New York

The exterior of Belse, a vegan restaurant and brewery that opened in June on the Bowery.
Belse opened in New York in June. All photos courtesy of Belse

The RundownNew York

All About Belse, New York’s Latest Vegan Restaurant and Brewery

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Before you go to a restaurant, what do you want — or need — to know most? In our series, The Rundown, we’re sharing all the essentials about newly opened (as well as some of your favorite) restaurants.

Belse is the New York outpost of a Dallas-based vegan restaurant of the same name (the owners, who are passionate about saving animals, also own Little Pine in Los Angeles). It opened in June and occupies the former Paulaner Brauhaus space on the Bowery and, like its former tenant, it also has a fully operational brewery.

Here’s everything you need to know about this new vegan brewery and restaurant.

1. Belse came to New York for this space, specifically.

Belse’s owners heard about the old Paulaner location on the Bowery, which was once Sammy’s Bowery Follies, a legendary bar and vaudeville space, and had to snag it. The previous tenants from Paulaner had put lots of work into the space and installed brewing equipment, which made opening easier. The owners, both longtime vegans, loved the idea of using local beer to draw people in. They first took over Little Pine in Los Angeles in 2020, and then opened Belse in Dallas in 2021, with aims to expand. Belse in New York is their third restaurant.

2. All the beer is vegan (and fresh).

Brewmaster Ryan Gillette, formerly of New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins, Colo., was the first hire for Belse’s New York location back in November. He spent more than two months restoring the neglected German brewing equipment left by Paulaner when it closed in 2018. Gillette had experience with German brewing equipment, which is less common in the U.S. One bar team member described the process as “bringing Frankenstein back to life.” While spare parts were hard to come by, the tanks are now fully operational and Belse is currently brewing a blonde ale, an IPA, and a blackberry sour, with more to come.

All of Belse’s beer is vegan, which means no milk stouts, honey beers, or white sugar. Down the line, Belse hopes to can and distribute the beer and for now, it’s available from the tap. Gillette calls it “the freshest beer in Manhattan” and he plans to rotate the offerings based on seasonality and customer response.

For wine drinkers, the list includes a house wine label with vegan wine made in California. The cocktail menu is extensive, with non-alcoholic options like cherry limeade and a blackberry coconut mojito, and boozy sours made with aquafaba.

3. The menu has range.

Chef Anthony Spino grew up in an Italian family in Kansas City, Mo., and learned to cook at their traditional Italian restaurant before becoming plant based in his 30s. Spino has worked at New York vegan mainstays like The Cinnamon Snail and Double Zero, where he learned to make plant-based cheese, as well as at abcV. He brings these experiences to the menu, which is based on the owners’ other restaurants, Belse in Dallas and Little Pine in Los Angeles, with dishes like charred broccolini with pickled onions, an apple sandwich, and an Impossible burger.

Spino also added some exclusive-to-New York dishes like a selection of pizzas, including a mushroom pesto and margherita option. Almond ricotta shows up in a beet carpaccio and Spino loves the grilled Caesar with fried capers and chickpea croutons. He plans to adjust the menu over time, with a focus on fresh produce and local vendors, like Native Bread and Pastry in Brooklyn.

4. You’ll want to stay late or come early for brunch.

Belse serves dinner until 11 p.m. and has a late-night bar food menu with kimchi sliders, salted pretzels, and sriracha brussels sprouts, a popular dish from the Texas restaurant. The bar menu is served until 1 a.m. and Belse will offer delivery.

The brunch menu includes coconut parfaits, tofu scramble, an oyster mushroom riff on chicken and waffles inspired by the Sunday fried chicken Spino grew up with, and specialty brunch cocktails, like an orange cold brew spritz.

5. There’s plenty of space, too.

Richard Ostell, known for designing stores for Eileen Fisher, and Hilary Robertson, who has worked with Crate & Barrel and West Elm, designed the restaurant using white accents, abstract paintings, large round mirrors, and light woods to create a relaxed and airy atmosphere with room for solo diners and big groups alike.

The restaurant seats 165, with additional standing room by the bar, so it’s ideal for groups, private events in the garden level room, or a last-minute reservation. Beer equipment sits by the bar and in the back of the dining room, a reminder of the space’s history.

6. It’s a spot for all diners, not just vegans.

Many of the dishes on Belse’s menu aren’t just vegan — they also take common food allergies into consideration, too.

The restaurant’s signature chocolate-chip cookies are allergen-free, made with dark chocolate chips. Belse serves them with a small jug of oat milk or an espresso martini. They’re nut-free and soy-free (the menu also labels gluten free and allium free dishes, making it a great spot for guests with food allergies or dietary restrictions).

Spino uses pumpkin seeds as the base for the pesto, which shows up in several dishes, and sesame seeds as a crunchy element to keep certain dishes intentionally nut-free. He hopes both vegans and non-vegans will find themselves at Belse for a meal.

 

Belse is open from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

 

Abigail Koffler is the Brooklyn-based founder of This Needs Hot Sauce, a food newsletter. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter. Follow Resy, too.