New York

Photo courtesy of Jajaja Plantas Mexicana

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The Resy Guide to Vegan Bites and Cocktail Pairings in New York

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New York isn’t necessarily known for vegan cuisine, but one thing it is known for is its cocktail scene. These days, however, that’s starting to change, especially because some of the city’s best cocktail bars and restaurants are serving some of the best vegan dishes, too.  (In fact, we’ve got a whole collection of them here.)

And also, because it’s that time of year when some of us resolve to make dining-related resolutions (hence, Veganuary and Dry January), we thought it might be useful to know where to find some of the city’s most delightful vegan dishes and satisfying cocktails. (It’s all about balance, right?) 

So, we asked the beverage directors, chefs, owners, and general managers at some of our favorite Resy restaurants what to drink with some of their restaurants’ signature vegan creations. 

Wau’s salt and pepper young coconut, aka coconut calamari. Photo courtesy of Wau Restaurant
Wau’s salt and pepper young coconut, aka coconut calamari. Photo courtesy of Wau Restaurant

Wau Restaurant

Lasso The Moon. Photo courtesy of Wau Restaurant

Salt & Pepper Young Coconut  

The ‘meat’ itself is from fresh young coconut,” explains chef-owner Salil Mehta. “It’s prepared exactly the same as regular calamari would be. The inspiration behind it was my wife, who had never had the meat from the young coconut, and I really wanted to figure out a way to showcase it in a savory preparation. The end result was something special; it mimicked regular calamari so much that she couldn’t even tell the difference. There’s something very special about creating a dish that on the outside feels familiar, but that is made out of ingredients that are unexpected. It truly tastes and feels like you’re eating calamari even though it’s really a vegan dish made with young coconut.

Salil’s recommended drink pairing:

“Either the Crimson King with Haku vodka, hibiscus and chamomile flowers, Timut peppercorns, and tangerine, or the Lasso The Moon with Roku gin, blue lotus flowers, maraschino, and clarified lemon. The floral notes from both lend well to the sweet and spicy flavors of the coconut calamari. These are both very refreshing cocktails that offer a nice balance to the tempura-fried coconut meat.”  

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Ladybird’s buffalo maitake buns. Photo courtesy of Ladybird/Overthrow Hospitality
The Goldfinch. Photo courtesy of Ladybird/Overthrow Hospitality

Ladybird  

Buffalo Maitake Buns 

Honestly, those Buffalo maitake buns are currently the only thing I eat at Ladybird because I’m constantly on the move,” says Sother Teague, beverage director of Overthrow Hospitality (Ladybird, Cadence, Amor y Amargo). “So, when I swing in to do whatever it is I need to do — because we have 10 locations — I know it’s something I can get pretty quickly, and because it’s handheld, I can pick it up and eat it.” 

“[The buns] are the vegan answer to Buffalo wings, right? You’ve got the Buffalo mushroom, you’ve got the ranch sauce instead of blue cheese. And then you’ve got a celery component that, in this case, is kind of pickled. It’s got a little bit of that cleansing, vinegary action that’s going to help cut through some of the richness and then there’s this pillowy soft bun. I think the thing that’s attractive for me is that it’s got a lot of things you think are quite familiar, but they’re presented in a way that’s somewhat unique. It’s like a cross between a plate of wings or a fried chicken sandwich but in a vegan presentation. The texture has this soft bun, crispy celery, and this crispy batter-fried mushroom — it’s just great. My mouth is watering just talking to you about it.

Sother’s recommended drink pairing 

“It’s got a great pairing. The team gets a sheet from me when the menus change, so I pair everything [at each of Overthrow’s restaurants]. It’s called The Goldfinch — all the cocktails are named after birds. The Goldfinch is made with a ginger and turmeric syrup that I make, plus some lime juice and some sparkling wine, served over ice. It’s basically a nod toward a buck, which is any bubbly cocktail with a ginger component like ginger beer, ginger syrup, or ginger ale. It kind of comes off like a Moscow Mule type of situation. It’s kind of familiar but unfamiliar; it’s got this milky yellow color and effervescence, and it’s light on your palate but that ginger cuts through some of the richness of the housemade ranch dressing on the Buffalo maitake bun. That ginger also kind of pairs nicely with the spiciness of the Buffalo sauce. It does what you want a drink to do when you’re pairing — you either want to go straight at something, so you’re pairing the spicy Buffalo sauce and spicy ginger, or you want to cut through something, like with those cleansing bubbles from the sparkling wine and the pickled celery.” 

Another drink Teague recommends is the Peach Face. “I would say, if you want to go directly at something, we’ve got the Peach Face, and believe it or not, that is the name of a bird — I go through these painful ordeals searching for names for the cocktails. This drink involves a peach shrub: We take peaches and we lightly pickle them with vinegar and sugar and then we puree that and strain it and thin it with a bit more vinegar or water, depending on the acidity level. Then we’ve got this bright, poppy, peach-flavored component, and then we juice jalapeños. This drink is served on the rocks and is built around white wine. It has this acid from the vinegar, heat from the jalapeños, and then the white wine is the alcoholic component. I grew up in the Deep South and we commonly pair fruits with spicy things and pair that along with food, so I think it rings a lot of familiar bells with me.” 

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The sambusa at Ras Plant Based. Photo courtesy of Ras Plant Based
The Love Spell cocktail. Photo courtesy of Ras Plant Based

Ras Plant Based 

Sambusa  

“These are flaky pastry shells stuffed with a savory filling, and we have two different kinds of filling to choose from,” says co-owner Milka Regalli. “There’s one with mixed vegetables (collards, cabbage, bell peppers, and carrots) or my personal favorite, the spicy lentil.

Milka’s recommended drink pairing:

“It’s called Love Spell, and it’s made with rye, smoky whiskey, grenadine, and lime juice. It’s tangy with a hint of sweetness and smokiness. I think it’s the perfect complement to any meal here!”

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Bandits’ chickpea “tuna” melt. Photo courtesy of The Garret Bars
The Flat-Head cocktail. Photo courtesy of The Garret Bars

Bandits

Chickpea “Tuna” Melt  

“The Chickpea ‘Tuna’ Melt is an instant classic,” says Max Stampa-Brown, beverage director of the Garret Bars (The Garrett Cocteleria, Borrachito, The Garrett East). “At Bandits, we try to honor this staple of diner menus without skimping on originality. The Chickpea ‘Tuna’ Melt’s multigrain bread is bananas, and its pesto should’ve been invited to the party a long time ago. Truth be told, this is director of operations Mackenzie Gleanson’s fiancé’s recipe; Yasmin did so well bringing this to the table, it had to see its name in lights (I’m hoping my girlfriend isn’t reading this).”

Max’s recommended drink pairing: 

“The best drink to pair with Bandits’ Chickpea ‘Tuna’ Melt has got to be the Flat-Head — a seriously underrated drink. It’s acidic, tart, and refreshing. The Flat-Head is a worthy opponent to the trickery of the Chickpea ‘Tuna’ melt. Both come head-to-head with unexpected substitutions and additions to classic drinks and meals. The chickpea sits in for tuna, and the gin sits in for vodka. Both walk out with their heads held high, flipping the narrative on a traditional screwdriver and a diner/dive tuna melt.” 

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Pumpkin curry from The Tyger. Photo courtesy of The Tyger
Pumpkin curry from The Tyger. Photo courtesy of The Tyger

The Tyger

The Poison of the Honey Bee. Photo courtesy of The Tyger

Kobucha Masala Pakistani-Style Roasted Pumpkin Curry  

“A highlight of this dish is the mouthwatering flavor that comes from the blend of tomatoes and freshly ground masalas,” explains co-owner Andrew Lam. “This masala is made with cumin, cardamon, clove, cinnamon, coriander, allspice, black pepper, and turmeric and is cooked down slowly with tomato for approximately three hours, giving you a deeply flavorful and aromatic curry. The pumpkin is roasted until it’s buttery and soft. With the masala lathered over the pumpkin, you won’t miss the protein. Garnished with fried curry leaves, cilantro, mint, basil, and pumpkin seeds, it’s a sight to see.

Andrew’s recommended drink pairing:  

“The perfect fall/winter cocktail and vegan dish pairing is the Kobucha Masala Roasted Pumpkin Curry and The Poison of the Honey Bee, made with Maker’s Mark, apple cider, sake, pinot gris, and orange. Our vegan Kobucha Masala is a complex dish with a blend of warm spices that play well with this bourbon-forward cocktail. When paired with The Poison of the Honey Bee, this aromatic and soothing hot cocktail matches the brightness and warmth of the Kobucha Masala. It’s somewhere between a mulled cider and hot toddy, and it’s well-balanced and easy to drink. The cocktail comes garnished with a star anise for added aromatics, reminding you to take another bite of the Kobucha Masala.” 

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Beet and pumpkin empanadas, paired with Hibiscus Ponche. Photo courtesy of Jajaja Plantas Mexicana
Beet and pumpkin empanadas, paired with Hibiscus Ponche. Photo courtesy of Jajaja Plantas Mexicana

Jajaja Plantas Mexicana – Williamsburg

Hibiscus Ponche. Photo courtesy of Jajaja Plantas Mexicana

Beet and Pumpkin Empanada

The empanada from our chef, Ricky Colex, is amazing,” says Fee Bakhtiar, partner of Jajaja Group (Gelso and Grand, Manero’s Pizza). “It’s the colors as well. It’s visually beautiful and flavorwise, just really beautiful. When you cut open the empanada it’s this deep red inside with the beet and pumpkin. The chimichurri is housemade and its freshness cuts through the sweetness so it’s not overly sweet; it gives you some spice. There’s also a pumpkin sauce on top of the empanada too, that’s also delicious.”

Fee’s recommended drink pairing: 

“I’d pair the empanadas with the Hibiscus Ponche. It’s kind of a lemony, fruity Tequila reposado and mezcal cocktail. It’s very fruit-forward, but not sweet. It’s kind of on the bitter side and it’s good because it pairs well with the empanadas, which are a little sweeter on the inside with the beet and pumpkin. This one is served over a large ice cube with a dried orange. Our head bartender, Giovanni Maya, who is incredible, came up with this drink. A ponche is traditionally a Mexican fruit punch that’s served either hot or cold, with fresh fruits, and tamarind, and hibiscus, and cane sugar, and cinnamon. He actually came up with this, and we tested this last year in the middle of COVID, and we didn’t roll it out, but we decided to debut it this year.” 

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Public Records’ cashew burrata. Photo courtesy of Public Records
The Mister Monk. Photo courtesy of Public Records

Public Records 

Cashew Burrata 

What makes the cashew burrata special is the blend of fermented coconut and raw soaked cashews (rather than just straight cashews),” explains Rowan Spencer, marketing director for Public Records. “The fermented coconut in combination with lactic acid and nutritional yeast allow us to create the flavor and sensation of a soft and lightly tangy cheese.

Rowan’s recommended drink pairing: 

“The Mr. Monk best pairs with the cashew burrata. It’s one of our on-tap cocktails and it’s made with cachaca, green Chartreuse, velvet falernum, pineapple mint shrub, lime, and ginger ale.”  

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Ahi watermelon nigiri from Planta Queen. Photo courtesy of Planta Queen
Ahi watermelon nigiri from Planta Queen. Photo courtesy of Planta Queen

Planta Queen

Sake to Me. Photo by Giada Paoloni, courtesy of Planta Queen

Ahi Watermelon Nigiri

At first glance, you’d probably assume this is like a regular tuna nigiri but alas, everything on the menu at Planta Queen is vegan, and this “ahi” is actually dehydrated watermelon. “The texture, when [the watermelon] dehyrdates, is very close to actual tuna,” explains Planta Queen regional chef Felicia de Rose. “It’s remarkable that we can take watermelon and fool the eye to make you think that you’re eating tuna.”

Felicia’s recommended drink pairing:

“Because the watermelon nigiri tastes so much like tuna, the Sake to Me pairs perfectly with this dish,” she says. “Guests can get that typical sake and fish pairing. The cocktail is made with sake, cointreau, watermelon, and lime.”

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Deanna Ting is a Resy staff writer. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter. Follow @Resy, too.