    Clementine: Hint - when you go here to pick up that elusive vegan cake for your plant-based bestie sidle up to a Reuben while you’re at it in the airy, modern, plant-laced room adjacent to the bakery. You’ll find delicious sandwiches, soups, salads and tater tots alongside strong cups of coffee. Don’t leave without a slice of the freshly baked chocolate ganache raspberry filled cake.

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    Mother of Pearl

    mother-of-pearl-new-york-city
    ••• Ella Nemcova

    Mother of Pearl: Calling a Tiki Bar kitschy may seem redundant but this Lower East Side neighborhood spot does it with NY flair and Miami heat. Intricate, creative cocktails garnished up to there and served like you’re on a tropical vacation - sometimes, in a ceramic Shark - like its eponymous drink. The pupus are not to be poo-pooed as they are delicious, thoughtful and downright devour-worthy.

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    Riverdel

    A sample is never enough at Riverdel.
    ••• Grub Street.com/Michaela Grob/Courtesy of Riverdel

    Riverdel: A gem of a shop, this little gourmet cheese shop is so perfectly curated, you’ll want to buy everything. Stocked from floor to ceiling with fancy vegan dry goods from around the country (which are accessed by a charming rolling ladder) and a cheese case of incredible vegan cheeses, pâté, and house-made nut milks. Slink up to one of the three coveted window seats and order any of the soups & sandwich combos or go European style and take down the house-made Truffled “Billy” cheese with a baguette from Bien Cuit. 

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    Delice & Sarrasin

    Traditional crepes and vegan French.
    ••• Delice & Sarrasin

    Delice & Sarrasin: At this tiny West Village dedicated French, vegan restaurant, a fashion model of a waiter serves truly superb vegan cheese, with generous servings of house-baked bread made of imported French flour. It’s exquisite. And it doesn’t stop there. With a french maman as the chef de cuisine, the food comes out a dead ringer for all your Parisian favorites from Escargot to Steak Frites...except, nothing has died in the process. Using plant fibers, nuts, vegetables, mushrooms and grains, French cuisine has actually had new life breathed into it.