Budget-Friendly Vegan Restaurants in New York City

Red Bamboo Lunch special menu

When it comes to vegan restaurants, New York City has an amazing range, plus countless others that are vegan-friendly. Budget-friendly eateries of this kind, not so much. The top-rated eateries in this category can carry a pretty hefty price tag, though. At any one of the more upscale vegan establishments, a typical dinner entree can break the $20 mark. Add a beverage, appetizer and/or dessert, and gratuity, and you can easily be looking at $40 to $50 per person.

If you’re visiting the Big Apple on a budget, you might plan for one special vegan meal. But even if you can’t — or won’t — the city offers many options for plant-based meals that won’t break the bank. Here are a few. Make sure to visit the web sites for hours and locations.

Red Bamboo on West 4th Street in Greenwich Village (which leans mainly vegan but has a few vegetarian options), has long been a favorite of mine. It’s a cozy place that can get hectic but rarely feels packed, and is a nice compromise between the more fast meal kind of places (like Terri and Blossom du Jour, below) and the upmarket Candle restaurants, Pure Food and Wine, and Blossom Café, which can really set you back a few bucks. Lunch specials (see web site for days and hours) are priced from $8 to $10, see photo, above. The dinner menu features many vegetable entrees as well as sandwiches and vegan burgers, with plenty of entrées under $12. Portions are generous. Especially budget-friendly are the burgers, priced below $7 before you add optional items like Daiya nondairy cheese, guacamole, and tempeh bacon.

Hummus Place – This Middle Eastern themed eatery has four locations in the city, all moderately sized. They get filled up, so go at odd times for a bit more breathing room. But the crowds are a testament to the quality of the food, which tastes fresh and homemade. The menu is has some vegetarian items, but it’s predominantly vegan without advertising itself as such; many authentic Middle Eastern dishes are naturally vegan rather than “veganized.” Their signature hummus plates, served with plenty of fresh pita, ensure that you won’t be hungry again for a while. My fave is the Hummus Mushrooms, at $11. You can also create your own meze platter for $10, or enjoy a generous bowl of soup for $6 with plenty of fresh pita bread. There are usually two soups, most always vegan and totally delicious.

Blossom du Jour, with four locations, is a healthy vegan fast-food franchise, is an offshoot of the upscale Blossom Café — one of those places you save for a special occasion. Du Jour, like Terri, is mostly take-out, but they do offer a few seats for those times when you just want to eat and run. As you’ll see from the menu, there’s a wide selection of sandwiches, wraps, and super salads under $10; and for less than a dollar more, you can build your own Blossom Bowl with grains, beans, tofu, greens, dressing, and other extra. There are always freshly prepared vegan sweets not listed on the menu, as well.

Terri, with two locations, one in an especially convenient in the heart of Chelsea, bills itself as “an all-vegetarian quick-service restaurant serving delicious organic super foods seasoned like familiar favorites.” It’s actually mostly if not all vegan, and it is quick-serve indeed, meaning you go up to the counter to order. There are only a few, counter-style places to sit. So save Terri for taking away a tasty lunch to eat in nearby Madison Square Park on a nice day, or one of those nights when you’re really tired and want to crash at your accommodations with a comforting meal. Terri’s menu is features healthier comfort food — sandwiches, wraps, hefty salads, faux “meat” specialties, smoothies —and most everything is under $10.

TeaNY is also in the Lower East Side, and is more of a breakfast-brunch-lunch-dessert kind of place, being only open until 8pm in the city that never sleeps. It’s about equal parts vegetarian and vegan. We’ve stopped in a number of times for coffee and vegan dessert but next time I’ll want to try fueling up with one of their savory offerings. Their 3-Lentil Chili served with vegan cheddar or tofu sour cream and toast (just $7!) sounds like it would fill up a person much larger than myself; I’m always up for a vegan BLT wrap ($9) or a tofu scramble with a choice of 3 items ($9.50). There are also bagel sandwiches and scones for under $6. Side note — TeaNY was founded by musician and vegan activist Moby.

If your budget allows you to get into the $13 to $20 sweet spot for vegan entrées, your choices widen considerably. Some of of NYC’s tried and true include Franchia, Wild Ginger, Sacred Chow, Angelica Kitchen, and Peacefood Café. John’s of 12th Street, a traditional Italian establishment that dates back about 100 years, now has a special vegan menu. It’s a nice idea for special occasions, but be forewarned, they don’t take credit cards.

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5 comments on “Budget-Friendly Vegan Restaurants in New York City

  1. Vegan NYC girl

    Pala is awesome, but one pizza will not be enough for two people who want more than just a snack. The pizzas are actually personal-size.

  2. Nava Post author

    Ah, that’s good to know. And $19 for a “snack” is not very economical after all. I think I’ll remove it from the list. Let me know if you have any favorites in NYC that would be more appropriate for this post — entrees under $12, and preferably, under $10.

  3. Jean Ryan

    Chipotle chain has filling veggie bowls for $9. I get brown rice, black beans, sauteed onions and peppers, tomatoes, sometimes corn, and always lettuce. Water from the soda dispenser is free but I usually have my own water bottle.

  4. Nava Post author

    Wonderful suggestion, thanks. It’s also important to order these kinds of vegan options from omni eateries so they can see there’s a demand.

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