The Big Apple for Picky Eaters

vegan dining in New York City
My mom said I was always a picky eater. When I was about four, she joked that I only ate B foods: butter, bananas, and bread. I doubt I’ve eaten butter since high school. I put banana on the yikes list six years ago, and went gluten-free two years later, saying goodbye to bread.

Today, I’m a very particular (not “picky”) eater. The new Bs in my life are broccoli, brussels sprouts, and bitter gourds. That’s one reason why I love New York City. There’s something for everyone. Even for vegan, gluten-free, caffeine-free, sugar-free, low-carb eaters like me.

As long as I’ve been going to New York, I’ve made myself a friend of the delis that are pretty much on every block in Manhattan. They offer such a wide variety of hot and cold food options. Whether it’s Latin or Asian, you can mix and match to your content at the delis. Plus, the food is all on display, which I prefer.  I want to see what my broccoli looks like before I commit to eating it. Nothing too raw or too cooked. I like self-serve as it allows me to make my own portions.  Depending on how the food looks, and my mood, I may dish out a mega serving of brussels sprouts with a slice or two of sweet potato to balance the colors and flavors. Or, vice versa.

Self-Serve Delis

While the draw of the delis, for me, is the pre-prepared food items, they tend to have a great selection of beverages, snacks, and ready-to-eat non-perishables as well. During my last trip, I purchased both lunch items and snacks for my long trip back home. Much better selection, and prices, than anything you can find at the airports.

Beyond the delis that make life easier for people with dietary restrictions, there are plenty of other great finds in New York. Following are just a handful, with a focus on the Upper East Side.

Juice Bars

Can you ever go wrong with a juice bar? Even the most finicky eater can have their drink made to perfection. Pinch of cayenne… a splash of apple cider vinegar…tons of ginger. You name it…you get it.

There are plenty of places to pick up a juice, and more, in New York City. There are 50 Juice Press bars in the Northeast. There are three locations on the Upper East Side, open daily, from early in the morning until post-dinner time. Juice Press uses organic ingredients and attempts to make the highest quality cold pressed juices. The establishments are kosher, halal, and vegan.

Beyond the large assortment of raw juices with names like Doctor Earth, Nurse Ginger Greene, and Fountain of Youth there are faux dairy-based drinks like Mint Chip Protein, Cookies and Cream, and Raw Chocolate Coffee Oatmeal. If you want to nosh or chew, pick up a superfood snack, soup, salad, acai bowl, or dessert.

Hot items include coffees, teas, and soups.

Grocery Stores

I’ve said it before, in a number of my blogs. I’m a huge fan of Whole Foods and tend to know where they’re located in most cities that I frequent. Whole Foods, I believe, is hands down, the best place for coffees, fresh juices and smoothies, salads, soups, and hot prepared meals. They are scattered everywhere, including one on Third Avenue on the Upper East Side.

Some extra benefits of eating at Whole Foods is that there is always good wifi and seating areas. Even the smallest of locations tend to have both indoor and outdoor tables.

A Matter of Health is a great co-op-looking grocery store on First Avenue, near 75th Street. They have an outstanding selection of pre-prepared foods in the refrigerator case, great fresh soups and other items in their deli, and pretty much any food item you can think of throughout in the aisles.

Vegan Bests

For those with a sweet tooth, Vegan Divas is an organic kosher/parve bakery on First Avenue. They strive to use healthier ingredients like spelt, flax, maple sugar, and coconut oil. As a result, Vegan Divas’ treats tend to have more fiber and protein, and fewer calories than traditional bakery selections.  Gluten-free folks won’t be left on the lurch.  If you’re into room service, Vegan Divas delivers anywhere in New York City. When you’re back home if you have a craving, shop online and they will ship anywhere in the continental U.S.

Along with the ubiquitous delis in New York City, there are coffee stands and corner stores with plenty of coffee selections dotting every street. I prefer a place that has more of a look and feel of a coffee house. The Green Bean is around the corner from Vegan Divas. It’s a small, but well-stocked, place to drop in and pick up coffees, teas, juices, shots or smoothies, and a snack. Open daily, The Green Bean serves breakfast and lunch sandwiches with gluten-free options.

For a NY chic place to dine, head for Candle 79 on East 79th Street. It’s billed as a farm-to-table bistro with a wine and sake bar. Skip the booze and order a shot. Like a two-ounce Cherry Bomb made with lemon, ginger, and cayenne, or the Ancient Healer that’s a celery apple blend with moringa, tulsi, and apple cider vinegar.  Candle also has a nice selection of “smooth sippers” and juices.

Candle is a totally vegan establishment, with a wide variety of gluten-free options. There are 13 appetizers and six hearty salads on the menu.  Open for both lunch and dinner, Candle serves brunch on weekends. Vegan gluten-free selections include homemade granola with vanilla cashew almond milk, a polenta cake with sauteed greens and almond cheese, and tempeh-vegetable mole enchiladas.  Dinner entrees include hand-cut pasta (with gluten-free options), spaghetti and wheat balls, and a Moroccan-spiced chickpea cake.

To leave with a sweet smile, check out the vegan cannoli, the first I’d ever seen. Candle’s is brought with a scoop of coconut ice cream. Pretty much everything here is perfect for the vegan or gluten-free eater.

There’s a second Candle on Third Avenue at 75th Street, and a Candle Cafe on 89th at Broadway.

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