It’s been more than a decade since I gave up meat and poultry, and nearly a year since I became fully vegan. As I approach my one-year anniversary, some of the awesome eateries I’ve tried along my journey come to mind, but these are my go-tos in Brooklyn. Whether you’re out with friends who might not be vegan or want to nosh on ‘veganized’ goodies, Brooklyn has it all and in just about every style of cuisine. As you’ll see, Caribbean food is high on my list of favorites.
Ital Kitchen, Crown Heights
The Gordon family runs this beautifully decorated restaurant. Chef-owner Michael Gordon hails from Jamaica as such there is a delicious Caribbean influence to his fusion and ‘veganized’ dishes. If you enjoy Jamaican food as much as I do, you know it’s more than jerk chicken and oxtails with gravy, and Ital Kitchen is Jamaican food’s vegan cousin. Dishes like Thai-Fi Stew, Gordon’s take on an Asian-inspired fish stew satisfies with substance and intricate flavors. Oyster mushrooms stand in for fish and stand up to the subtle heat of sauce and stewed veggies. As a vegan, this place satisfies with meat substitutes that aren’t necessary soy. Check them out in Crown Heights; a Dumbo outpost is coming soon.
Ital Kitchen, 1032 Union St., Brooklyn, NY 11215
Toad Style, Bed-Stuy
As a West Coaster (shout out Seattle-Tacoma), this place gives me all the feels. The grungy, punk theme of this place is an experience all its own, and the food is even better. The folks running Toad Style have made it their mission to make vegan equivalents of casual foodie classics and vegan food trends like buffalo cauliflower bits and BBQ jackfruit. There is a light citrus note to the grilled cheese, made with a creamy cashew cheese and hearty slices of tomato, and it hits the spot when you’re craving classic comfort food. (One could argue that it stands up against the real thing.) The tiny benches at this small Bed-Stuy eatery don’t invite you to linger, but have a kombucha and take a seat anyway.
Toad Style, 93 Ralph Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11221
Vegetarian Palate, Prospect Heights
Oh the wonders of soy! What meat will they imitate next? This establishment offers delicious Asian dishes, done over with soy protein. Everything from lobster to crispy duck has been made with soy, the tastes and textures are pretty convincing. I’ve gone with carnivorous friends, and while they might notice the Crispy Nuggets are in fact not chicken the crunchy exterior, savory flavor and delicious dipping sauce are hard to put down. If you’re in the mood for noodles I suggest the Singapore Style Mei Fun Curry. The warmth of this spicy curry dish is paired with ‘beef’, ‘pork’ and ‘chicken’ soy protein, green onion, and sweet peppers add balance to this protein-packed dish. Order in from this Park Slope staple.
Vegetarian Palate, 603 Washington Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11238
Sweet Chick, Williamsburg and Prospect Heights
Satisfying your need for something country fried, this chicken and waffles joint can make a mean crispy chicken sandwich. Although not exclusively a vegan restaurant, they have perfected their crispy soy ‘chicken’ sandwich. As you might expect with Southern fare, the sides are darn tasty too. Stick with the grits and seasonal vegetables. This spot is great because your meat eater friends have plenty of options, and plenty of outposts too, in Brooklyn, the Lower East Side and now Long Island City. By the way, their cocktails are something else; try the “Side Chick” if you’re into fruity mixed drinks.
Sweet Chick, 164 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY, 11211 & 341 Flatbush Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11238
Mandela Halal Buffet, Crown Heights
This Halal buffet offers up plenty of Caribbean classics like rice and peas cooked in coconut milk. Although not exclusively vegan, there is plenty to satisfy both meat eaters and a plant-based crowd. Load your take away container with rice and peas straight from the pressure cooker then heap on the stewed beans, okra, steamed cabbage, and carrot. Do note that they keep the good hot sauce in the fridge with the drinks. The owner of this low-key Crown Heights establishment is warm, friendly and is there almost daily. This place has virtually no web presence and is totally un-hyped, just a neighborhood gem, off the main drag.
Mandela Halal Buffet, 267 Troy Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11213
Gloria’s, Crown Heights
Although Caribbean food is so much more than jerk chicken or oxtails, I’m told by meat eater friends that Gloria’s does both well. But the real star for vegans is the pumpkin roti. In Crown Heights, you can get roti anywhere, but you should get it from here. How do I begin to describe how the sweet, creamy, savory gourd melts in your mouth and is only further enhanced by the thin layers of flaky roti bread? It’s a must-have. This colorful eatery at the corner of Nostrand is great for an on-the-go treat. The roti, which is as big as my face, makes for a very portable, but satisfying lunch, as it’s wrapped burrito style and can be eaten with one hand. The vegetable roti is a very close second but an equal contender for my favorite thing to eat at Gloria’s along with the fried plantains and cabbage.
Gloria’s, 764 Nostrand Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11216