Photo Essay: a Day of Vegan Food in Brooklyn
Brooklyn and Manhattan are both definitely vegan-friendly, but as a former Brooklynite/ current SoHa (South Harlem) resident, I would argue that there are subtle spiritual differences between the two tribes. If vegan food in Manhattan is more upscale and polished (think venerable restaurants like Candle Cafe or ultra luxurious Pure Food and Wine in Gramercy Park), vegan food in Brooklyn has more street-cred, creativity, and home-grown appeal. This Saturday, we headed down to more laid-back Brooklyn for a day of vegan food-hopping. First we stopped by Williamsburg’s waterfront for the famous Smorgasburg. This outdoor bazaar is undoubtedly meat-centric, but has plenty of vegan options to keep you satisfied. Then we hopped on the train and the bus to go to Bushwick’s Vegan Shop-Up, which happens on the second Saturday of every month.
This is The Butcher’s Daughter in Soho in Manhattan, where we stopped by to get coffee before crossing the Williamsburg Bridge. The Butcher’s Daughter was voted one of the country’s best vegetarian restaurants by Food and Wine, but what I want to point out here is that this embodies “Manhattan-vegan” to the core. Clean and genteel. Civilized side-walk brunch with pricier plates. Folks who are casual but put-together.
After a refreshing walk on the wind-swept Williamsburg Bridge, the first vegan stand of the day was Barry’s Tempeh, which makes their tempeh from local and organic soybeans. Not only that, their special fermentation process adds healthy probiotics; and because their tempeh isn’t pasteurized, it is incredibly fluffy and lacks the typical bitterness of most tempehs.
Vegan Chocolate Almond Milk on sale at Vendome Macarons
By this point the smell and sight of everyone else enjoying their food was making me hungry, too. I passed by Chickpea & Olive, which was drawing a huge crowd. And no wonder: their food looked absolutely delicious.
Chickpea and Olive’s Beet Slider. See what I mean?!
Okay, so pretend you can’t see that “Bacon Sticky Rice” on the corner. This Bamboo Sticky Rice stand was so cool, I had to turn a blind eye. Plus, coconut and mango are both vegan flavors.
And of course, you can’t forget about artisan bread, courtesy of Pain d’Avignon. I would’ve happily had those mini baguettes on the bottom right corner, but I really wanted to save my appetite for our next destination in far away Bushwick…
So the first stand we saw at Bushwick’s Vegan Shop-up was…Barry’s Tempeh! I really appreciated their enthusiasm in sending not one but two stands out in one day. And each of the people manning the stands (like most other vendors) were co-founders or someone truly invested in the brand. I really appreciate meeting people who are directly responsible for their product, which is one of the many benefits of supporting local businesses.
The folks at Yeah Dawg were about to do a lunch swap with Barry’s Tempeh, but we squeezed in to get a loaded all-natural vegan hot dog made with beets.
These dogs are handmade from ground beets and tastes so satisfying and hearty without any suspicious artificial flavor you get from packaged products. We chose red cabbage sauerkraut, corn, and pickles for the topping.
The great thing with Vegan Shop-up was that they took over this cozy cool space in Pine Box Rock Shop and everyone was drinking, eating, and mingling most freely.
See what I mean about the laid-back attitude of Brooklyn vegans? They’re just a friendly, chill bunch of people.
We stopped by Vegan O’Brien Baking Company. Here is founder/owner/baker Evan handing us the pumpkin chocolate chip cookie. He is based in New Paltz upstate, and bakes every single one of the cookies himself. The oversized cookie was soft, moist, and very pumpkin-y, and we devoured it in mere seconds.
When we got out of touring the inside, it was time for another food break. There were many alluring vegan stands but my heart was set on Barry’s Tempeh. This heaping salad with crispy tempeh and peanut sauce hit the spot. I never knew tempeh could be so fluffy and almost sweet.
Alas, we were not done eating yet. I mean, there were so many different vegan goodies that it would be mean not to try at least 2 desserts. Mister Sister’s peanut butter fudge stole our hearts. Here’s what it looks like on the outside.
…And here is what it looks like on the inside, all thick and moist and deeply, dangerously chocolate-y.
Unfortunately we couldn’t immediately descend into food coma because of our ridiculously long trip back home. The L train decided it didn’t want to work this Saturday, so we resorted to buses like people do in Brooklyn. (A huge difference between Manhattan and Brooklyn, in my opinion). But grumbling about MTA aside, it was so worth it to get out and see what the different vegan entrepreneurs are doing on the other side of East River. As corny as it sounds, I find their passion, gumption, and optimism so inspiring. Plus, I don’t feel as bad about spending money when I know who is making it and how it is made (with Love!).
Here are the links to the vegan vendors mentioned. Many of these companies also offer catering or special order, please check them out if you are planning a party or even a vegan wedding!
Chickpea & Olive
Photo: Peaceful Dumpling