A New Yorker’s Guide to Cheap Vegan Food in Brooklyn

vegan food in brooklyn

I can’t get away from Brooklyn. Even since moving to Spain to teach English, Brooklyn hounds me like a spurned ex lover.

Going for a stroll means thinking about Brooklyn. Here in Madrid I see it daily, printed on t-shirts and hoodies, worn by my students and city pedestrians. There are establishments proudly named Brooklyn Pizza and Brooklyn Boxing. Ads that list major cities like Paris and London include Brooklyn instead of NYC.

Has Brooklyn replaced New York City in the international scene? Possibly. Will you end up there if you’re planning a vegan visit to New York? Very likely. Brooklyn boasts a plethora of vegan places and options, besting even Manhattan and my favorite borough, Queens, just in sheer numbers.

There is just one caveat: almost all of them are overpriced and pretentious.

Fortunately for you, I’ve done the plant-based legwork of scoping the best spots for cheap vegan food in Brooklyn. I’ve clocked hours of travel on bike and train to see my stubborn friends who insist on living in the more costly and trendy New York borough.

Despite the reputation, Brooklyn does not have one face. There are a multitude of neighborhoods now mostly colonized by transplants. Visiting my friends in Brooklyn required a separate, dedicated day per friend. It’s that spread out and varied.

Without further ado, here are my go-to spots grouped by neighborhood.

$ = meal under $10

$$ = meal under $15

Cheap Vegan Food in Brooklyn: Williamsburg

Oasis   – Omni, Vegan options

At the heart of the neighborhood beast, North 7th street and Bedford Ave, tactful tattoos, generously sized ear gauges, bicycle-mounted high water cuffed jeans, and thickly spectacled mustached faces assault your senses, threatening to drown out your unexamined mediocrity. Just hang in there – Oasis is just steps away from the subway station.

Despite the trendy invasion, this spot comes native Brooklyner approved. My Polish American friend, born and raised in Greenpoint, saved me and my hunger during our college days. She’s always been a fan of the quick and cheap but quality eats. This place never seems to close, and with such regular turnover, the falafels come piping hot and crispy fresh.

Nowadays it kicks the chickpeas out of Mamoun’s in Manhattan with the help of great toppings. Poise your taste buds for a pickled punch. Red cabbage turned bright purple, red onions turned hot pink, and many more vinegary bits will blast your pleasure brain waves into higher frequencies. Expect a post-meal sour burp, or two.

Want some extra mileage from your food with minimum cost? Ask for a schmear of babaganoush, a smoky rich eggplant spread that’ll cut through the layers with a snappy tang. Some prefer a hummus schmear, but you’re eating falafel – both are chickpea based – so that’s just redundant.

$ Two Boots – Omni, Vegan options labeled

Two Boots is a local chain (also featured in our Manhattan vegan guide), but I particularly like this location. It’s got a small space for the counter and a more spacious dining room in the back. Especially convenient for those mid-winter pizza munchies when you plan your next trek through the arctic tundra that is New York’s winter streets.

The two vegan slices are the Earth Mother and the V for Vegan. The Earth Mother has a thick whole wheat crust, is cheeseless and salad-like, while the V for Vegan is crispy, cheesy, has two kinds of pestos, and is covered with red onions and artichokes.

You can even call in advance and order a whole vegan pie topped with whatever your plant-based heart desires.

$ Vinnie’s – Omni, Vegan options labeled

Once upon a pizza time in Brooklyn, all we had was Vinnie’s. Times have changed (see Two Boots above, Screamer’s below) but Vinnie’s still slings solid vegan slices.

They boast a fine selection and the counter service is always happy to share the details. The best, consistently good slice is the eggplant parmigiana – it keeps me coming back. Breaded eggplant strips, saucy, and cheesy though not as cheesy as the dairy-laden brethren. If tradition isn’t your thing, their daily vegan specials are worth a glance.

This spot has limited seating and is usually full, but if the line is only a few persons deep, chances are a spot will open up while you wait. If you can’t snag a seat, get it to go, walk to McCarren Park and mow down that slice while lounging on the grass.

$ Vanessa’s Dumpling House  – Omni, vegan options 

If you want the full lowdown on the grubs at Vanessa’s, see our Manhattan vegan guide. I can, however, provide you with a location unique review.

Upon entering the Williamsburg outpost, you’ll notice something immediately – it’s prettier than their Manhattan counterparts. You could take a low key date here if they’re like the Sam aka the girlfriend, who refuses to go to any establishment with white tablecloths.

In general, go for the veggie dumplings, fried. While I prefer steamed, the only other offer is boiled – steam’s distant, drowned out flavor relative. If you’re looking for more than a snack, add a plate of their housemade cold sesame noodles..

A word of caution. A famous Alaskan once told me that he knew another place that was even cheaper than this. I knew exactly where he was thinking. This “cheaper place” turned out to be a regular rat rampage that was consequently shut down by the authorities. You have to draw the line somewhere and not leave your dignity/hygiene on the wrong side. Moral of the story: cheaper is not always better.

Cheap Vegan Food in Brooklyn: Greenpoint

$ Screamer’s  – All Vegan

Holy shit Screamer’s had me screaming. A plain slice, aka a cheese slice, for $3 and vegan?

$2.75 is the norm for a slice of NYC pizza these days. Vegan food comes at a premium, since the plant-based world doesn’t receive government subsidies like animal products do, which arguably reflects the real cost of food. Sometimes this premium just seems too high and turns off a lot of potential customers, including myself.  But with this minimal markup, I’m impressed.

The slices? The crust is just as it should be – crispy at the bottom, chewy at the end. The spinach white slice is made with almond ricotta! Gasp! You’d never know unless they told you. The sausage had the right amount of salt, fat, and fennel. They even have a calzone.

When I come back to Brooklyn, this will be my second stop, after Oasis.

*Note: the Sam aka the girlfriend ranks our three recommended vegan pizza spots as following: Screamers, Two Boots, Vinnie’s. I don’t disagree.*

$ Van Leeuwen’s  – Omni, Vegan options labeled

Go immediately here after finishing your pizza at Screamer’s – they’re right next door. Van Leeuwen’s offers a variety of vegan flavors to assuage your animal free attitude. The interior has a nice wooden panel homely feel; a twist on Williamsburg hipsterdom and New York chic, minus the pretension. They even have seats outside.

Van Leewan’s on the left, Screamer’s on the right.

Try the peanut butter chunk – it’s got just the right amount of peanutty-ness and doesn’t overpower the vanilla base flavor. Or try the amazingly rich chocolate: its cocoa density exceeds a neutron star and its darkness rivals galactic black holes. Or try them together.

Cheap Vegan Food in Brooklyn: Bushwick

vegan food in brooklyn
Portrait of The Real Bushwick.

$ Los Hermanos  – Omni, Vegan options

Los Hermanos is actually a tortilla factory with a self-service front. The deli case inside contains dozens of fresh ingredients waiting to be sliced, rolled, smashed, scooped, chopped, and diced on the prep counter behind it.

What’s wholly guacamole impressive here is the veritable montón of ripe avocados they have stocked. These perfectly ripened, green buttery bad boys need to be on everything you order here.

A half-dozen army assembles taquitos, cemitas, tostadas, and tacos non-stop. Virtually everything up for offer is a  set of toppings/fillings on a corn/wheat tortilla or sandwich bread, either quickly pan-fried or heavily deep fried. I recommend getting the tacos as real fresh corn tortillas are rare  in NYC.

Want to get your order veganized without a hitch? Here’s a pro tip: write your order on the card in Spanish, with the following: [insert taco, cemita, or tostada, etc] vegetariana sin crema o queso, con aguacate. A nice nod to use the language that clearly all the employees speak and reduces the possibility for confusion about your vegan order.

Every time I’ve ordered like that, they didn’t charge me extra for the avocado, which it normally is. Once you grab your order, help yourself to lime wedges and red and green hot sauces.

Also highly recommended: a pound of a fresh made tortillas, to go. For a buck! Frequently I leave on my bike with tortilla stacks dangling from the handlebars.

$$ Champs  – All Vegan

We like Champs and technically they fit the criteria of an under $15 meal. Yet nothing here feels budget, with 11 dollar plates at the cheapest (good portions, to be fair), and 8- 9 dollar milkshakes. Don’t be deterred! Champs serves quality food and their prices reflect the aforementioned food premiums and New York rent prices. Just expect to hit near 20 bucks if you want dessert and appetizers too.

With that in mind, within the grand financial scheme of New York, this is an affordable date spot for the alternative type. Decorated like an old school diner, the inside is checkered black and white with aluminum side tables in booths. They don’t mess around when it comes to style. Servers with colored hair not wearing high waisted pants are the exception.

The menu is big, but we mostly enjoy the breakfast items. They excel in the house made foods, like their tofu scramble, nacho cheese, guacamole, and waffles/ pancakes. I have yet to try a tofu scramble that’s better (in the US). The nachos are solid and you can expect similar style appetizers. It seems that vegan diner spots are a thing in the US, considering we found a western iteration of Champs in Salt Lake City. Vegan diners are so popular that a vegan server in Portland remarked that among them, Champs was just “okay.” Keep in mind – she’s been spoiled by the vegan mecca that is Portland.

Keep in mind that some options are much better than others. To optimize your potential satisfaction, try asking what is housemade as opposed to items that are just an assemblage of brand name vegan products. Or just stick to our recommendations.

$ Dunwell Doughnuts  – All Vegan

With a smaller location in Manhattan, we felt we owed the flagship the proper review.

This spot has a super old school retro feel, with black walls and an art deco radio the size of R2-D2. The donuts are fluffy soft and standards like the glazed come with our seal of approval. Also, the size of the space here allows for some time to stop and enjoy some coffee with your donut.

$ Old Stanley’s Bar 

There is not much to say about Old Stanley’s. It’s a fairly divey spot with an unusual open design that slings vegan hot dogs for a couple of bucks. Perfect during that alcohol fueled night out when the junk food craving hits. Considering that the same quality veggie dog will cost you more than twice as much at other spots like Crif Dogs (that I’m sure other people recommend), this qualifies as a deal.

Honorable Mention:

Father Knows Best (Bushwick)

This spot was introduced to me by a very stubborn Brooklynite of Scottish descent with a penchant for particularities, so expect a cool, quality establishment.

A cafe during the day and a bar at night with vegan options (such as tasty hummus). They have live jazz Monday nights. Do expect Brooklyn portions though, and by that I mean the opposite of the geographic size of the borough aka not big.

BONUS: Vegan Shop Up 

This is a pop-up shop that appears in Brooklyn monthly, at a minimum. In busier seasons, like the holidays and summer, it can happen twice or even three times a month at different locations – their website has all the up-to-date info.

The original is at the Pine Box Rock Shop, a self-professed vegan bar. This is definitely a sight to see, as all the vegans and the vegan-friendly come out of the woodwork in true New York fashion. Tattoos and piercings abound, obscured by chunky knit wool in the cold months and skin boldly emblazoned in the warmer ones.

Just down the street from Pine Box Rock Shop, where Vegan Shop Up is frequently held.

At Vegan Shop Up, you can scope out the latest artisan products in the vegan scene. Discretion is advised as I cannot recommend every kiosk. But there are some of the best vegan products that New York has to offer here. My favorite regular vendors are:

Cinnamon Snail – makes frequent appearances and where I usually went to avoid their weekday lines before their brick and mortar days. See Manhattan guide for detailed review.

Cheezhound – This is gourmet vegan cheese at it’s finest. Rich, creamy, spreadable, cuttable – whip out your finest wines. The best vegan bleu cheese I’ve ever had was from here, releasing the former cheese fiend in me. The owner is a punky, leather-y jacket-wearing, badass woman handing out samples and withholding the recipe with a smirk.

Spanky’s – The brownies from here are the best vegan brownies I’ve ever had, hands down. My previously incredulous Cinnamon Snail’d friend is a devout brownie worshipper and devoured two of Spanky’s brownies in one sitting. Spanky’s is confident in their product, always offering hearty sample chunks.

Why do their brownies beat all the best vegan endeavors? His desire to create food that appeals to non-vegans is the key. The owner actually isn’t vegan. His wife is severely lactose intolerant, and he wanted to create a cream cheese to go with her bagels she missed so dearly.

He didn’t stop there, making butters, cookies, and now brownies. My happiest moment was when, as a regular customer, I couldn’t decide which of two kinds brownies to try, they gave me both for the price of one.

Yeah Dawg – artisan vegan hot dogs with all the toppings. They make their own hot dogs with whole food ingredients. A bit expensive, but an impressive product nonetheless…

So there you have it – the best cheap vegan food in Brooklyn. New York is exploding with new vegan eateries every day and Brooklyn is at the epicenter of NYC veganism, so there are sure to be more that we haven’t tried (or possibly even heard of!) yet.

What spots for cheap vegan food in Brooklyn do we need to try next time we’re in town? Is Brooklyn on your radar as a vegan hot spot? Share your thoughts in the comments below! 


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