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Vegan in Queens, NY – A Local’s Budget-Friendly Guide

written by Veren Ferrera June 1, 2019
Vegan in Queens, NY – A Local’s Budget-Friendly Guide

Queens is home to two kinds of people: New York natives or transplants that know Brooklyn is overrated and overpriced (Manhattan has already been so for decades).

Queens attracts people who want to live a more comfortable New York City experience – one that better balances work and life due to its lower (comparably) cost of living to the rest of New York City.

Read More: New York Glorifies Personhood but Does Not Prioritize People

I’ll begrudge Brooklyn and minimize Manhattan but you’ll never hear me quaver over my love for Queens. I must admit though – the vegan Queens food scene has some catching up to do. When compared to Brooklyn and Manhattan, there are nowhere near as many all-vegan restaurants in Queens. Seriously. Search Happy Cow and you will find vast virtual swaths of  vegan Queens vacancy.

Read more: Budget Vegan Travel Tips for a Tasty Trip!

Yet that doesn’t mean the borough isn’t vegan-friendly. If you’re willing to do some intra-borough traveling, you will find some unforgettable, delicious food that’s mostly unintentionally vegan. I’ve lost count of how often I’ve gone to most of these – they’re that good. When it comes to real deal ethnic cuisine at a reasonable price, Queens is hard to beat. You’ll find food from all around the world and you’ll have more than one choice for each.

This is thanks to the incredible diversity of people, the authenticity of the food here is second to no other borough. This isn’t an overstatement. It’s actually just a statement.

Now on the vegan Queens gems grouped by neighborhood.

$ = meal under $10

$$ = meal under $15

Vegan in Astoria

Street Art in Astoria, Queens - AlternativeTravelers.com

Astoria is a curious mix of new and old. While Astoria has changed quite a bit, the area still stubbornly retains a very old layer of grit. The major conduit that roughly bisects Queens, Steinway street, best exemplifies this. I used to live on the northern tail end.  

A quick glance around and you’ll simultaneously see stores closing, stores opening, and long-standing stores with faded dirty signs reaching 10 plus years of age. There are so many spots to eat but most are nothing spectacular, especially considering vegan fare. Your best bet is to grab all the following suggestions to go and make your way to Astoria Park to lounge as you gaze over the East River.

The vegan Astoria scene is the most developed out of all of Queens, but you still need to know where to look for vegan food in Astoria. Here are our best picks!

$ King of Falafel and Schwarma – vegan and gluten-free options

King of Falafel and Schwarma has this name for a reason and many challenge his throne. I’ve eaten here a ton of times.

The King has now opened a storefront right on the corner of the Broadway subway stop – a block away from his original location.  You can’t miss the storefront or rather truck front sticking out from the building. Sam and I poked inside on a particularly frigid day and discovered there was quite a bit of seating – and table service! Although we’d be more than happy to serve ourselves, the addition is quite nice and not a bit pretentious. The server even handed us the hot sauce and tahini sauce, instead of the tzatziki – a correct vegan guess.

We split the massive falafel plate and the deliciously simple lentil soup. The falafel was better than I remember, and the soup was hearty and fresh – you could see that they sprouted the lentils first before cooking them.  The soup and many other items are only available at the Broadway brick and mortar location.

While not the cheapest falafel, it is hardly expensive for NYC standards. There are two new locations, but this was the first. Now the truck sits by the Astoria – Ditmars Boulevard subway stop, and you can enjoy two locations.

Get: Falafel sandwich or Falafel platter with all the tahini sauce, available at both locations. 

Note: Broadway location takes credit card. The truck is cash only.

$ Brooklyn Bagel  – vegan and gluten-free options

You haven’t truly experienced the New York food scene until you’ve had a bagel with cream cheese.

Forget all the fancy toppings and sandwich mockery that trendy vendors try to push on you.

A New York bagel is simple. They have a super soft middle and chewy outside, taste great alone, but reach astronomical heights of taste bud pleasure with a generous schmear of cream cheese. After going vegan I didn’t give a second thought to bagels – vegan cream cheese then was an abomination.

Brooklyn Bagel changed everything for me. Down the street from my last apartment, this ironically named bagel shop doesn’t actually exist in Brooklyn but has three locations in Queens and one in Manhattan.  Sam suggested we take a look inside and low and behold – they had their own line of vegan cream cheese. Possibly one of the best decisions of my vegan career – thanks to the Sam.

I don’t know what their secret is, but damn. The vegan cream cheese here is so good that I don’t miss the mammary stuff one bit. It’s tofu-based with the perfect consistency and taste – creamy yet thick with a subtle tang. With four flavors including plain and a dozen kinds of bagels, you’ll think you’re in a vegan New Yorker heaven.

Vegan food in Astoria at Brooklyn Bagel - cinnamon bagel with tofu cream cheese | Alternative Travelers.com

We tried the classic cinnamon raisin with plain tofu spread and it was a dream come true. The everything bagel with spinach tofu still reigns supreme though.

Get: Anything, but my favorite is the everything bagel with spinach tofu cream cheese. They also have gluten-free bagels with their own separate toaster.

Note: Three locations in Astoria – on Broadway, 30th ave, and Ditmars Boulevard.

$ New York City Bagel – vegan options

This spot is a close runner-up to Brooklyn Bagel. If the latter is an A+, then NY Bagel is an A- at most, B+ at worst.

They beat out Brooklyn Bagel with their hours and often if it had just closed, we’d go here. Stick to the basics – toasted with vegetable tofu cream cheese, and you’re all set. Ample seating is available inside and out.

Also their bagels are massive – much ligher, fluffier, and voluminous than your typical NYC bagel. Some people may prefer this.

Get: Everything bagel, toasted, with spinach and artichoke cream cheese.

vegan cream cheese bagel at New York Bagel and Coffee House in New York

$$ BareBurger – 50% vegan menu and gluten-free options

This local Queens chain has exploded into an international franchise that now offers a plethora of vegan options, with locations all over Queens, Manhattan, and Brooklyn. The idea was farm to table food, organic whenever possible, with an emphasis on customizing your every topping. It all started in the heart of Astoria.

Originally I had not wanted to include Bareburger since they used to feature 6 kinds of animals made into burger form while offering an underwhelmingly bland vegan burger – not anymore.

Now half their menu is proudly vegan! Not only do they serve fewer animals now, but there are more vegan burgers than before, vegan cheese, vegan mayo and vegan milkshakes! It’s honestly your best bet for a vegan restaurant in Astoria experience. We suspect someone involved with the direction of the rapidly expanding business happened upon some plant-based trend charts.

Interestingly enough, we’ve also learned that Bareburger is partnering up with Mexican chef Rudy Ramos aka Vegicano to create an entirely vegan Bareburger restaurant. Apparently, he will have free reign in designing the menu. There’s still no news on it’s opening.

You can also come here for a chance to try the Impossible Burger or the Beyond Burger, the latest in imitation meat burgers. They do a decent job here, although they overcook them a bit. You can also even try the Beyond Meat Sausage!

Get: The housemade vegan veggie burgers (black bean is my favorite and has improved dramatically over the years) are the cheapest options if you want to keep your meal under $15.

Note: tons locations throughout the tri-state area, with 12 in Manhattan but since you’re looking in Queens, there are 4: one on Ditmars Blvd, one near Broadway in Astoria, one in Long Island City, and another in Forest Hills.

Finally, if you’re looking for 100% vegan restaurants in Astoria, Jujube Tree is the only one. An Asian fusion restaurant with lots of imitation meat, it opened after we left New York, and even after subsequent visits, we haven’t gotten around to trying it. We’ve heard conflicting accounts, but also from friends with good authority that it’s delicious! It’s just hard to go out of our way for this, when we have the excellent 100% Green Zenphony near Sam’s Dad’s place (see below section on Rego Park).

Vegan in Long Island City

Essentially the downtown of Queens, this neighborhood juxtaposes the new and old with townhouses crowded out by massive skyscrapers. Just recently Amazon reversed its decision to build a new headquarters here due to unpopular support. Doesn’t seem much can stem the tide though – this neighborhood is rapidly changing beyond recognition like the rest of New York. Surprisingly there is still few quality and affordable options for eating vegan in Long Island City.

$$ BareBurger – 50% vegan menu and gluten-free options

See Astoria section for more info.

$ Vanessa’s Dumplings – vegan and gluten-free options

Originally from Chinatown in Manhattan, this chain is expanding into other boroughs. It’s all about handmade dumplings and noodles, and rice bowls.

Read more: Budget Vegan Guide to Manhattan

A Note about the sole “vegan restaurant in Long Island City”:

There are no 100% vegan restaurants in Long Island City. However, the proprietors of the No5 restaurant call their non-vegan establishment a “vegan restaurant with non-vegan options.”

A vegan restaurant only serves vegan food. They could take the Bareburger route, and proudly advertise their extensive vegan menu. Instead, they’re shamelessly capitalizing on an exponentially growing plant-based restaurant and food industry, where many people are actually quite confused on what actually being vegan consists of.

It’s great that more non-vegan food services are offering vegan options. I’m fully for this. But until vegan food replaces non-vegan food as the default and non-vegans are no longer the overwhelming majority, this labeling is ridiculous at best, and irresponsibly misleading about what veganism is, at worst.

Vegan Queens: Elmhurst

This neighborhood is one of my favorite spots for vegan food in Queens as everything I want to eat is located within a few blocks. I must express that this is not your picturesque New York postcard. Not that it doesn’t have its own beauty, but it’s not exactly the sparkly New York shown in the movies.

Groceries and bodegas abound, running the gamut of East and South Asia. In the summer, outside one of the supermarkets on the main intersection of Elmhurst and Broadway, expect to see young Thai coconuts piled high on a cart.  $1.50 will get you a coconut sans top (hacked off via machete) and handed to you with a straw. It’ll be my stand-in until we make our way to Southeast Asia.

$ Lao Bei Fang’s Dumpling House – vegan options

Note, this is a self-service only, no-frills spot. Figure out what you want before getting in line – no finger twiddling at the cashier. They’ve got work to do and no time for your thumb up your butt.

The hand-pulled noodles are the star of the show – you may even see them hand pulling them. Have them as stir-fry or in a soup. Avoid the veggie dumplings – they take too long and have hardly any filling.

If you’re feeling adventurous and impatient for your food, try a small cold plate. For 2.75 you choose a series of cold items from a mini buffet counter – I have no idea what most of them are – just order stuff that looks like vegetables. There is a mushroom that looks like a shriveled ear that tastes awesome. One can get this dish immediately and nibble on it as they wait for the main order. Also, unlimited free oolong tea!

Make sure you properly clean up after yourself or you will beckon the stare of death from the (presumed) owner, who watches idly by.

Get: Vegetable sauteed noodles or vegetable noodle soup. Optional: Vegetable cold plate to nibble while you wait.

Note: Cash Only

Vegan Food in Ridgewood

Ridgewood used to technically be part of Brookyln, but its residents opted for a Queens zip code in the late seventies to disassociate themselves from their neighbors in Bushwick.  If you’re not from New York, you’ve probably heard about all the transplant slanted publications talking about it as an upcoming place to move to.

This is a very immigrant working and middle-class neighborhood, so you can expect a lot of authentic ethnic cuisine, which can very often mean a lack of vegan options. However, there is one gem worth noting.

$ CoCo Lin Vegetarian House – 100% vegan

This cheap, no frills, super local spot comes Queens native approved by our friend who is also a neighborhood resident. If you’re looking for delivery, or live nearby, this place is definitely worth a look. It’s all vegan and all delicious, officially one of four vegan restaurants in Queens.

Coming with friends means getting to try a sampling of dishes. A must try is the Malaysian pancakes with curry dipping sauce (pictured top center).

The beef, chicken, and fish (fried taro) dishes were mostly what you would hope for. The chicken has a great chewy texture that shreds.

The beef was almost too “beefy” for us, so previous bovine meat lovers – this is for you.

The fried taro was delicious and not quite like fish, but its marketed as such.

Taro is delicious in its own right – just don’t expect a fish taste or texture. Our buddy has tried a lot of items, and what you choose can make or break your experience here. So if you don’t like mock meats, don’t go for mock meats. You’d think that’s a given, but we’re always hearing about vegans who didn’t like how realistic a meat texture was as if they expected the Beyond Burger to taste like a black bean patty.

New Yorkers are spoiled with so many vegan options. That being considered, I wouldn’t say it’s worth a big hike from another borough. Though, if we lived near here, we’d probably be regulars. Quality vegan food, with a couple of standouts, at super affordable prices.

Get: the super affordable lunch special that comes with soup or a spring roll, and a choice of 15 different main dishes for $9!

Vegan Food in Jackson Heights

Why is this my most-traversed neighborhood?

I used to live here but unfortunately, I had to sometimes leave my home and interact with people.  I taught in schools here and had a 12-minute commute – walking. Consequently, I gained an undesired recognition within the community (all lovely people – I’m just a recluse).

The solution? A distinctly separate work appearance so I could remain anonymous outside my job. Hair combed the other way, a less stylish pair of glasses – it’s amazing how easily you can hide in plain view (while briskly walking and avoiding eye contact) by tweaking key details in appearance.

how much time I spent here.

But I digress – Jackson Heights grew my fondness for Queens. One of the most diverse neighborhoods in NYC and the world, you’ll need countless hours to explore and experience it all. While there are many places to grab a vegetable samosa or a fruity bubble tea, the following were my “bet your borough doesn’t have this, or as good, or as cheap” spots.

$ Tawa  – vegan options

Hands down, belly up, some of the best, if not the best dumplings in New York City. An absolute favorite of mine. Since they’ve gotten a small write-up in the New York Times and Serious Eats New York, they’ve experienced a surge in non-Himalayan customers. Fret not, despite being a small spot, it’s rarely filled to the brim. Also take home some paratha, a delicious in-house made flatbread.

There is also a vegetable Thali, but Google that first as it’s more adventurous stuff. This is real deal Nepali food.

Get: Veggie Momos and paratha!

Note: Cash Only

$$ Dosa Delight  – vegetarian with vegan options

Now don’t let the lack of decor put you off – the food is a dosa of delightfulness. Of course, I recommend the many, many dosas. Most are vegan, with my favorite being the usual curried potato, chickpea, and pea stuffing. This place is about getting a whole bunch of things and trying them all so plan on bringing friends. One of our favorites and possibly one of the best vegetarian restaurants in Queens. 

Get: Samosa, masala dosa, chaat, any of the dozens of vegan options. 

$ Afghan Kebab and Grill – vegan and gluten-free options

The business is still kicking despite having new owners. Some argue (on yelp) that the place is now less authentic because the new owners aren’t Afghan. Well, this is New York – nobody cares where you’re from if you make delicious food.

The lunch specials are still my favorite, although all my friends have enjoyed other dishes as well. The fried samosa-like things are delicious as well.

Here you must ask to withhold the yogurt dressing to make the vegetarian options vegan. Plates (house lunch specials are $9.99) come with fresh bread, salad, and rice.

This is a great spot that I have thoroughly enjoyed with friends. Once they offered to uncork a bottle of wine that we brought; the server went next door to get a wine opener. Generally beyond generous.

With a choice of eggplant, cauliflower, or spinach, I’d recommend the eggplant, with the cauliflower as a close second. The rice on the side is seasoned and I’d pay to eat a massive bowl of just that. For me, I prefer plain rice to put saucy main courses over, but this rice I’ll make an exception for as it’s so delicious.

Get: Lunch plates: eggplant, cauliflower, sans yogurt dressing. If you want to make it gluten-free, hold the bread.

Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurants in Queens: Rego Park /Forest Hills

While there’s not much reason to be in this mostly residential neighborhood (other than to visit the famous Mark Anthony aka the girlfriend’s dad), there are veggie spots worth mentioning here.

Flushing Meadows Park | AlternativeTravelers.com

If you do happen to find yourself in the area or want to make a trip, Flushing Meadows Park is the site of the old World’s Fair and is a great place to walk around admiring the old buildings and soaking up some sun (weather dependent, of course). I’ve spent countless hours here zooming on my bike like a one-man bicycle derby.

$$ Green Zenphony – 100% vegan and kosher

Scratch the phony – all the food here is Zen. We have returned many times since, and bring friends. Everyone comes away impressed, including ourselves. It’s really the best vegan restaurant in Queens.

After being here a few times, with our last as a send-off before returning to Madrid, we can confidently say this is a must-try for vegan food in Queens. We have devoured many items, and honestly, I don’t know how one could go wrong here. The shark fin soup was brothy and rich.  The vegetable skewers were perfectly grilled. And the sesame chicken was fantastically textured.

Vegan sesame chicken at Green Zenphony in Rego Park, Queens | Vegan Queens by AlternativeTravelers.com
It’s so good you won’t believe it’s not chicken (it’s definitely not chicken though).

The food is particularly beautiful too, so we have to share that.

They have a great lunch special (all under $8) and a huge menu of mock meats galore. Veggies are always tender, and sauces are super savory, never too sweet, salty, or oily. We don’t know how they do it.

One of the handful of 100% vegan restaurants in Queens. The pure joy of all vegan-ness had our veggie booties poppin’.

Last but not least, they locally source some incredibly creamy vegan ice cream and raw vegan cheesecake.

Get: Veggie roast pork, sesame veggie eel, dumplings,  dragon roll, sesame chicken, eggplant, chicken satay – it’s all great. Lunch deals for under $8. Ask about their gluten-free options.

Dragon roll and sesame chicken at Green Zenphony, one of the all vegan restaurants in Queens | AlternativeTravelers.com
Top left is the Dragon roll, which is actually eggplant, not a maki roll. It was almost too cute to eat.

$ Red Pipe Organic Café – vegetarian with mostly vegan and gluten-free options

Red Pipe is a vegetarian restaurant in Queens that has seriously upped its vegan game. All their sandwiches are vegan, and they don’t explicitly state it anywhere.  That shows confidence in their product.

We were super impressed with how well they used the vegan cheeses. The counter people clearly knew what they were doing – turns out the one making the sandwiches was vegan. The other person wasn’t but professed enjoyment of these cheeses as well. The food here is very good, and on our last visit, we tried the Rueben, possibly my favorite sandwich of theirs yet. The vegan meat was chewy and savory, and the cheese melted perfectly, all with a sauerkraut tang, on soft multigrain bread.

vegan reuben at Red Pipe Cafe in Queens New York
The Reuben

They have several non-dairy milks available for no extra charge (yes!) They will also gladly tell you which baked goods are vegan, as many if not most are. They have juices and smoothies too, and serve all day breakfast.

We spent a lot of time here getting ready for our temporary move to Spain. And we spent a farewell lunch during our most recent visit back home to New York City. 

They also have live music every Thursday at 8 pm.

Get: delicious coffee, sandwiches, baked goods. They also have gluten-free vegan cheesecake! Ask about other gluten-free substitutes for prepared foods.

We’re well aware that NYC is constantly changing, so with that in mind double check that places haven’t closed (had to take a couple off this list actually in the latest update). We’re pretty excited to check out more spots when we’re back. Anything vegan Queens that we missed or that we should definitely check out next time we are in Queens?

Not enough Vegan NYC for ya? Check out our budget guides to Manhattan and Brooklyn.

What are your favorite vegan friendly spots in Queens?

*Editor’s note: This post was originally posted in March 2017 and has since been updated substantially.

Vegan Queens, NYC: A Local's Guide to Vegan Food in Queens, New York's Most Multicultural Borough #Vegan #VeganTravel #VeganNYC
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