Restaurant Review: 14 Carrots


14 Carrots
328 East 14th Street
(between 1st Avenue and 2nd Avenue)
East Village, Manhattan

Vegiboys Rating (3/4)

The story of Curly’s begins as a New Hampshire diner in the 1920s, serving the standards of American cuisine. Resurrected in 2005 as a vegetarian venue in NYC (owned and operated by the same family as the original), Curly’s Vegetarian captures the spirit of it’s predecessor perfectly: they offer simple, hearty food in substantial portions, the sort of fare you’d expect to find at every roadside stop and neighborhood greasy spoon if the world went vegetarian.

Curly’s small interior packs the crowds in well; we visited at the height of a busy Sunday brunch, but received a table within a few minutes and found ourselves comfortably spaced from the neighboring patrons. The restaurant adds to that comfort with a friendly feel; one wall is decorated with patron’s amateur artwork – you can add to their collection with the paper placemats and tin of crayons found at every table.

The staff efficiently managed turnover, but we never felt rushed (and in fact we took a bit of time to finish our drinks after paying the check, with nary a sidelong glance from any of the waitresses).

Stepping back to the beginning of the meal though: we sought brunch, but needed to begin by testing out their buffalo wings (working toward our side-mission of finding the best vegetarian wings in the city). Their seitan wings had a nicely crisped skin, though the “meat” was not as quite as refined in texture as some of the other faux-meats we’ve encountered. The sauce flavor followed a spicy hot wings direction, rather than the sweet barbecue that’s a bit more prevalent in the veggie-wings scene right now. The traditional raw celery and ranch dipping sauce joined the plate.

Some of the celery still had some dirt on it, and we found a few dirt speck floaters in Brian’s water glass, but somehow this felt OK… it almost affirmed the authenticity of Curly’s homegrown diner history, as if to assure that the spirit of a rural diner survived in this decidedly more hip and contemporary moment.

Our brunch arrived next, accompanied by two glasses of a solidly-made blackberry apple sangria.

The taste of bay leaf dominated Brian’s Eggs Arabesque, with tomatoes forming the underlying base for three well poached eggs and a set of polenta fries radiating from the bowl. The polenta fries crumbled easily, but had a great texture and flavor that really made the dish.

My “slumberjack” breakfast was pure Americana. Pancakes, two eggs (sunny side up), some blueberries and strawberries, a small side of curly fries, and two strips of Morningstar bacon.

Could we have made something more exotic at home? Easily, but that would miss the point: the meal was exactly what you would expect from a diner breakfast, and was probably repeated that morning a thousand times over at every diner in the nation. Curly’s is as a diner at heart, and a vegetarian venue only incidentally. Relaxed, comfortable, simple… Curly’s is a great spot for the hungry vegan and omnivore alike, and everyone in between. The bill came to $22.50 each (not a bad value; on par with a lot of the other diner-style eateries we’ve visited). So for anyone seeking some nostalgic suburban diner style food, or just a hearty vegetarian meal, Curly’s can deliver on their image and fill the stomach.

Food (3/4)

Atmosphere & Service

Value (3/4)

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