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Budget Vegan Guide to NYC: Manhattan Edition

written by Veren Ferrera February 14, 2020
Budget Vegan Guide to NYC: Manhattan Edition

Trying to find cheap vegan food in NYC that’s not dollar pizza or prepackaged indigestion?

We’re here for ya in this Vegan Manhattan Guide, written by actual local vegan foodies. We’re not paid for or “hosted” influencers, and we’re not like those news sites or blogs that write vegan guides yet clearly haven’t been to (more than) half the places on their list. In this vegan NYC guide, like all of our vegan city guides, we have actually been to every spot on this list. We’ve done the eating, so get ready for our honest opinions on where to spend your hard-earned cash.

Finding cheap vegan restaurants in NYC is a metaphorical needle in a haystack/back-alley dumpster. The Big Apple bursts at the seams with the best of the best (for a premium) and the worst of the worst (for a slightly smaller premium).

Ask New Yorkers for a suggestion and watch as everyone clamors to opine on the best cheap eat and how it’s a better deal than everything else. Yet rarely will their choice reflect something that isn’t covered in cheese or stuffed with mystery meat that will semi-permanently anchor your stomach like the USS Intrepid in Hudson Harbor.

Now ask vegan New Yorkers and you’ll learn how distorted their sense of “cheap” is. Something under $10 in Manhattan isn’t automatically a deal. Case in point: Blossom Du Jour’s $9 bland crap wraps are no bigger than a pack of playing cards (I’m not exaggerating).

A vegan in New York’s existence need not be spent in Whole Foods during the day and lurking inside questionably decorated, overpriced vegetarian bistros at night. 

We’re here to show you there are alternatives – you just need to know where to look. Since 2010, I (and now Sam) have been scouring this concrete jungle for its plant-friendly corners.

These are our favorite spots to get delicious cheap vegan food in NYC. All meet our core criterion: the sweet intersection between the appropriate price for given quality. You’ll notice that many places have multiple locations. In the interest of avoiding repetition (and keeping this post a somewhat reasonable length), we’ll describe and mention each place just once and direct you there when it comes up again! We’ll start with the the neighborhoods that have the most spots for cheap vegan eats in NYC, and work our way up from there.

$ = meal under $10

$$ = meal under $15

Omni = a place that serves nonvegan food as well

Looking for cheap vegan food in Brooklyn? Read our guide here.

Looking for cheap vegan food in Queens? These Queenies have got your back – read our guide here.

Want Budget Vegan Travel Tips you can use anywhere? Read this guide.

Cheap Eats for the Vegan in Chinatown, NYC

Chinatown is a secret treasure trove of vegan goodness. There are almost always vegan options available at Chinese restaurants, but why settle for vegetable lo mein if you can find an entirely vegan Chinese restaurant in NYC!?

$ The Original BUDDHA BODAI Kosher Vegetarian Restaurant – all vegan

Hot damn I almost bo-died for this Buddha. Just make sure you’re at the right spot. The nearby “Vegetarian Dim Sum Restaurant” is underwhelmingly mediocre. And though Buddha Bodai’s name indicates that it’s a vegetarian restaurant in NYC, it’s actually all vegan!

Buddha Bodai serves dim sum and a la carte dishes. While there are plenty of veggie dishes, the mock meats here are the star of the show. A popular favorite is the BBQ pork, and oh my lord is it a stomach full.

It’s tender, chewy, tangy, with a greasy crisp. If you loved the BBQ pork back in your pre-vegan years, and haven’t had it in a while, this is pure gluttonous nostalgia. Maybe someone who recently had the pork one can tell the difference, but it’s a blessing for those who can’t nor care.

The steamed dumplings and buns are fantastic. Often I peruse international/Asian supermarkets to find the best non-MSG dumplings, only to usually be disappointed with what I bring home. These were quite perfect – thick and chewy, but not mostly dough like some dumplings. And the filling of veggies and mushroom were tender and identifiable, instead of the usual shredded cabbage, or worse, the unidentifiable mush filling.

An interesting twist is the fried rice shumai which is served steamed. Also very chewy. If extra chewy is your jam, Buddha Bodai has got you covered. 

Get: BBQ pork, any steam bun, dumpling or shumai. To up your budget game, come midday for the lunch prices (weekdays 11-4 pm), when everything is cheaper than evening prices. They even offer a $7.50 lunch special, which is frankly one of the best vegan Manhattan deals that exist.

$ Vanessa’s Dumpling House – omni, vegetarian options labeled

When hanging in lower Manhattan, Vanessa’s was always my pre-bar destination for some affordable yet delicious vegan dumplings in NYC.

Most divey bars in New York do not serve food, let alone have vegan options (other than five dollar French fries). Usually, I ditched expensive evening meal events and met friends at the bar after. Over the years, I recruited many dinner dissenters and this became a ritual. Even on our last night in NYC, right before our going away party a few blocks down, Sam and I came to Vanessa’s, allies in tow.

When it comes to tasty and filling food, you’ll be cold-green-juice pressed for better-priced veggie options. You can get your food nice and oily or you can get it steamed. There’s something for everyone here.

The experience at Vanessa’s is that of a typical Chinatown spot, including the staff’s general disdain for their customers. To their credit though, their menu takes everything up a notch. Virtually every section of food has a veggie option. For 5 to 6 dollars, you’ll be very happy with the rice bowls. And if you’re wondering whether Vanessa’s dumplings are vegan, the answer is yes!

Get: My regular order is veggie dumplings, cold sesame noodles, and a plain sesame pancake. I’m a sucker for handmade noodles (check out my budget guide on Queens to see why).

Note: also has locations in Union Square, FiDi, Williamsburg (Brooklyn), and Long Island City (Queens).

Cheap Veg-Friendly and Vegan Restaurants in Lower East Side

Despite its dingy exterior, LES is expensive. Luckily, there are two spots are definitely worth your budget vegan Manhattan attention.

Amy Winehouse mural in Lower East Side
LES ’27 Club Mural by Eduardo Kobra

$$ Riverdel Cheese @ Essex Market – all vegan

I love cheese and Riverdel so much that I already waxed poetic in a separate post all about this vegan cheese shop. Read more about the vegan cheese shop of your dreams here.

Since you’re here to learn about cheap vegan eats in NYC, we’ll focus on how to get the best bang for your buck at Riverdel. We recommend getting a few small wedges of cheese (no minimum on how much you have to get, and you can sample them first), and/or one of their delicious sandwiches. We can highly recommend the prosciutto and ham and cheese croissantwich. Though keep in mind that the sandwiches are mainly made with more processed vegan cheeses that you can find in stores, rather than the artisan cheeses in the display. That’s how they keep the sandwiches so affordable! But really, when is the next time you’re going to be at a vegan cheese shop? Go for a lil cheese sampler, you won’t regret it.

Get: a decadent sampler platter of 3 – 4 kinds of cheese for around 15 bucks, and share with a friend or gluttonize all yourself. Want something more grab and go? Get a sandwich!

$$ Orchard Grocer – all vegan, gluten-free options

Just a short walk away from Riverdel is Orchard Grocer, the first vegan grocery store in Manhattan. Orchard Grocer is clearly aimed at veg-curious and vegan Lower East Side residents, parked right next to MooShoos, an all-vegan shoe store.

Aptly named and tucked away, this low key spot is inspired by classic NYC delicatessens. Happily, the sandwiches most definitely fit the bill for cheap vegan eats in NYC. If you’re looking for a classic New York deli experience made vegan, look no further. Orchard Grocer has a great selection of sandwiches, with exclusive vegan deli meats in all sorts of iterations. I was really missing my usual pre-vegan go-to, the Italian combo, and this did not disappoint. Arguably it’s better, as all the ingredients were way fresher than that prepacked Boar’s Head shit that is the default in every New York deli.

The breakfast sandwich is another New York staple that we’ve missed. Orchard Grocer’s version, called The Bowery, is a breakfast sandwich with turmeric tofu egg, tempeh bacon, Violife provolone slice, and mayo, all on fresh roll. It really hits all the marks with the NYC egg sandwich experience.

You need to try out The Marlowe, a Rueben style sandwich. You’ll see tourists flocking to nearby (overpriced) Katz’s Delicatessen, but vegans come here for this purely nostalgic sandwich. After having many vegan Reubens (some were quite delicious), this is by far the best. Most vegan attempts only have the sauerkraut in common. Here, it’s designed to be a very Reuben-y experience from the ground up: rye bread, beet-brined seitan that’s tender, chewy and juicy, melted swiss, and tangy tart sauerkraut. The cold cuts by BlackBird Foods are seitan based, and so much like pastrami in texture it had my friend double guessing himself.

Get: any sandwich, any product really. But for an NYC experience, try the Italian combo inspired Monty, the Reuben-esque Marlowe, or the breakfast style Bowery.

$ Tal Bagels – vegan options

We went to the Upper East Side location, see entry below.

$$ Jajaja – all vegan

This is Jajaja’s original flagship location. NYC has desperately needed an authentic Mexican vegan restaurant. While at first glance it’s not the most budget friendly, you can easily budget this place up by sharing lots of appetizers and plates. Keep in mind that the Manhattan locations for this place get packed quickly. To avoid the crowds head to their Brooklyn location. It’s also easier to keep to a budget at the Brooklyn location by just trying a couple of items. It’s in a food court, rather than a sit down, table service restaurant like Jajaja’s other locations.

Read More: Vegan Guide to Brooklyn for a full review.

$ Van Leeuwen’s – vegan options

This is simply the best vegan ice cream in NYC, if not anywhere. Super creamy, rich, and coats your mouth just like ice cream should. Some of the best flavors are the salted caramel, toasted coconut blondie, and the pistachio. What’s available by the scoop will vary, but you can depend on classics like chocolate and mint chip to be there waiting for you.

What’s their secret to amazing vegan ice cream? I don’t know officially, but I think it has something to do with them not being entirely vegan. You need non-vegan help if you want to taste and compare a vegan version to know if it’s up to snuff.

Get: ice cream, of course. Budget it up by splitting a pint with friends – trust us, it goes a long way. We felt oversaturated when splitting two pints between four of us. And some flavors are only available in pints, like pistachio.

Note: tons of location in NYC. We can’t keep up! Check out current locations here.

Cheap Vegan Restaurants in NYC: East Village

While there are vegan restaurants in the East Village, they’re not cheap. We usually go to veg-friendly spots for vegan food downtown. However, there are a few places in this area that the cheap vegan in NYC should check out. Also right after we left the city, the St. Marks Vegan Food Court had its soft opening – make sure to check it out and tell us about it!

$ Superiority Burger – vegetarian

Like the space, the menu is small, but that’s great for us indecisive types. This is some of the best cheap vegetarian food in NYC. Everything is $10 or under, even the big version of the Superiority burger, the Megamouth. Everything on the menu is either vegan or veganizable (including vegan cheese and sauce). 

The burger itself is a perfect fast food style burger, with a soft, seedy bun and all the desired toppings. These aren’t meant to mimic meat, so expect very vegetable burgers. Get it with a side to round out a meal (the burnt broccoli salad is delicious) and take it to eat in Tompkins Square Park just down the street.

Our friend Ivy remarked that although the portions seemed small, they were surprisingly filling.

Pro tip: Check out their daily specials on social media if you’re deciding when to-go. Monday evenings they offer their special tofu fried chicken – get it while it’s hot!

Get: the Superiority Burger made vegan, Burnt Broccoli Salad

Dunwell Doughnuts  – all vegan

Don’t think you can find vegan donuts in Manhattan? Think again. Head right down the block from Dumpling Man (see below) for Dunwell’s latest location.

They had just opened their St. Mark’s location (there’s one in Bushwick) just before we left NYC for Spain. Their donuts are soft and fluffy, and with great flavors like maple glazed. They also serve ice cream.

There’s no seating at the Manhattan location. If it’s nice out, you can do what we did on one of our last days in the city: get dumplings and donuts to go and walk to Tompkins Square Park for some great people watching.

Get: any donut flavor that tickles your fancy.

Note: other location in Bushwick

two people sitting on the ground in a park
Post donut and dumpling happiness

Dumpling Man  – omni, vegan items labeled, gluten-free options

If you’re living in NYC and don’t know The Dumpling Man, then I don’t know you.

The veggie dumplings here are unrivaled (yes they are better quality than Vanessa’s and Buddha Bodai above, and priced accordingly). You can literally see them made right before your vegan eyes.

Over the years of my patronage, I have witnessed two constants. First, the cashiers are always young, white, and speak Mandarin (presumably all NYU students). Second, the dumplings are made in the open, for curious eyes to see, by what I perceive as the foremost professionals in the art of dumpling making.

They are completely disinterested in you, focused instead on churning out handmade dumplings, one at a time, at an incredible speed we can physically witness but never fully comprehend. Take a front-row seat for the show or sit at the long counter with stools in the typically NYC tiny but long space.

Now onto the main event: vegan dumplings in NYC! The smoked tofu filling with shiitake mushrooms will provide the most savory and satisfying vegan dumpling you’ll ever sink your teeth into. The homemade wrapper is super soft and chewy. I prefer them steamed, as it allows the nuanced layering of flavor to shine. If you want the extra mileage (i.e. more filling), order those suckers seared – the extra oil does the trick. I know omnivores who frequently order these.

So grab an order, mix some vinegar and soy sauce with a tiny squirt of Sriracha (avoid the deluxe sauces – they overpower these delicate dumplings), and muster the courage to chopstick each loving lump into your gaping vegetabled mouth.

Get: the vegan dumplings. There’s a daily changing vegan AND gluten free option too.

Mamoun’s – omni, vegetarian options labeled, gluten-free options

An old guard of the cheap eats institution, saving vegans in the East Village since 1977. The quick turnover and constant line ensure you’re getting some seriously fresh falafel. But of course, prices have risen, and I was less impressed each of the last few times I ate here.

Still, it’s nowhere near terrible, rather just a slight stumble from grace.  For many it may be the freshest falafel they’ve had. Their St. Mark’s location recently moved a few doors down to a bigger, nicer space.

Get: The falafel sandwich, of course.  Falafel plate is gluten-free without the pita, as are grape leaves. Careful with the hot sauce – mostly heat, little flavor. But the best budget falafel isn’t in Manhattan.

Note: They have another location in West Village.

S’Mac  – omni, vegan items marked

S’Mac’s vegan macaroni and cheese is coconut milk based. You can taste the coconut, which isn’t a bad thing. You can choose whatever you want to put inside it. Great place to go with omni friends.

Get: Their veganized mac and cheese with virtually any topping combination you see fit.

$ Tompkins Square Bagels – omni with vegan options

For a more in-depth review, see section on Alphabet City.

$ Van Leeuwen’s – vegan options

See full review in Lower East Side above.

Cheap Vegan-Friendly Restaurants in Alphabet City

Technically still a part of the East Village, you’re officially in Alphabet City once you’ve hit the Avenue A – D, below 14th Street but above Houston. A friend of mine works in Alphabet City, so a quick lunch bite or affordable after-work drinks with some vegan snacks is of prime importance. I share some of our adventures below.

$ KC Gourmet Empanadas – omni with vegan options

To the uninitiated, empanadas are wheat or corn-based pouches stuffed and baked or fried – depending on the country of origin. It seems empanadas can be found in all of Latin America.

Here they offer three vegan empanadas – the Vegan stuffed with mushroom, onions and peppers, the Fiesta with black beans and corn, and the Ultimate Veggie, with spinach, broccoli, cauliflower & carrots. The most memorable is the mushroom, with its chewy tenderness, subtle savoriness, and other veggies that boost its flavor. Their black bean empanada is mixed with other veggies, which works great.

They also offer a vegan tamale while supplies last!

Get: the Vegan, the Fiesta, the ultimate veggie empanadas.

$ Tompkins Square Bagels – omni with vegan options

Partly why I love biking around New York City is that you can discover new spots serendipitously that way. While Google Maps can help you find anything at your fingertips, there’s something special about happening upon a place.

I’m always looking for a new bagel spot to try. I enjoy evaluating how other places are coming along with their vegan cream cheese. And obviously also seeing who really has the best bagels. Truth is, once you enter the top tier of bagelry, the disparity between the worst best bagel and the number one best bagel, is actually almost negligible when it comes to the decision of having a bagel versus no bagel.

Tompkins’s Square bagel is no exception to this, and their hand-rolled, boiled bagels are chewy, moist, and as flavorful as doughy white bread can get. They make their own tofu cream cheeses and rank up there among the best (in my opinion that’s Ess a Bagel and Brooklyn Bagel).

They have a lot of seating, but it’s mostly a takeaway crowd here, so if you want to hang, grab a spot in the back.

Get: any bagel, any tofu-based cream cheese

Two Boots  – vegan items

Two Boots is a great option for vegan pizza wherever you find them. They’re not all vegan, but they have a number of locations, including areas where it’s hard to find cheap vegan eats in NYC. They usually have a few different types of vegan slices available.

If you’re looking to buy a pie, there are even more options. They have an entire vegan section, with several presets combos. They use Daiya cheese, and before you fret, just know we aren’t the biggest fans of it either, but somehow Two Boots still manages to make damn delicious vegan pizzas.

Get: V for Vegan slice, Vegan Mel Cooley Pie.

Note: locations in West Village and Brooklyn (check website)

Veg-Friendly and Vegan Restaurants in Greenwich Village

Greenwich Village is generally quite expensive, like most Manhattan neighborhoods. We recommend veering away from here if you’re looking for cheap vegan food in NYC, which is in abundance in the nearby East Village and Lower East Side. That being said, there is one place we can recommend.

$$ Sunshine Hummus – vegetarian

This new Israeli-run spot replaced Maoz and that’s a good thing – it’s a massive upgrade. I’ve tried Maoz and it’s like if Subway started making falafel. Not terrible food, but not terribly good either, and with a fake freshness in a sterile environment.

That’s not the story at Sunshine Hummus.

We were lucky to visit during their opening week. The gracious owners reeled us in with a hummus sample that they proudly proclaimed was the best hummus ever. And to their credit, it’s definitely top tier. We’ve tried many a hummus, and I make it myself quite often, taking in tips from people from all the countries with a hummus making tradition. Sunshine’s hummus is definitely worth a try if you’ve never had freshly made hummus.

The best thing about this spot? We got full splitting a salad hummus combo plate with an extra pita bread. Two people eating for under 15 bucks is possible here.

An assortment of toppings can go on your hummus plate, like chickpeas, tahini, “fava beans” (that looked just like black beans), mushrooms and guacamole. Though to be honest, this hummus holds its own and you really don’t need toppings. Nor should you ever put guacamole on hummus.

The staff is super friendly and our server made us feel quite welcome despite the fact that we walked up to the counter assuming this was self-service. There is a separate takeaway line.

Get: The hummus, duh.

$ Van Leeuwen’s – Omni, Vegan options labeled

See full review in Lower East Side.

Cheap Vegan Food in NYC: West Village

The West Village is technically part of Greenwich Village, distinguished from the rest of the neighborhood by even higher prices. Most vegan restaurants in the West Village, like Delice and Sarrasin and Urban Vegan Kitchen, are well above our price range (with $13 desserts, you can imagine the entree prices). Below we list our go-to spots for budget vegan food in the West Village.

West Village, NYC - AlternativeTravelers.com

$$ Jajaja (West Village)

NYC has desperately needed an authentic Mexican vegan restaurant for a long time. We’re happy to report that it doesn’t disappoint!  While Jajaja isn’t the cheapest (mains are $12-14), you can budget this place up by sharing lots of appetizers and plates. We shared the nachos and they were huge!! Keep in mind that the Manhattan locations for this place get packed quickly. To avoid the crowds, go to their one-stop from Manhattan in Brooklyn location.

Read More: Vegan Guide to Brooklyn

$$ By Chloe  – all vegan, gluten-free options

Multiple locations, we went to the SoHo location, see SoHo review below.

Taïm  – vegetarian, items with dairy/eggs marked, gluten-free options

Multiple locations, we went to the SoHo location, so see SoHo review below.

$$ Benny’s Burritos – vegan section on menu with gluten-free options

Benny’s is great for vegan Mexican food in NYC. They have a separate vegan section on their menu with vegan burritos, tacos, and more. They even have vegan sour cream and cheese! It’s a lively, festive atmosphere where there always seems to be a birthday party going on. Great for a casual date, catching up with friends, or going in a group. Beware though that they do get packed on nights and weekends.

Mamoun’s – omni, vegetarian options labeled

Multiple locations, see East Village review above.

$ Van Leeuwen’s – Omni, Vegan options labeled

See full review in Lower East Side.

Cheap Veg-Friendly and Vegan Restaurants in SoHo

To be honest, there’s not a lot of cheap vegan food in Soho to be found. We are talking about Soho here.

Taïm  – Vegetarian, items with dairy/eggs marked, gluten-free options

Normally I wouldn’t consider a falafel sandwich that’s close to $9 to be budget. But the freshness and size of Taïm’s falafel sandwich, coupled with the fact that there aren’t a ton of budget options for vegans in SoHo, firmly plants Taïm as an affordable vegetarian restaurant in NYC. Apparently, taïm means tasty/delicious in Hebrew, and tasty and delicious it is! Besides falafel, they also have cauliflower shawarma and seasonal specials (as of this writing, one of them was an Impossible Meat kebab).

And if you don’t take our word for it, Zagat consistently includes Taïm in their top 50 best restaurants in NYC. So, yeah it’s that good.

Get: the tried and true falafel sandwich, quite possibly one of the best tasting ones in all of NYC.

Note: 5 locations in NYC: this one, West Village, Midtown, Financial District, and Flatiron.

$$ By Chloe  – all vegan, lots of gluten-free options

Originally created by award-winning vegan cupcake connoisseur, Chloe Coscarelli, there was a falling out between Chef Chloe and her business partners. Chef Chloe is no longer involved in this chain, though it still bears her name. For this reason, many vegans feel conflicted about patronizing this establishment. We still include this as an affordable vegan option in the overwhelmingly crowded chic neighborhood that we avoid like the plague.

To be honest, we’re not the biggest fans of By Chloe. In our opinion, there are many better options for cheap vegan food in NYC. However, By Chloe has gotten pretty famous and a lot of vegans want to check it out during their visit to the Big Apple. So it can be a good option as there are many locations , it’s inexpensive, and getting food is fast. But don’t expect mind-blowing food 😉

Get: Mac and Cheese and a burger. The fries were a bit disappointing (think McDonald’s fries).

Budget Vegan Guide to New York City: Cheap vegan food in NYC
Haven’t been back since 2017 when this photo was taken with my crappy camera phone.

$ Van Leeuwen’s – Omni, Vegan options labeled

See full review in Upper West Side.

Veg-Friendly and Vegan Restaurants near Union Square

The Union Square area is a transitional area, between Greenwich Village, the East Village, Gramercy and Chelsea. Its surroundings are a strange mix of trashy cheap chains and exorbitantly expensive crap chains. Your best vegan budget bet? Avoid them all and check out our recommendations.

$$ Peacefood Cafe – all vegan, gluten-free options

Note: Two locations – we’ve been to both, but saved the review for the Upper West Side, so check out our review in that section.  Definitely worth trying for a nice vegan Manhattan restaurant experience that won’t break the bank.

$$ Hotel Tortuga – omni, vegan items labeled, gluten-free options

The place is cozy, small, and doesn’t take reservations. Expect it to usually be full, as there isn’t much else like this in the area (just a block or two over is a place with $14 guacamole) for this price and level of veganibility. Nearly all items can be veganized. 

They have an extensive vegetarian section on the menu and can veganize any item at your request with vegan sour cream and cheese for a buck extra. Also, unlimited, self-serve salsa, which is the best idea ever for me and the worst profit margin for them. Plus, they have vegan chorizo – though don’t get overzealous (or your stomach will hate you).

Get: unlimited salsa and chips, any of the vegetarian burritos made vegan.

$$ Beyond Sushi at 14th st – all vegan, gluten-free upon request

See review below – multiple locations.

$ Van Leeuwen’s – Omni, Vegan options labeled

See full review in Upper West Side.

Veg-Friendly and Vegan Restaurants near Penn Station and Chelsea

$$ The Cinnamon Snail  – all vegan, gluten-free options

**This location is closing when The Pennsy Food Hall closes on March 31, so go while you can!!**

Not so tucked away in the boisterous Pennsy food hall sits the legendary Cinnamon Snail, one of the first and not exorbitantly expensive 100% organic vegan food establishments to get a die hard fan base that wasn’t exclusively vegan. There was nothing else quite like it back in 2010. Nowadays house-made vegan comfort food is all the rage and you can find many restaurants specializing in such.

They started out as a food truck which I frequented for many years. A kickstarter or two campaign later after battling exploitative food trucks vendor laws, they’ve finally got their first brick and mortar spot (truck still operates for events). Considering your not so great vegan options and general terribleness of this area, this is a much welcome addition. A small army prepares your sandwiches and will churn out your order within 5 – 10 minutes, even if there’s a big line. Just make sure to decide what you want before stepping up to the cashier or you’ll piss off all the New Yorkers on their lunch break like a person in front of us once did.

We are glad to report the food here is still top notch. I love their food, and the proprietor-chef loves layering bold flavors. In the interest of differing opinions, however, the Sam finds it a bit too spicy at times. If this matters to you, order something that doesn’t have habanero or chipotle.

What should you get? The stars of the savory show are the sandwiches. The Korean Barbecue seitan sub will drip through your fingers. The Beast-mode Burger Deluxe will aggressively avalanche its way into your mouth. The toppings and names change now and then, but anything with their homemade seitan whether it’s chucked, chopped, or burgered, will amply satisfy.


They have something for every type of vegan food lover. Totally Tofu? Seriously seitan? Tempestuously tempeh? They got you covered. Not into the faux meats? There’s always a vegetable option that’s not trying to imitate meats, too.

If there’s one gripe I have (it’s not taste) – it’s the user experience. The sandwich bread could be softer, and these real deal gluten-y French baguettes and Italian ciabattas are so damn chewy and piled high with saucy, flavor exploding chunks, that it’ll require your canine roots to tear apart. So expect your sandwich volcano to erupt at regular intervals, all over your hands and food tray.

If for some reason the sandwiches don’t appeal to you, one can easily make a meal of very indulgent sides. My favorites are the creamy baked ziti and kimchi tots – tater tots covered in sriracha mayo and kimchi. Kimchi fries are great but rarely vegan, and this is one of the only places I know that has anything like kimchi fries on their regular menu.

You can’t go without trying a dessert! Cinnamon Snail another fantastic option for vegan donuts in Manhattan and they always get creative with the combos. While I go for simply glazed, the donut with raspberry and cheese is great – super soft, perfectly sweet, and the cheese oh-so-creamy.

Make sure to try their signature pastry (hint: their name). One time we split it with a friend, who, with a first bite, incredulously exclaimed: “This is vegan?” You’ll think they put butter in it.

Get: any sandwiches, sides, and/or dessert – it’s all good. Gluten-free options here.

$ Brooklyn Bagel – omni with vegan options, has a gluten-free bagel

Great bagels and great vegan cream cheese, making Brooklyn Bagel your best bet for an authentic New York Bagel with vegan cream cheese. We often went to their Astoria locations when we lived in Queens, so check out the Queens guide for the full rundown.

Get: Anything, but our fav is a toasted everything bagel with spinach tofu spread. Cinnamon raisin with plain tofu spread is also a classic.

Brooklyn Bagel - bagel with vegan cream cheese

$ Van Leeuwen’s – Omni, Vegan options labeled

See full review in Upper West Side.

Doughnut Plant – vegan options

Once upon a time all there was for vegan donuts in New York was Doughnut Plant. They’d have one on offer, and I found it overwhelming. Not anymore!

Kudos to Doughnut Plant for stepping up their vegan game and having inventive vegan options. Their claim to fame is housemade 100% yeast sourdough donuts. It’s all too easy for doughnut shops to offer a cake doughnut, but I’d argue that’s not a doughnut, it’s a doughnut-shaped cake.

Flavors at Doughnut Plant vary daily and seasonally. Over the holidays, we tried the panettone style. Since I no longer partake in the sort of dry/synthetically moistened, shelf-stable, Italian holiday tradition (I liken it to a less dense, more airy, slightly less unenjoyable, fruit cake), I was eager to see if my memory of the flavors serves me correct. 

The result was definitely much better than the inspiration with the glaze and flavorings all on point; it had a hint of candied citrus and lemon zest, with a rummy finish.

Doughnut Plant is worth a look if you want something beyond the classic flavors.

Vegan Manhattan: Flatiron District

Except for Marty V’s, not much in the way of the smaller, independent businesses that we love, but there some solid local chains and franchises.

$$ Marty’s V Burger – all vegan, gluten-free options

Now, this is more of what vegan Manhattan needs! The tagline is “Fast Food. No Bull.” Classic NYC. We can enthusiastically report that the burgers and joint combined truly do equal a great spot for vegan fast food in NYC.

At Marty’s, you can get a combo deal, burger drink and fries for 13 bucks, right off Lexington Ave and 27th. That’s just unheard of these days. Just down the street, Terri offers delicious vegan sandwiches that come solo for $13-14, to put it in budget vegan NYC perspective.

The regular burger is a mix of seitan rice and black beans but you’d never know as this sum is greater than its parts. Expect a soft seeded bun, mayo, crisp lettuce, cheese – a very fast food style burger.

You can also try the Impossible burger or Beyond Burger for $5.50 more – the cheapest option to experience it. Trying those products in Manhattan will not get cheaper than here.

Marty’s delicious food is now also available at the vegan foot court on St. Mark’s and is even at CitiField, whaa! On our first visit, we even had the pleasure of meeting Marty V himself and he’s just as awesome as you might expect. This is a definite don’t miss for any budget-conscious visitor to the Big Apple.

Get: any combo that strikes your fancy, but the Classic Combo, a Marty V burger with fries and drink is a solid deal for $13. The awesomely textured and delicious Crabby patty can be made entirely gluten-free with a gluten-free bun. The wings are gluten-free as well!

$$ Terri  – all vegan, gluten-free options

Terri brands itself as “vegan fast food in New York.” Here you’ll find a great selection of tasty and indulgent sandwiches, wraps, and salads. Most feature well-known vegan products, like Tofurky and Daiya.

Expect a clean, take-your-Manhattanite-lunch-break-here, atmosphere. Often Sam went here as a lunch treat when she worked nearby. Gluten-free breads and tortillas available.

Get: Bacon, Cheddar, Chicken Ranch or Thanksgiving sandwiches

Taïm  – Vegetarian, items with dairy/eggs marked, gluten-free options

See review in Soho section.

$$ By Chloe  – all vegan, lots of gluten-free options

See Soho review.

Vegan in Manhattan: Affordable Midtown Eats

Where should you go if you’re a meandering vegan in Midtown? Believe it or not, there are vegan restaurants in Midtown Manhattan that aren’t exorbitantly expensive.

$$ Beyond Sushi at 56th st – all vegan, gluten-free upon request

Never has an establishment been so aptly named. If you’re looking for vegan sushi in NYC, look no further!

If you want to feel like you’re eating distinctly different yet decadent deluxe dragon style veggie rolls, look no further. With handcrafted maki rolls, sushi pieces, and other non-sushi items, these purveyors literally go beyond the conventional call of sushi. Expect each roll to be stuffed with many things, topped with lots of layers and dollops of creamy sauces.

This location is tiny, with just a few tables, but turnover is quick. They’ve recently expanded their menu significantly to include non-sushi options for dinner. The mains are definitely not budget-friendly, but stick to the sushi and you’ll be more than happy!

Get: the Spicy Mang and Mighty Mushroom are our favorites. Go for lunch, when sushi (and the entire menu) is cheaper.

Note: 7 locations throughout Manhattan. Check their website for locations.

Spicy Mang, Mushroom Madness, and others I can’t remember because I’m distracted by how beyond they are.

$ Van Leeuwen’s – vegan options

See full review in Lower East Side.

$ Ess-a-Bagel – vegan options

A firmly established Bagelry slinging bagels in classic NYC style. They sport an array of 7 vegan tofu spreads, with extra non-typical ones like sun-dried tomato and olive.

Always expect a line, as this place is super popular, and their bagels are the star of the show. The wait won’t be long, as they are fully staffed and several people are toasting and schmearing bagels like it’s nobody’s business but theirs.

Get: A toasted bagel with vegan tofu spread, of course. They offer a plethora of other options, but you’re here for bagels.

Affordable Veg-friendly and Vegan Restaurants in the Upper East Side

Our best recommendation when you’re looking for affordable vegan food in the Upper East Side: take the 4,5,6 train directly downtown a few stops to Marty V Burger. Anything in the UES that’s vegan will cost you more than a metro ticket plus Marty V combo and won’t be anywhere near as delicious…

..but if you have to stay….

$ Tal Bagels – vegan options

Good fresh bagels with one clear advantage: open much later than other bagel spots. Not quite as good as Brooklyn Bagel or Ess-a-Bagel, but solid, nonetheless, and with three tofu cream cheese spreads: plain, scallion, and veggie. If you find yourself in the very expensive Upper East Side, a bagel and a beverage for 6 bucks will tide you over for a few hours.

Get: any bagel (those egg yolk yellow ones are not vegan), any vegan tofu based cream cheese.

Note: Has several locations.

$ Van Leeuwen’s – vegan options

See full review in Lower East Side.

Affordable Vegan Restaurants in NYC: the Upper West Side

While the Upper West Side is very different from its East side counterpart, it’s unfortunately very expensive as well. If we are sounding like a broken record, well, it’s true. That’s why you’re here reading our guide to cheap vegan restaurants in NYC.

$$ Peacefood Cafe – all vegan, gluten-free options

Peacefood is both a vegan restaurant AND vegan bakery in Manhattan with two locations (Upper West Side and Greenwich Village). It’s a cozy and surprisingly affordable spot that’s great for a date night or going with parents. Sam went with her dad and they were both thoroughly impressed while I’ve been to the Union Square location with friends. Seems to be a potentially recurring theme as last time I ate at the Greenwich Village location, another (presumably) NYU student was eating at the table next to me with her father.

Their menu consists of salads, sandwiches, pizzas, focaccias, and a seasonal (more expensive) changing dinner menu as well. Peacefood has specials that appeal to raw foodists, whole foodists, and vegan junk foodists alike. There are expensive items but also cheaper items, so one could easily have a filling meal for $15 and under.

Their desserts are truly some of the best vegan desserts in NYC with a giant bakery menu that includes many gluten-free items! If you find the restaurant packed upon your arrival, take some baked goods with you.

Get: The cinnamon roll and raspberry bars! It’s hard to recommend any one thing though. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed the sandwiches, especially the Japanese pumpkin, and savory entrees like pot pie (pictured below).

Note: other location near Union Square

Pot Pie at Peacefood Cafe, a vegan restaurant in the Upper West Side, NYC

Cheap Vegan-Friendly Restaurants in Hamilton Heights, Harlem, NY

A NYC house sit brought us to this neighborhood and we were surprised at the number of vegan options. I used to live here about 11 years ago, and surprisingly, it hasn’t changed as much as I thought it would. Hamilton Heights is still heavily Dominican and, due to rent control, zoning laws, and/or neighborhood associations, has resisted the NYC gentrification onslaught. The gentri-tentacles still have managed to poke though here and there in the form of boring sports bars and actual sit-down coffee shops. The places we are mentioning here are likely a result of it as well.

$ Uncle Tony’s Pizza – omni with vegan options

Tony wants you to think his pizzeria has always been here, having the typical counter space and limited seating. But anyone who’s lived in NYC for even just a year can tell the difference. Since when do pizzerias have checker tiled walls? This is a very West Village interior choice.

Their pizza prices are reasonably cheap, as a topping slice will run you about 4 or 5 bucks. But for vegans, there’s just one slice, and it’s surprisingly good. With vegan cheese (likely Daiya) with dollops of alternately tomato and basil sauce.

Clearly, it’s been trialed and error’d, as the choice to not do the usual dough, sauce, cheese in that order, is one that Two Boots also does with its vegan slices. So far only Screamer’s has managed to create plain slices that look like the real deal – when sauce and cheese meld together to look like one layer.

Not Screamer’s level, mind you, but well-intentioned. The only issue is they over reheat it and it comes out way too dry. So either ask them to only warm it up or get it to go and eat it at room temp. Also budget it up by coming on the weekend for the pizza happy hour, where any two slices are five bucks. I grabbed four slices twice in one weekend and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

Get: the only vegan slices but just warmed up or they’ll be too dry. Go for happy hour!

$$ The Handpulled Noodle – omni with vegan options

In the last 10 years, there has been this growing trend in NYC of eating traditional Chinese hand-pulled noodles. These are just that – noodles made and pulled apart by hand rather than machines. While you could find these deep into any Chinese neighborhood, it’s now become widespread.

According to The Handpulled Noodle, they differ in offering food from the region of Xinjiang, with noodles that are much thicker and less uniform in shape. We tried the classic “Lagman” hand-pulled round noodles, along with the knife shaved “Ribbon” flat and wide but still very thick noodles. Each can be ordered chopped into smaller pieces, with Lagman getting it’s own “Ding Ding” name when prepared as such.

Don’t expect your usual American Chinese take out flavors. Here they use cumin and tomato to create a sauce to flavor the noodles. Vegans can enjoy house-made seitan that’s juicy and soaked in flavor. Sam commented that it was very bready in texture, but I actually didn’t mind, as it added another texture to the noodles. The dumplings are house-made as well – very tender wrapper outside, with a similar mix of veggies as the noodles, inside.

If for some reason you came here not to eat carbs, they also offer salads, broccoli, and kale dishes. It’s a small spot, but there is some seating, and ideally, you want to eat the noodles as soon as possible, as they will gradually lose their softness as they cool down. But this key detail doesn’t stop people from ordering delivery as we witnessed the ceaseless revolving door of delivery persons.

Get: The handpulled noodles, of course.

Whether you’re budget-conscious or just looking for some new vegan Manhattan spots, the aforementioned list will propel your knowledge of cheap vegan eats in NYC to new heights. Of course, New York moves at an incredible pace, with new places opening and closing within even 6 months. We update this guide biannually to add new places and remove closed ones, but always make sure to double-check places are still open!

What new (or old) spots for cheap vegan food in NYC should we try next? If you have any favorites – please share!

*Editor’s note: This post was originally posted in January 2017 and has since been updated. Last update: February 2020.


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