Ras Plant Based West Village space
Ras Plant Based just recently opened a new location in the West Village. Photo courtesy of Ras Plant Based West Village

The RundownNew York

4 Things to Know About the New Ras Plant Based in New York’s West Village


When Romeo and Milka Regalli opened Ras Plant Based in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, in March 2020, just days before the pandemic lockdown went into effect, their odds of survival didn’t look great. But now, four years later, the vegan Ethiopian restaurant has not only managed to keep doors open — it’s opening new ones, too.

Ras has gained a following on Franklin Avenue for serving up an exciting mix of family recipes and contemporary vegan cravings. And now, the wife-and-husband team behind it has opened their second storefront in the West Village. We spoke to Romeo and Milka about surviving and thriving through COVID, the restaurant’s roots, and their brand-new expansion into Manhattan.

The Resy Rundown
Ras Plant Based West Village

  • Why We Like It
    The offerings at Ras Plant Based run the gamut from veggie-forward and wholesome Ethiopian classics to contemporary comfort staples like mac and cheese and French toast. And of course, it’s all vegan.
  • Essential Dishes
    Get the Piassa platter for a sampling of lentil, chickpea, zucchini, beetroot, and split pea stews served over tangy injera. Or, if you’re in a different sort of mood, you really shouldn’t sleep on the mac and cheese, topped with crunchy bits of injera.
  • Must-Order Drinks
    Treat yourself to one of Milka’s original concoctions, like the Fig Fig Bang Bang, which combines fig-infused vodka with mezcal, black cherry juice, lemon, and agave; or the alcohol-free Days in the East, featuring cucumber, coconut cream, lime, and the spice blend mitmita. Come for brunch and you can get a mimosa made with tej, Ethiopian honey wine, or a spicy, tequila-based Bloody Mary.
  • Who and What It’s For
    Vegans and health-conscious diners in the West Village will appreciate having a new spot to get delicious and un-boring plant based, whole food meals — but those looking to indulge won’t be disappointed either. The varied menu makes it suitable for diners both vegan and omnivorous, adventurous and reserved. Come for any occasion, whether it’s a carefree weekend brunch or quick weekday lunch, a date night for two, or a fun group hang.
  • How to Get In
    It’s not a bad idea to make a reservation if you’re trying to come at peak dinner time or for weekend brunch. But if you haven’t, it might be worth a shot anyway — some tables are reserved for walk-ins.
Ras Plant Based West Village table of two
Ras Plant Based West Village space
Ras Plant Based West Village space

1. Expect more of the same beloved dishes — and vibes — just in a bigger space.

As of now, the menu at Ras West Village will be the same as at its original location, also serving lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch, so fans who know Ras from Crown Heights will find all of their favorites there.

And if you’ve been to the Crown Heights location, you probably already know how important the overall vibe is to Milka and Romeo (case in point: the “Issa Vibe” neon sign on display inside). It’s the kind of place where it feels like the employees like each other and are genuinely happy to be there. They’re working to bring the same convivial, friendly atmosphere to the new place by transferring over some of their current staff and having them train new ones.

The original Ras features a massive, intricate mural on the interior walls, painted by Miami-based artist RasTerms, and they’ve commissioned him to make his mark on the new space as well.

If anything, the biggest difference between the first and second location, really, is simply the size: 2,100 square feet in the West Village, compared to under 1,400 square feet in Crown Heights. We have a feeling those extra seats are going to come in handy on those gorgeous summer weekends that get Manhattanites flocking to brunch.

The new Ras is located at Bleecker and Sullivan Streets, right in the thick of the Village and NYU territory (of which Milka is an alum). Students, locals, and anyone spending time in the historic neighborhood will be able to dive into a bottle of tej or one of Ras’ fruity, refreshing house cocktails with dinner, and boozy brunches on the weekends — as long as they’re of age, of course.

Ras Plant Based West Village dish
Ras Plant Based West Village dish

2. Here’s the story behind their food.

Beating slim odds seems to be a recurring theme for Ras Plant Based. Several years ago, Romeo’s father received a terminal diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Romeo, who was already eating a plant-based diet himself at this point, decided to devote himself to being his father’s personal chef, cooking up wholesome, plant-forward meals made of whole foods. The doctors had estimated that he had just two or three years left to live, but today, Romeo’s father is cancer-free. While we obviously can’t know for a fact if plant-based eating is what nursed him back to health, it sure makes a good case for Romeo’s cooking.

“I think there’s a misperception of veganism,” Romeo says. “Vegan doesn’t necessarily mean healthy, right? You can eat French fries all day, and that’s vegan. And that doesn’t necessarily mean healthy. I always use the term ‘plant based,’ food that’s grown, living food, that process. That’s how I define ‘plant based.’”

The bulk of the menu consists of classic Ethiopian dishes that are already vegan and made from clearly identifiable, whole plant ingredients, like lentil stews, braised collards, mashed chickpeas, and plant proteins like tofu and seitan. Many of the recipes come directly from both Romeo’s and Milka’s families — in fact, the couple first met when Romeo began working at one of Milka’s mother’s restaurants, Awash, itself an early pioneer in bringing Ethiopian cuisine to New York. Ras offers an entrée called “Mama’s Tofu,” so named because Romeo’s mother once sent him a picture of a dish she had made, and Romeo asked for the recipe so he could recreate it. It’s one of the many ways Ras keeps family at the center.

“I spent a lot of time with my mom in the kitchen, and my grandma. That’s where I learned my cooking,” Romeo says. “I never thought I was going to start a restaurant.”

Prepping food at Ras Plant Based West Village
Photo courtesy of Ras Plant Based West Village
Milka and Romeo Regalli
Milka and Romeo Regalli. Photo courtesy of Ras Plant Based West Village
Ras Plant Based West Village cocktail
Ras Plant Based West Village dessert

3. But there’s room for some indulgences, too.

All of that said, Milka and Romeo are more interested in catering to their customers than binding themselves to any strict notions of “traditional” or “healthy” food. If you’ve been to other vegan restaurants in the city, you’re likely accustomed to vegan recreations of traditionally meaty and cheesy dishes. And while faux cheeses and meats aren’t heavily featured on their menu, they’re not totally absent. As Milka tells Resy, “we also wanted to cater to people who may not be vegan or plant based, and/or people who are transitioning, because it makes it a little easier.”

Their mac and cheese, for instance, is made with Violife vegan cheese and topped with deliciously crunchy-sweet injera crumbles. It’s the kind of food that the Regallis consider more of a once-in-a-while special treat than an everyday meal — which, as they know, is exactly what many people are looking for when they go out to eat. Offering recognizable dishes is also a way the Regallis make Ras widely approachable, even to people who are completely unfamiliar with Ethiopian cuisine and may be intimidated by a fully traditional menu.

That may be key as they find their footing in the West Village, an area popular with tourists and densely packed with some of the city’s hottest restaurants. They anticipate their brunch offerings to resonate with the Manhattan crowd. In addition to more traditional Ethiopian breakfast foods, diners will find options like the mac and cheese, a lentil burger, and the French toast, which, believe it or not, is one of their top sellers. And of course, they offer brunchy cocktails, like a house mimosa made with honey wine, to sip alongside.

Ras Plant Based West Village space
Ras Plant Based West Village space

4. They look forward to putting down roots in the West Village — and beyond.

For Romeo and Milka, Ras Plant Based is about more than making money or even a commitment to serving really delicious food — there’s a meaningful, even spiritual component. And with that in mind, the decision to move into Manhattan was an obvious next step.

“[Ras] was opened out of purpose,” Romeo says, “and the purpose being to make the world healthier and happier, and in order to do that, yes, you start from one location, one community — you got to do it one community at a time. The natural way was to open a second one.” And while the West Village location is the only new opening on the agenda for now, don’t be surprised if you’re seeing more Ras around the city in a few years’ time.

“We plan to expand,” Romeo says. “Take it to new heights.”

Opening up in the coveted West Village will put Ras in the company of some of the city’s best restaurants, and having a storefront there will expose them to a whole new audience of people who might never have reason to come out to Crown Heights. But the neighborhood has some sentimental value for the Regallis, too. Earlier in their relationship, they used to spend a lot of time together in the West Village, particularly when Milka was attending NYU.

The new Ras is, in some ways, a chance for Milka and Romeo to evangelize about plant-based eating and Ethiopian flavors to a new crowd. But apart from introducing East African cuisine to the neighborhood, the plan is more to fit in with the local community than to stand apart from it. Out of their Brooklyn location, Ras has been a presence at pop-up events as well as service projects like community clean-ups and feeding neighbors in need. They plan to find similar opportunities at their new home in Manhattan, building relationships and trying to contribute positively to the neighborhood.

“Everywhere we open, we want to belong to the community. I think that’s the most important thing,” Romeo says. “We’re doing it to impact communities. So even though it’s gonna be the same [concept], that Ras is gonna belong to that community.”


Ras Plant Based West Village is open daily for lunch and dinner.

Ariana DiValentino is a writer, filmmaker, and actor based in Brooklyn. Follow her on Instagram, X, and TikTok. Follow Resy, too.