Restaurant Review: Bonobo’s Vegetarian


Bonobo’s Vegetarian
18 East 23rd Street
(at Madison Avenue)
Madison Square, Manhattan

Vegiboys Rating (3/4)

In earlier years, while I worked with the 23rd Street Home Depot and Brian worked at the International Toy Building, Bonobo’s had been a go-to place for both of us when seeking a quick and delicious vegetarian working lunch. We recently took a stroll over to the restaurant for a meal with vegi-friend (and talented chef) Amy Blackburn, who provided a fresh set of eyes to help in the review.

Bonobo’s is relatively informal; orders are placed and picked up from the counter, though there is ample seating for customers in the back of the restaurant. Even with the construction scaffolding that is sadly obscuring their entrance, the space feels relaxingly airy thanks to skylights, a large front window, and light wood décor. In warmer weather, the food can also be a perfect take-out option for picnicking across the street in Madison Square Park.

While the tastes of Bonobo’s creations can be difficult to describe accurately for a Bonobo’s novice, the counter is very generous in offering samples of many menu items. Don’t be shy in asking for a spoonful of any item of interest.

The venue’s raw menu centers around their nut pâtés; these unique spreads adorn their salads, stuff their wraps, and act as a spread for their crackers. Our pâté sampler offered portions of their full line-up, including a curried almond paste, a richly flavored Italian spice spread, and a sweet and spicy Thai pâté – in total six scoops of tasty nut and seed blends. Though each could be eaten alone (or with the bed of spinach on which the scoops rested), we also received a delicious flax seed cracker (given some tang with a hint of soy sauce) which served as a perfect crispy complement to any of the pâté choices.

We also tried a combo salad which included ten separate elements from their salad bar. Great flavors were found with each of the included items, with roasted kale, Moroccan cauliflower, and a root vegetable slaw being among the plate’s highlights for us.

Finally, the Patty Napa enclosed a hearty nutmeat burger with napa cabbage leaves. The patty could have easily been too dry with a more traditional grain-based wrap, but the cabbage leaves, sprouts, and a sweet barbeque-like sauce helped to add plenty of moisture and to build the wrap’s palette of flavors.

We ended with a nut macaroon ball for dessert. With dates as a binding and carob powder coating the ball, it was moist, sweet, and rich (though served in wax paper without anything to set a culinary context, it doesn’t make for the most appetizing object in photos). From previous experiences, we can also recommend that you try their vegan ice creams: the banana cinnamon is particularly renowned among Bonobo’s patrons.

To drink, the gingeraid was exactly what one would expect (a gingery lemonade). We traditionally have chosen their coconut water, but they had unfortunately run dry pending the arrival of their next coconut shipment.

At $14 each, Bonobo’s is a comparative bargain in the raw food world, and on par with other area vegetarian eateries. Overall, Bonobo’s is perfect for a quick, light, and healthy meal, providing any of the basics a primate could desire in a pleasant, informal atmosphere.

Food (3/4)

Atmosphere & Service

Value (3/4)

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