Restaurant Review: Veggie Castle II

March 23, 2012

Veggie Castle II
132-09 Liberty Avenue
(between 132nd Street and 133rd Street)
Richmond Hills, Queens

Vegiboys Rating (3/4)

With the demise of Brooklyn’s Veggie Castle I, the only remaining outpost for this vegan Caribbean take-out chain requires a visit to Richmond Hill, Queens. Though off the beaten path, the experience is well worth the hike; of NYC’s plethora of Caribbean eateries, Veggie Castle II is perhaps our favorite. The thoroughly Rastafarian staff and atmosphere expresses itself well in the cooking; they have delicious vegetarian versions of the typical dishes, from jerk chicken to breaded fish.

For our recent visit, we chose three of the protein options from the steam trays: buffalo wings, curry “chicken”, and soy fish cakes. The wings had a nice texture and a sweet barbecue flavor. The spicy curry dish also satisfied the taste buds with chunks of seitan bathed in a green curry sauce. The fish cakes had a great taste, but struck us as somewhat dry; they could have used a bit of sauce .

On previous visits, Veggie Castle’s mac ‘n cheese had been particularly outstanding, with the addition of capers giving it an unexpected kick. The dish lacked capers this time around though, leaving it less complex and not quite as enjoyable.

Our other sides included some well-cooked okra with lemongrass flavoring, smoky chickpeas, and spiced potatoes. Our server included some fried plaintains with each of the platters. To drink, we went with Caribbean stand-by Ginseng Up (the lemon/lime is our option of choice).

While the Veggie Castle also has a selection of delicious looking pastries and cakes, our lunch platter portions were too huge for us to attempt a dessert course.

Veggie Castle II has limited seating, with a single indoor table, a couple of counter chairs, and one outdoor table (weather dependent). There unfortunately aren’t many options for comfortable seating in the neighborhood, so eating on-site might require some creativity. At $10 each, with enough food in each platter to make for two meals, the restaurant is an excellent bargain and well worth a visit if you’re in the neighborhood.

Food (3/4)

Atmosphere & Service

Value (3/4)

Restaurant Review: Little Lad’s

February 24, 2012

Little Lad’s
41 Delancey Street
(between Forsyth Street and Eldridge Street)
Lower East Side, Manhattan

Vegiboys Rating (3/4)

Seventh Day Adventism plays a significant role in the history of American vegetarianism. The religion’s adherents founded many of the nation’s first vegetarian restaurants, and many defining products of the modern vegetarian experience began through the church (including the Morningstar Farms line of faux-meat foods). This Adventist tradition survives in New York City through the passion of entrepreneurs Larry and Maria Fleming.

On a New Jersey farm in the 1970s, the Flemings trained dozens of budding restaurateurs, working with students to fully launch vegan restaurants around the world (many of which remain in operation). In the 1980s and 1990s, the Flemings coordinated their own global chains of vegetarian restaurants, including several on Manhattan (Country Life with locations in downtown and Midtown, and Living Springs on the Upper East Side). Though these three restaurants have since disappeared, they attracted the attention of many NYC healthy-eaters, including real estate magnate Larry Silverstein.

In 2006, Silverstein provided with Flemings with a small basement space in a Financial District office building for a discounted rent, allowing them to open Little Lad’s Basket. The popular restaurant served as a hidden lunchtime sanctuary for lower Manhattan’s workers until last year, when their expired lease forced them to seek a new venue.

Little Lad’s has now reopened in a sprawling street-level space at the Seventh Day Adventist Church on the Lower East Side. The exterior has nothing to advertise the restaurant; there were no signs for Little Lad’s and most of the window gates were closed when we visited. Interior design seemed an afterthought too, and the restaurant feels like a dated college cafeteria. The space is eclectically decorated with news clippings and informational posters on healthy living. Tables, chairs, and even the architectural elements are mismatched throughout the huge dining room.

Though Adventist veganism stems from personal health beliefs and not environmental sustainability, the restaurant’s Styrofoam plates and plastic utensils still seemed somewhat out-of-place.

We arrived for a lunch to an empty restaurant, which only further expanded the psychological size of the room, though we were gradually joined by a slow trickle of patrons for the lunch buffet.

The buffet menu, self-served from steam trays, included a nice selection of delicious foods. An outstanding vegan mac and cheese contained nutritional yeast to create a pleasing earthy flavor. The lasagna used copious quantities of a nicely blended tofu-based ricotta and was perfectly baked. A spicy red bean soup was thick with ingredients, giving it a chili-like quality.

Simple items like baked sweet potatoes, bok choi, and salads all had fresh tastes. Brian and I both had R.W. Knudsen boysenberry natural soda to drink.

Desserts are not offered, so we tried some of Little Lad’s popcorn instead (shipped to NYC from the Fleming’s other kitchen in Portland, Maine). Cooked in coconut oil, the flavor and texture were perhaps just a bit too unexpected for us, though their unique approach to popcorn certainly has plenty of fans.

Though the restaurant is self-service, employees are friendly and quick to help with any questions. Two staff members carefully maintained the steam-trays, and a third served double duty as cashier and resident DJ (playing vaguely religious rock from Positive Life Radio).

For $7.99, you can pile your plate high with the day’s offerings (and also have two side bowls of soup and salad). We found this more than substantial, and we left the restaurant with very satisfied appetites. For a total cost of $10.50 each, Little Lad’s has one of the NYC’s best vegetarian deals, and we definitely recommend a visit. As they find their footing in the new location, we hope to see their patronage grow once again, keeping the flame of Adventist vegetarianism alive in New York.

Food (3/4)

Atmosphere & Service

Value (3.5/4)

Vegiboys’ Best of NYC | Restaurant Edition

January 13, 2012

Having completed our 2011 resolution of eating at all of NYC’s vegetarian restaurants, we want to start 2012 with a look back on some of our best experiences. Looking for a good vegan date spot? Wondering where to satiate your vegetarian sweet tooth’s cravings? Here are the Vegiboys’ best restaurant recommendations:


The comfortable elegance of V-Note is only superseded by the outstanding food. Don’t let the wine bar label fool you; this full-service restaurant is now our favorite vegetarian venue in the city.

An Honorable Mention also goes to one of our perennial favorites, Red Bamboo. The atmosphere can be hectic, but the faux-meat meals that fill their menu are among the best New York has to offer.


At Kajitsu, every plate is an artistic composition. The intricately designed visual appeal of every course and the entirely unexpected ingredients are enough reason to give their kitchen’s creativity respect, but to blend these components into some of the most unique and delicious creations we’ve ever tasted earns the restaurant our vote for NYC’s best vegetarian food.


The time intensive (and resource intensive) techniques used in vegetarian raw food kitchens usually give the cuisine a high price tag. While any 3 course meal under $20 is a bargain, Raw Star Café provides a great experience and outstanding raw food for that price, making it the city’s best value.

Runner-up Punjabi also deserves a shout-out. Though this Indian cuisine venue is no frills (don’t expect a chair if you want to eat at the counter), you can fully satisfy your appetite from their steam trays for as low as $3.


The staff at Oneness-Fountain-Heart possess all of the right characteristics in perfect proportion: professionalism, humor, attentiveness that never feels smothering, and confident knowledge of the menu and their kitchen’s strengths.

We also want to give an Honorable Mention to Bread-A. The servers accept you with the familiarity of family, feeling no discomfort in providing strongly opinionated recommendations (and feeling no compunction in fighting amongst themselves on whose recommendations deserve the highest credence).


Crossing the threshold of Hangawi has been compared to entering a sanctuary. Entering through the monumental front door and removing your shoes imbue an immediate degree of ceremony to the experience. The long dining room with subtle lighting and sunken wooden tables is simply beautiful; the restaurant’s design offers an unparalleled atmosphere.


Manhattan’s Little India hold’s the city’s highest concentration of vegetarian restaurants, so the neighborhood has no shortage of options for vegi-dining. However, our favorite Indian food comes from the consistent kitchen of the recently renovated Chennai Garden.

Further afield, runner-up Annam Brahma has a broader menu, but the restaurant’s Indian dishes have all proven outstanding.


Their skill with using raw ingredients to mold entirely accurate replicas of complex foods like ravioli, enchiladas, and pecan pie sets Quintessence apart among NYC’s raw food restaurants. This is one of the most talented vegetarian kitchens in the city, and the restaurant demonstrates the incredible potential of raw cuisine.


The Lower East Side’s Wild Ginger offers a full range of Asian dishes, from pad Thai to Korean bi-bim bap. Whether ordering a simple Szechuan-style platter or seasonal special, Wild Ginger provides consistently delicious food in a comfortable atmosphere. (Wild Ginger also has a location in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill, but should not be confused with the restaurant in Williamsburg of the same name.)


Newcomer Blossom Du Jour brings fast food to new heights. With haute-cuisine twists on traditional fast food like burgers, fries, and shakes, Blossom offers vegetarian fast food beautifully done.


With dimmed lighting, a rustic dining room, and an overwhelming array of menu options to suit any palate, Caravan of Dreams supplies the perfect setting for a romantic outing. They provide live music every night to help you even further in setting the mood for your next vegi-date.


NYC contains plenty of cheap (and not-so-cheap) vegetarian falafel chains, but Soom Soom stands out for us as the best of its class within the falafel joint crowd. Ultra-friendly service, a comfortable venue, and higher quality food all set the restaurant apart from its competitors.


Ready to feel transported? The lack of windows at Vatan reinforces a sense of separation from the city, but it’s the Disney Land-esque interior design that really brings your table to another world. If you’re seated upstairs, make sure to take a peek into the Temple of Doom dining area in the basement before departing.

An Honorable Mention in this category also due to Franchia. The amazing interior design extends vertically to three steep tiers of dining spaces, keeping your attention away from the streets of Park Avenue outside, and instead drawing you into their perfectly crafted Korean tea house for the length of your meal.


The mock meat concoctions at Red Bamboo will delight even the most intractable omnivores. The taste and texture of some items (like the restaurant’s buffalo wings) are perhaps even an improvement on the meat-based variety.

We also want to provide an Honorable Mention to Café Viva. This vegi-venue draws a diverse crowd by marketing itself as a typical NYC pizzeria, and only with careful attention do you notice that the menu options never include real meat.


The prix fixe weekend brunch at Rockin’ Raw spins raw ingredients into amazing traditional brunch items like raw interpretations of fried eggs and hashbrowns. Sundays also offer all-you-can-drink mimosas and Bloody Marys. During warmer weather, the great seating on their Bohemian backyard offers dining underneath fruit trees.


Even aside from sharing a space with a yoga studio, JivamukTea Café has a serene atmosphere with calming, comfortable colors to help re-center the mind. Sitting above Broadway just south of Union Square, the restaurant seems to slow the pace of the surrounding world, offering the perfect corner to clear the mind while filling the stomach.


Pure Food and Wine creates amazing raw food, and the kitchen’s desserts are no exception. Drawing on seasonal ingredients, the restaurant crafts brilliantly designed sweets that exceed the tastes you’d expect. Rather than treating dessert as an afterthought to the main dish, the experience at Pure continues building after the entrée is done to crescendo with the final course.


The price tag alone may dissuade many NYC vegetarians in the lower 99% wealth bracket, but a meal at Kajitsu transcends the typical restaurant experience. The service has been refined beyond perfection, and the experience is more akin to a performance than a meal. Rarely used ingredients like the finger lime may offer you flavors you would never otherwise experience. It’s perfect entertainment when the taste buds grow bored with more proletarian cooking.


Hidden among the crowd of restaurants in the East Village, Lan Café is unassuming in its atmosphere and service, but the modest facade hides a very talented kitchen. As the only vegetarian Vietnamese venue in the city (and with plenty of French-inspired flairs on the menu), the food is surprisingly unique and well worth the attention of New York’s vegetarians.


Got another restaurant superlative for the Vegiboys to answer? Have a NYC vegetarian restaurant you think should be making the cut in one the categories above? You can comment below, or start a discussion on our Facebook page.

Restaurant Review: Blossom

September 1, 2011

187 9th Avenue
(between 21st Street and 22nd Street)
Chelsea, Manhattan

Vegiboys Rating (3.5/4)

The Blossom group runs some of the city’s best vegetarian restaurants. From V-Note to Blossom Du Jour, their venues provide consistently excellent food, and they have a skill for creating comfortable spaces with strong customer service.

Thus, for the Vegiboys’ final meal in our quest to eat our way through all of the NYC’s vegetarian restaurants, we visited the flagship Blossom on 9th Avenue in Chelsea. The oldest and most traditional of the Blossom kitchens, the restaurant is still going strong, and we’ve never seen a dinner service without a full house.

Joined by urban expert and Vegiboys regular Bess Matassa (who coincidentally also participated in our first Vegiboys meal at Annam Brahma), we settled into a corner table with a confidence that we would enjoy the meal.

The flagship Blossom’s interior is dimly lit, with décor that might best be described as rustic elegance. It has a broad appeal that makes it appropriate for any number of scenarios, whether a date, a business dinner, or a place to bring the family when they visit town.

To drink, Brian and I had their delicious sangria special, while Bess tried a bilberry juice (a purple juice with a strong, blueberry-like flavor).

Among our appetizers, we had seitan-stuffed empanadas placed around a pile guacamole made with hearts of palm, a great start to the meal.

For our dinners, Brian chose a seitan scallopini; a thinly sliced and fried faux-veal over mashed potatoes and kale with a lemon caper sauce. Bess had hickory-basted tempeh with a horseradish creme fraiche served with roasted potatoes and collard greens. My dish was one of the night’s specials: a rib-eye “steak” with a mushroom-stem bone that gave considerable flavor to the meat and the gravy.

To end the meal, we shared desserts of chocolate ganache with ice cream and a lavendar crème brûlée.

All of the food at Blossom is simply delicious. It plays on the comfort food found in omnivorian restaurants, using a wide-ranging repertoire of ingredients and techniques to recreate traditional dishes, but always with just enough of a creative twist to render every dish memorable and unique.

At $60 each, Blossom can be a higher-priced meal than you might find elsewhere, but few NYC vegetarian kitchens can offer such total certainty that you’ll enjoy the food you receive.

Food (3.5/4)

Atmosphere & Service

Value (3/4)

Restaurant Review: Green Bean Café

August 29, 2011

Green Bean Café
1413 York Avenue
(between 75th Street and 76th Street)
Upper East Side, Manhattan

Vegiboys Rating (2/4)

Green Bean is a cute hole-in-the-wall café on the Upper East Side, but unfortunately that’s where its positive traits end. It markets itself as a full service restaurant, and continuously provided us with a very extensive menu that suggests a fully operating kitchen. However, every time we attempted to eat at Green Bean, either the café was closed or the kitchen wasn’t operating.

Instead, we were offered slim pickings from a few sad-looking steam trays, or selections from their pre-made foods. A variety of excuses were provided for the limited menu; the chef had recently quit, the kitchen was experiencing technical difficulties, the kitchen was closed for the night (two hours before the café’s closing time)…

Regardless, after six months of trying to eat from Green Bean’s kitchen, we’re convinced that it may not exist (or if it does, it provides very selected daily items to the steam tray). You will not have anything listed on their menu available to you.

During our final attempt, I finally decided I needed to try something, and chose a faux-chicken salad sandwich from their fridge along with a homemade green tea lemonade. The taste was bland; it tasted like prepackaged food. It was not worth the $11 price for the meal. Green Bean might aspire to be a vegetarian venue, but in reality is nothing more than a banal coffee shop. If you’re seeking vegetarian fare, we suggest going elsewhere until their kitchen operates and their menu items are actually available.

Food (2.5/4)

Atmosphere & Service

Value (2/4)

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The Vegiboys have made a mission of eating at every vegetarian restaurant in NYC; all 5 boroughs, dozens of neighborhoods, all manner of cuisines.

We've accomplished our task, reviewing each restaurant for you along the way and making you, our readers, the most informed vegetarian diners in Gotham. You can browse all of the restaurant reviews here, or search our VegiMap to check out the restaurants near you!

We'll continue to add reviews as we come across new restaurants or revisit old ones. Know a place we've missed? Let us know!

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