Celebrate Vegetarian Month With Veggie Done Right

Forget That Same Old Salad and Fake Meat, Visit These Eateries for a Tasty Vegetarian Treat


Published: October 7, 2010

When you’re a vegetarian, dining out can be draining. You have to get used to the questions: “Why don’t you eat meat, again? Fish isn’t really meat though, right? Do you know chicken actually isn’t bad for you?” But it’s not just explaining yourself that can be tough. Whether you’ve been an omnivore for eons or you’ve just last week sworn off food that was once breathing, maintaining a balanced and varied diet can be one of life’s biggest challenges. Often you’re faced with few options, and the ones you do find are repetitive or lacking in nutrients—no one can survive off salad alone, even if they wanted to. So in honor of Vegetarian Month, treat yourself to a night out at one of the best local restaurants for meatless dining, all with hearty entrées under $10.

Desi Deli: A Broke Vegetarian’s Dream
Location: 724 10th Ave. (between 49th and 50th Streets)
Hours: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.

To those who have fallen into the trap of believing there’s no such thing as cheap Indian food, think again. Stepping into Desi Deli, a hole-in-the-wall 10 blocks down from Fordham on 10th Avenue, is like finding a unicorn for those of us who like our food meatless, spicy and under seven dollars. For just $6.50, Desi Deli offers the “vegetarian platter,” a create-your-own medley of authentic Indian dishes. Vegetarian customers choose from a buffet-style selection of options that change depending on the day, although there are some constants such as the super-spicy chickpeas, a tangy yogurt curry and spinach with potatoes. Served in a three-section takeout container, the vegetarian platter is often so heaping that it can make for considerable leftovers, making a cheap meal even cheaper.

Pam Real Thai: If Your Significant Other is an Omnivore
Location: 404 West 49th St. (at 9th Avenue)
Hours: Sunday – Thursday: 11:30 a.m. – 11 p.m.; Friday – Saturday: 11:30 a.m. – 11:30 p.m.

Planning a date with a meat-eater can be tough—at most possible destinations, there’s either not much for you to choose from or it’s a completely vegetarian restaurant, which can get old for those dates who can’t imagine a meal without some muscle on the menu. Thankfully, Pam Real Thai on 49th Street boasts an incredibly diverse menu, with seemingly limitless choices no matter what your dietary philosophy. The “vegetarian dishes” section alone boasts 13 entrées that actually don’t feel tacked on as if the chefs suddenly remembered us herbivores. The stir-fried pumpkin with eggs, the eggplant with basil and black bean sauce and the lard na noodle are all well worth the 11-block trip, but if there’s nothing in the vegetarian section that suits you, tofu can be substituted for meat in many of the sautéed and curry dishes. But be sure to visit the ATM before you go: Pam Real Thai only accepts cash for its delectable dinner selection.

Hummus Place: Say Goodbye to Fake Meat
Location: 305 Amsterdam Ave. (between 74th and 75th Streets)
Hours: 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 a.m.

While there are plenty of decent all-vegetarian restaurants, most of them make their money by vegetarian-izing products that normally contain meat. But for many of us, once the excitement of our new dietary choice wears off, we realize that tofu-chicken noodle soup actually tastes like a bowl full of salt and nothing. So it’s refreshing to find restaurants like Hummus Place, which is entirely vegetarian without resorting to substituting soy, tofu, gluten or pulverized vegetables for meat. Because hummus is made primarily out of chickpeas, tahini and olive oil, it can provide a meal that is vegetarian (and vegan!) and actually flavorful while sticking to its natural form. Although Hummus Place offers entrées and appetizers other than its four types of hummus, every choice on the menu is vegetarian, many of which incorporate eggplant, couscous, falafel and/or quinoa. Put the Morningstar chicken patties away, for a night; it’s time for a protein that doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not.

Maoz: When You Miss the Golden Arches
Location: 2047 Broadway (at W. 71st Street)
Hours: Monday – Thursday: 11 a.m. – 12 a.m.; Friday – Saturday: 11 a.m. – 1 a.m.; Sunday: 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.

Nobody really likes fast food. But you know the pang of jealousy you feel when your friends decide to cave in to their cravings and go for that disgustingly tempting Whopper or that deliciously greasy Big Mac, and you either have to stay home or stick with a measly order of fries while everyone else drools over their MSG-laden processed beef patties. While it’s probably better for you that your dietary restriction steers you away from the dollar menu, sometimes you can’t help wanting something cheap, delicious and ready before you can say “trans fat.” Luckily, Maoz exists: an entirely vegetarian fast food chain that will hand you a falafel-filled pita and a heaping portion of Belgian fries in no time. Not only will your arteries thank you for avoiding the more mainstream options, but your taste buds will, too.  Unlike McDonald’s, whose condiment options range from ketchup to mustard, at Maoz you can drown your healthier fried food in beets, carrots, tabouleh, tzatziki, olives, hot peppers, the list goes on. And best of all, you won’t have that lingering feeling of self-loathing after you finish the last bite.