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

written by Veren Ferrera February 2, 2018
A New Yorker’s Guide to Cheap Vegan Food in Brooklyn

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

Even going for a stroll in Madrid means thinking about Brooklyn.  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 on the international scene?

Possibly.

Will you end up there if you’re planning a vegan tour of New York?

Very likely.

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

Despite the reputation, Brooklyn is not an all-encompassing place with a singular face. There is 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. So knowing the vegan places in Brooklyn were key as I was very likely to be stuck in a specific area.

Here are my go-to vegan restaurants and vegan-friendly restaurants in Brooklyn –  grouped by neighborhood.

$ = meal under $10

$$ = meal under $15

Cheap Vegan Food in Williamsburg

$ By Chloe – All Vegan

If you’re vegan, you’ve probably heard of Chloe Coscarelli. She became famous for winning Cupcake Wars as a vegan chef. In the past few years, she took New York by storm with her line of vegan fast-food style eateries. Unfortunately, Chloe is no longer part of the franchise after some drama involving her co-founder wanting to open a non-vegan restaurant in her name. Still, if you’re looking for only plant-based places, By Chloe is a solid, affordable all vegan restaurant in Williamsburg.

By Chloe’s menu ranges from burgers and sweets to healthier fare like bowls, salads, and juices. If you’re looking for a vegan breakfast in Brooklyn but don’t want to go as far as Champs (see below), By Chloe has an entire brunch menu on the weekends. Last time, we stopped in and tried a gingerbread cookie – delicious.

$ Oasis – Omni, Vegan options

At the heart of the neighborhood beast, North 7th street and Bedford Ave, tactful tattoos, generously sized ear gauges, 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 seemingly endless waves of transplants, 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. While many spots in Brooklyn sell falafel, none of them hit the sweet spot like Oasis.

I’ve visited Williamsburg at the oddest of hours yet this place was always open. With such regular turnover, the falafels come piping hot and crispy fresh, at virtually any time. Such a jam-packed quality falafel sandwich is hard to beat.

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 fifty cent 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 readily available 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.

Not satisfied even with those by the slice options? You can call in advance and order a whole vegan pie from their vegan menu section, topped with whatever your plant-based heart desires. We recommend the presets combos, like the Vegan Mel Cooley white pie with basil pesto. They use Daiya cheese, and before you fret, know we aren’t the biggest fans of it either, but somehow Two Boots still manages to make damn delicious vegan pizzas.

$ 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 pizza in Williamsburg.

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 Greenpoint

$ Brooklyn Whiskers Bakery – All Vegan

Sam and I are cat lovers, so of course we love everything about place by a cat-loving vegan couple. Cats adorn everything, including the logo/sign at this vegan cafe in Brooklyn. Stay awhile and enjoy the cat vibes.

They bake everything and send out a lot of their products all over the city, so you don’t fret if you can’t make it out to both of their two locations (the flagship is in Bushwick and the smaller outpost that we went to is in Greenpoint).

The coffee comes from a local roaster, cus you can’t call yourself a proper Brooklyn vegan cafe without it. The coffee gets the Sam’s seal of approval.

Not only do they sport the usual plant milk options, they also offer a locally sourced plant milk blend of cashews, almonds and macadamia nuts.

What about the baked goods?

You’ll want to eat the entire chocolate chip cookie sandwich but control yourself and share with a friend.

Going vegan meant swearing off things for me, like bagels and pizza. If you’ve been reading this article, you’ll know this is no longer the case. So imagine our delight when we saw a New York classic, the black and white cookie. The cookie should be a cross between a cookie and a cake, with thick icing that’s half vanilla and chocolate. If you’ve given up this treat, give it up no longer.

The croissant pastries are delicious, but maybe shouldn’t be called croissants. They’re too fluffy and not flaky – this could easily be averted by calling them something else altogether, as they are delicious and enjoyable on their own terms. However, people who have experienced authentic croissants will not be expecting this.

They even offer sandwiches and brunch options, all $10 and under, with many ingredients sourced from local vegan business, like the Cheezehound (see entry in Vegan Shop-Up section below).

$ Screamer’s Pizzeria – All Vegan

Holy shit Screamer’s pizza had me screaming. Authentic New York style pizza made vegan that doesn’t suck,  but actually makes me not miss cow cheese one bit? I sold any remnant of my omnivore soul to Screamer’s.

Somehow Screamer’s keeps getting better. Crispier, chewier crust. Richer, tomato-ey sauce. Meltier, gooier cheese (thank Violife, a European staple).

While some people go nuts for toppings, I have to judge a pizza spot by their regular aka plain aka cheese slice. It does not disappoint. Now with Violife cheese, it actually looks like your typical slice of pizza – the cheese and sauce meld together. The texture and flavor are vastly superior to their Daiya days.

Vegan Pizza in Brooklyn at Screamer's Pizza

I’d be quite satisfied with just this, but Screamer’s goes above and beyond with a recently added Margherita slice with Brooklyn’s own Numu vegan mozzarella and fresh basil leaves. Don’t leave without trying this.

And of course, all their topping slices are excellent as well. Expect the usuals like pepperoni and sausage, but also more inventive combos like the artichoke spicy basil – try something with their homemade almond ricotta – like the Bianca or the white slice. They even sport a Sicilian slice – expect a thicker, doughier crust pizza.

As you can see, Screamer’s has all their pizza bases covered.

*Note: the Sam aka the girlfriend ranks our three recommended vegan pizza in Brooklyn spots as following: Screamer’s, 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 ice cream 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 black holes. Or try them together.

Vegan Bushwick

vegan food in brooklyn

Portrait of The Real Bushwick.

$$ Champs – All Vegan

We love 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 vegan diner food and they’re one of the best vegan restaurants in Brooklyn. Just know their prices reflect the vegan food premiums combined with New York rent prices. Expect to hit near 20 bucks if you want dessert and appetizers too.

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 – Champs easily has the best vegan brunch in Brooklyn. 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 (Kopps in Berlin may be the best ever – read more in our Berlin vegan guide).

The French Toast Slam - Vegan Brunch in Bushwick at Champs Vegan Diner

The French Toast Slam at Champs, featuring french toast, Field Roast sausage, seitan bacon, tofu scramble, and hash browns.

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.” Take that with a grain of pink Himalayan salt – 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 store of vegan donuts in Brooklyn a proper review. It’s right around the corner from Champs, so if you’re waiting for your table (which you inevitably will be), you can pop into Dunwell for a pre-brunch donut (#gluttony).

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. Very good donuts (although the best we’ve had are in Madrid – see Delish Donuts).

$ 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 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 veteran 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 freshly made tortillas, to go. For a buck! I used to frequently leave on my bike with tortilla stacks dangling from the handlebars.

$ Old Stanley’s Bar – Vegan Options

There is not much to say about Old Stanley’s. It’s a fairly divey spot with an unusual open design and they sling vegan hot dogs for a few 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 (an overrated option that I’m sure other people recommend), this qualifies as a deal.

Honorable Mention:

$ Father Knows Best – Vegan Options

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, a tofu sandwich and their own banana Dank Pancakes. 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 vegan market in Brooklyn pops up 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 in Bushwick. 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 with ink 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. Some of the best vegan products in New York make appearances 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 our Manhattan guide for detailed review.

Cheezhound – This is gourmet vegan cheese at its 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, (faux) 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. An (omnivore) 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? The owner’s 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 well within 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!

*Editor’s note: This post was originally posted in February 2017 and has since been updated.

 

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