Upper West Side New York was named the Most Vegan-Friendly City for 2014 by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and although not “official” by any means, the most vegan-friendly block in New York must be 82nd street and Amsterdam Avenue, where three all-vegan eateries thrive within a half block of each other.
Peter Lu and Eric Yu opened Peacefood Café (460 Amsterdam) in 2009 with the goal to, “share the joys and tastes of the vegan experience with everyone,” Lu says.
On a recent Saturday afternoon, Belinda Lanks and Steve Robinson were devouring brownie bites with their 14-month-old son, Dashiell. The trio dine at Peacefood weekly and Robinson, who is neither vegetarian, nor vegan, calls the cheeseburger, “the best I’ve had in New York.” The burger topped with non-dairy cheese, avocado, sprouts, jalapenos, and caramelized onions also has an added benefit. “It doesn’t give him indigestion like beef burgers do,” Lanks says laughing. Lanks and young Dashiell are partial to the soups, Asian greens salad, and the Japanese pumpkin.
Other favorites include the mushroom panini, chick pea fries (named in 2010 by Time Out NY as one of the “Best fries” in New York), key lime pie, and strawberry shortcake.
Organic Avenue (461 Amsterdam Avenue) opened in 2012 as predominantly a juice café, but remodeled and revamped its menu this past September to include more salads, sandwiches, and soups.
Marketing manager Stephanie Manganelli explains the change: “Organic Avenue wants to make the world a healthier place and although juice can do that, not everyone is able to drink their five servings of fruits and vegetables. But everyone does need to eat.” Popular dishes include kale-quinoa salad, shredded beet and walnut salad, kimchi wild rice bowl, lentil soup, and the AB & J sandwich, which features raw almond butter, whole grain bread, cranberry jam and sliced banana.
Asim Clarke, who has worked at Organic Avenue since the reopening, hopes to start and maintain a vegan lifestyle. “That’s my goal. I eat so much of this stuff while I’m here… it’s fabulous and so healthy.”
Blossom Du Jour (449 Amsterdam Avenue) opened this past September and now blanketS Chelsea, Midtown and the Upper West Side with their “Shrewd. Fast. Food.” Co-owner Pamela Elizabeth says, “Our mission is as plain and simple as our food, eating should be fun, healthy and hold no negative consequence to the animals we share our world with.” The menu includes sandwiches such as the little Italy (meatballs and all the usual fixings) and karmic kale wrap, smoothies, and chickpea quinoa and un-chicken Caesar salads. Jane Brown was recently sharing her burrito grande with her 15-month-old son Carter. Turns out, Brown and her husband Tyler, both vegan, have the luxury of living on the corner of Vegan-street (82nd and Amsterdam). Brown’s favorites at Du Jour are the un-chicken griller wrap and the hummus cucumber wrap, while she is partial to Peacefood’s tempura vegetables, and Organic Avenue’s shredded curry cabbage, and juices.
Café Blossom is the elegant fine-dining sibling to Blossom Du Jour, and has been in the neighborhood for seven years, currently located only two blocks away at 507 Columbus Avenue (84th-85th street). On a recent Saturday afternoon, Chris Morgan and Bonnie Marvin, visiting from upstate New York, enjoyed their lunch. Morgan, who’s not a vegetarian or vegan, had the soy bacon cheeseburger, and was “pleasantly surprised” by the flavorful non-dairy cheese. The pair shared and raved about the mushroom tacos, which include roasted adobo-spiced mushrooms, cabbage, guacamole, carrot/poblano escabeche, and micro cilantro. Jen Stephen dined that Saturday on seitan scallopini cooked in white wine, with truffle mashed potatoes, sautéed kale, and said that for anyone considering becoming vegan, “this place could seal the deal.”
With so many vegan establishments in such close proximity, is there any worry about oversaturation? Blossom’s Elizabeth says, “I don’t look at other vegan places as competition. If people are eating at vegan establishments that means they aren’t eating animal products and that’s what’s important.” And Peacefood’s Yu concludes: “We are happy to see there is more demand for vegan food as one of our original goals was to bring vegan food to the mainstream. We focus on what we do best and I’m sure we can co-exist harmoniously for a better future.”