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By RG writer – Jess DelBalzo
My boyfriend considers himself a “fake-meat vegetarian.”
What he really means is that he prefers texturized soy and gluten products to
nuts, beans, raw tofu and the like.
Basically, he likes to eat vegan things prepared and shaped like
One of his favorite things is so-called
“chicken” parmesan. (I eat chicken,
so I know the difference.) I
have to admit the breaded
imitation tastes exactly like the real thing. Our freezer is full of veggie burgers, ground “beef,” and barbecued riblets (yes, they make vegetarian riblets.) And in the cabinets, you’ll find cans of
vegetarian duck and braised gluten that we picked up at New Kam Man on Canal
Street, along with the standard lentils and peanut butter. I should disclose: He does eat dairy products, but
he’s picky— cow’s milk in his coffee and soy milk in his granola. (Whatever helps you sleep at night.)
If you’re a vegetarian, dining out is often a
challenge. Oftentimes you’re
left to pick between several side dishes and a well-intentioned seasonal vegetable plate or pasta that totally misses the mark. It’s unfortunate, but it’s
reality. Unless of course, you
head to a strictly vegetarian or raw food restaurant, but those tend to be a
snooze, which is why we eat
in a lot of the time.
Fortunately, fake meat is becoming more and more common in
restaurants around New York. There are actually quite a few vegetarian restaurants in New
York that specialize in fake meat dishes. One of the best is Red Bamboo in the West Village, which offers some inventive vegetarian and
vegan dishes. The buffalo “chicken” wings, not only look like wings
(complete with a little wooden “bone,” but also taste like wings. They’re moist
and tender without the stringy bits that inhibit enjoyment. If the wait is
too long, go next door to Vegetarian’s
Paradise 2, which shares its kitchen with Red Bamboo. Or you could walk a couple blocks to Quantum
Leap on Thompson Street for one of the best veggie burgers in the city. If
noodles are your thing, Thai restaurants like Room Service can often make their dishes with moist shreds of
vegetarian duck if you know to ask for it. And if you care to try an admirable
vegan version of a white Russian with your Southern fried “unchicken”
cutlets—two things I have as yet to try at home— there’s Kate’s Joint on Avenue B.
Red Bamboo (two
140 West 4th
St. (btwn 6 Ave. & MacDougal St.)
Don’t Miss:The buffalo wings might be better than the real thing. The crispy soul chicken and the veal marsala are also excellent. The flavors and textures of the “meat” are
all realistic and most entrees come with crisp steamed
vegetables. If you’re in the area during the day, go for the lunch specials,
which come with an appetizer, salad or soup. The peanut butter cup cheesecake is a great finish.
144 West 4th
Street (btwn 6 Ave. and MacDougal St.)
Don’t Miss: The noodle soups and dim sum. The kitchen’s generous with their specialties, like sesame soy chicken and broccoli
and paradise beef (both easily feed two.) If you don’t like any of the dishes here, you can order off Red Bamboo’s menu, so it’s like going to two restaurants at once.
Quantum Leap (two
226 Thompson Street
(btwn. 3rd and Bleeker St.)
Don’t Miss: Their veggie
burgers—of which there are more than ten varieties—just might be worth converting for. The Big Leap Bowl —quinoa piled high with steamed veggies, grilled tofu, and
chili beans— is great for more traditional vegetarians.
Kate’s Joint (two
295 Berry Street (at South 2nd St.), Brooklyn
Don’t Miss: The Unturkey Club and
the southern fried Unchicken cutlets are dead ringers for the real thing. So is the hot dog. Wash it all down
with vegan white Russian that does an admirable impression of the dairy original.
Room Service (two
Avenue (btwn 18th & 19th Sts.)
The vegetarian duck, which you could order in almost anything, but my favorite is with the Roadside Noodles with a vaguely sweet-smoky-spicy
black bean sauce and red peppers. Also, check out their cocktails: Who knew a
kir royal went so well with pad Thai?