vegansaurus!

09/06/2012

Guest post: My top 10 vegan reasons to be in love with New York City, part two!  »


As I said yesterday, I just moved to California from New York City. It happened very suddenly, and as I’ve gotten more settled, I’ve found a much greater appreciation for how easy and wonderful it is to be a vegan in New York. I miss it, and I wanted to tell you all how much I love it. However, in an effort to spare you all from the longest post in the free world, I have managed to narrow it down to a top 10 list. Yesterday, Nos. 10-6. Today, the thrilling conclusion!


No. 5: Quintessence
When I first got excited about raw food, I had a number of negative experiences with raw food restaurants. I was convinced that it was disgusting and I might never like it. Quintessence changed all that. By far one of my favorite vegan restaurants in the city, Quintessence makes incredibly yummy, indulgent, and healthful raw dishes that put all that other raw food to shame. A pearl in alphabet city’s clamshell, I fantasize about their Caesar salad on the regular. Oh Quintessence, I miss your tiny tables and huge salads.

No. 4: The Vegan Bodega
Eric Hopf and his family are in the process of opening an all-vegan store in downtown Manhattan. Although it’s not open yet, I’m already in love with the products they’re providing and their dedication to the cause. They currently operate as a pop-up until their storefront becomes a reality. If you can, support these awesome people and their endeavors because this store is going to rock. 

No. 3: Honey LaBronx
Yes, it’s a bit ego-stroking to put my own podcast co-host on this list. Still, she is one bad bitch. This crazy activist is constantly spotted marching through crowds with a bullhorn, and waving her homemade protest signs in Christine Quinn’s face, and occasionally getting arrested. This queen fights for the animals, she’s exciting, and if it wasn’t for her, I never would’ve ended up in front of a microphone answering questions to new vegans. Check out her cooking show, our podcast, and go see her hot ass live. She is a freaking inspiration, and she looks good doing it. She’s also an okay friend, too, I guess.


No. 2: Soy and Sake
Another of my favorite restaurants in NYC. Soy and Sake saved this sushi-lover from a life of fishless moping. They have most delicious vegan sushi rolls, as well as a plethora of dishes to die for (bourbon chicken! rock shrimp!). It is without question the one restaurant I will always visit in New York. It’s also killer for large parties, and I’ve seen countless omnivores be blown away by their food there. Go! Take friends! EAT SUSHI!


No. 1: Sweet & Sara
Sweet & Sara is basically my favorite vegan company. Their origin story is beyond inspirational, founder Sara Sohn is one of the nicest people you could ever meet, and their products are amazing. AMAZING. The s’mores were one of the first treats I had that made me stop and say, “You know what? I should be vegan. This is awesome!” and I’ve continued to love them with a passion ever since. The last year I lived in NYC I was working in Queens off the 7 train, and I rode by the S&S factory every day, and every day I was reminded that being vegan is fun, delicious, and exactly what I want to be. I love that Sara and her little bunny, Skipper, too. I have half a mind to get a S&S tattoo. Too much? I’m doing it anyway.

Laura Yasinitsky is a writer, comic, waitress, and animal-lover based in California. She has appeared on Comedy Central’s Open-Mic Fight, and writes for US Weekly's Fashion Police. You can follow her silliness on Twitter @LaraYaz.

[photos: Empire State Pigeon by ZeroOne via Flickr; Quintessence raw pizza by Robyn Lee via Flick; vegan sushi from Soy and Sake; Sweet & Sara peanut butter s’more by Veganbaking.net via Flickr]

09/05/2012

Guest post: My top 10 vegan reasons to be in love with New York City, part one!  »


For those of you who haven’t heard—and honestly, I don’t know how you couldn’t have, I have been tweeting about it like crazy—I have moved to California!

It happened very suddenly and I’ve been a whirlwind of a hot mess the last month. As I’ve gotten more settled I feel I have grown a true appreciation for how easy and wonderful it is to be a vegan in New York City. I miss it, and I wanted to tell you all how much I love it. However, in an effort to spare you all from the longest post in the free world, I have managed to narrow it down to a top 10 list. Please enjoy Nos. 10-6 today!

Cue the Letterman drumroll!

No. 10:  Westerly Market
I doubt I’ve ever left this place having spent less than $200 and I have never regretted it. Westerly Market is a magical place filled with all the hard to find vegan goodies as well as an incredible selection of organic produce, bulk dry goods, and frozen meatless wonders—what we all secretly wish Whole Foods actually were. Even while living in Brooklyn I would pack a backpack with Westerly groceries and haul it all the way home. The staff is also incredibly nice and they will order almost any product you are interested in them carrying. I love you, Westerly Market.


No. 9: The Cinnamon Snail
This food truck tops the list of awesome things NYC has stolen from New Jersey. Incredibly yummy food, addicting baked goods, and the nicest crew ever, I found myself hunting down the Snail every chance I could and I downright stalked them in my final week as a New Yorker. Cinnamon Snail, I could not love you more. If you don’t follow these dudes on Twitter already, you best get to it. Life is empty without you, Cinnamon Snail!


No. 8: May Wah
Thank dog May Wah ships nationwide (I would be inconsolable without access to its vegan pork buns), but there’s nothing quite as fun as shopping in this Chinatown gem and stocking up your freezer with the best of the best meatless meats. It’s cheap, the food is great, and on request the employees will quickly steer you away from any non-vegan products (although there are only a few). I love you, May Wah! I wish I could go buy some dried noodles and frozen faux shrimps right now! [Ed. note: 99 Ranch, Laura!]

No. 7: Vegan Shop-Up
The Vegan Shop-Up rules. It’s an awesome pop-up market with only 100 percent vegan goods, from soap to brownies. This bi-monthly event is beyond fun, and a great way to stock up on hard-to-finds. It’s also how I discovered some of my favorite vendors, like Rescue Chocolate, Gone Pie, the Vegan Bodega, and Cake Bites. If you’re in NYC and you haven’t been to this yet, you are MISSING OUT! Get your butt there ASAP. 

No. 6: The Vegan Guide to New York City 
This book does exactly what its title promises, and awesomely, its authors release an updated version every year. There is an iPhone app as well, but it’s from 2011 and they’ve yet to update it, so I’m on the fence about recommending the download. Might be better toget this year’s book. It’s still the flipping handiest thing in the world. Meeting someone in Midtown and you’re pretty sure there are no vegan restaurants in the area? Consult the guide! PROBLEM SOLVED.

Come back tomorrow for Laura’s top five vegan reasons to be in love with New York City!

Laura Yasinitsky is a writer, comic, waitress, and animal-lover based in California. She has appeared on Comedy Central’s Open-Mic Fight, and writes for US Weekly's Fashion Police. You can follow her silliness on Twitter @LaraYaz.

[photos: Empire State Pigeon by ZeroOne via Flickr; Cinnamon Snail by Megan Rascal for Vegansaurus; May Wah vegan meats by Shira Golding via Flickr]

03/19/2012

Product review: Bagel Spice!  »

I was at the NYCVFF, perusing the tables, when one of the vendors very kindly offered me a free bottle of Bagel Spice. I wasn’t particularly interested in said Bagel Spice—I was just standing in its vicinity, eyeballing the Bee Free Honee.

I have a pretty extensive spice rack so my attitude was sort of, “Who needs you, Bagel Spice?” Plus it seemed sort of confusing. The website describes it like this:

Bagel Spice is a scrumptious blend of premium spices inspired by the “Everything Bagel.” It’s a delicious accompaniment to a variety of savory dishes.

Honestly, I wasn’t even sure what to put it on. But the company seemed awful charming, and the ingredient list is totally au natural—all very real and whole foods go into this product—so I figured I should give it a whirl.

Initially I went for the obvious and put it on a delicious toasted bagel with some tofutti cream cheese. I have to say that it was very very good. Like surprisingly good. I want it on all of my bagels now.

It’s quite yummy mixed in with hummus as well. That’s how they were serving samples of it up at the NYCVFF, and it was totally good. The original Bagel Spice has no salt, but they make another blend with sea salt, as well as a spicy one, so you have options. What I like about the hummus concept is that I usually like to buy plain hummus, but then sometimes I wish I had a flavored one. Bagel Spice to the rescue! It’s a nice addition to some hummus, and you don’t have to commit to a whole container of the flavored stuff.

The third thing I did with the Bagel Spice was use it as a dry seasoning to make seitan nuggets. (I used the nugget recipe from Jenny’s nugget post—it’s great!) This is what ultimately made me a big Bagel Spice fan. These nuggets turned out awesome, and the Bagel Spice was an essential addition of zest. I used the no-sodium original, so it wasn’t too salty or overly spicy; it just added a ton of gusto. There’s some nice chunkiness with the dried onions and poppy seeds too, which added a great crispy texture on the outside.

It is definitely an awesome addition to any breading you’re making that requires a dry spice. I will probably use it in this capacity most. I’m also gonna suggest that it would be fabulous on a tofu scramble, garlic bread, salads, etc. You could even make some wicked fast pasta by tossing it in a little olive oil then sprinkling on some Bagel Spice. The possibilities are endless!

Bottom line, I am super impressed with Bagel Spice. They totally converted me from an uninterested skeptic to someone who will definitely keep this on hand. It’s tasty and versatile, and dang it, I like it.

You can order Bagel Spice via its website** and it’s also available in a few stores. If you try it and like it, ask your favorite stores to carry it. I’m all about pestering stores to carry things I like. I’m pretty sure my friend Michael is solely responsible for Fresh Direct carrying Daiya. The squeaky wheel, people: It gets the grease.

**This is totally not a vegan company, and there are pictures of eggs and chicken wings on their website. Their whole recipe section is disappointing. However, they do seem to exclusively produce Bagel Spice, and they’re certified kosher, so I’m assuming their facility is meat- and dairy-free.

Laura Yasinitsky is a writer, comic, waitress, and animal-lover based in New York City. She has appeared on Comedy Central’s Open-Mic Fight, and writes for US Weekly’s Fashion Police. You can follow her silliness on Twitter @LaraYaz, and read about her animal-friendly adventures here.

03/06/2012

Our NYC Correspondent Laura Yasinitsky took her adorable self out to the NYC Vegetarian Food Festival last weekend, and made a video for us! It’s so great! We love you, Laura Yaz! Now tell us some highlights.

The 2nd annual NYC Vegetarian Food Festival was a slamming success! Seriously, I am bad with numbers but I would estimate that there were at least 1,000 people there over the course of the weekend.

I ate an enormous amount of food and documented it all for your viewing pleasure. Please enjoy, but be warned, it was raining and my hair looks terrible. You can also check out my photo album from the event on my Facebook.

The ONLY thing the video does not contain is information about Sarah Gross’ amazing company, Rescue Chocolate, and I want to give them a shout-out here since she is so awesome and I LOVE Rescue Chocolate, both their products and their activism. I’m actually wearing my new Rescue Chocolate t-shirt right now and I should mention that I look fabulous.

Thanks, Laura! She’ll be back soon with product reviews of some of the awesome swag she picked up at the festival. Can’t wait!

Laura Yasinitsky is a writer, comic, waitress, and animal-lover based in New York City. She has appeared on Comedy Central’s Open-Mic Fight, and writes for US Weekly’s Fashion Police. You can follow her silliness on Twitter @LaraYaz, and read about her animal-friendly adventures here.

02/27/2012

Guest Post: Go to the 2nd Annual NYC Vegetarian Food Festival!  »

Start getting hungry now cause this is just around the corner! The NYC Veggie Food Fest is almost upon us. The first weekend of March, Saturday the 3rd and Sunday the 4th, The Metropolitan Pavilion will be taken over by vendors, speakers, and various so-and-sos who are there to spread the good vegan word (Yes, the festival is 100% vegan. No, I do not know why it isn’t called the Vegan Food Festival).

I attended last year and had a total blast despite a three hour wait in line and being packed in like a 6 train during rush hour. The good news is that opposed to last year, the festival is now a two day event! Also apparently the space is larger, although it’s still at the same address, we’ll see how that pans out, I guess. (Maybe it expands or something? Fingers crossed!)

The schedule looks amazeballs. Featured speakers such as Gena Hamshaw from Choosing Raw, Brendan Brazier, creator of Vega and founder of Thrive Foods Direct, Terry Hope Romero (I’m assuming you know who she is, yes?? I LOVE YOU TERRY!), Ayinde Howell, and Steve Meyerowitz the ‘Sproutman,’ will all have segments over the weekend. You can see the schedule of events for a complete list and more details.

There is also a screening of Vegucated Saturday night with a talk back from the filmmaker Marisa and some of the cast members. The Saturday evening event is VIP which I think means you can only get in with VIP tickets. They are limited so get yours ASAP! After the movie there is a party with an all vegetarian band called Dynasty Electric.

What’s I’m trying to say here is that it’s a blast! And I’ll be there both days tasting everything and making friends with everyone. Be sure to follow me on Twitter for which snacks are the most outstanding and any celebrity sightings. Or come find me if you want to be friends! I’m tall, vegan, I like cats and tattoos. I might be hard to locate at this event actually.

Get your tickets! There are VIP tickets still available, $20 for a one day pass or $30 for the whole weekend. The main thing the VIP allows you to do is cut the line. No waiting, you just walk right in whenever you want. However, it’s only $5 if you’re willing to wait and I’m going to bet that the wait won’t be anything like it was last year since it’s a larger space and a longer event. Besides, I don’t actually mind waiting in line as long as I’m not hungry and I have someone to talk to. Last year I made lots of friends in line and the Cinnamon Snail and the V Spot were there to feed me whenever I got the tummy rumbles. (This happened multiple times. I ate a great deal of food that day)

The best part of all is that a portion of the proceeds from this delightful eating extravaganza go to For the Animals Sanctuary. You’re doing good simply by showing up. Now that’s what’s I’m talking about. See you there!

Laura Yasinitsky is a writer, comic, waitress, and animal-lover based in New York City. She has appeared on Comedy Central’s Open-Mic Fight, and writes for US Weekly's Fashion Police. You can follow her silliness on Twitter @LaraYaz, and read about her animal-friendly adventures here.

01/11/2012

Recipe: Popeye Soup!  »


Ladies and gentlemen, may I present Popeye Dream Soup!!

It might be the most amazing soup I’ve ever eaten. I forgot to bring it to work for lunch today and I almost cried.

I was flipping through my new Friends of Animals magazine that they so nicely send to anyone who makes a donation (seriously, how nice is that?) and I stumbled upon this delicious-looking soup recipe.

I made it a few days later and OH DEAR ME I am in love! It is SO good. And it’s easy to make! Seriously! Don’t be afraid of the herbed oil part; I was, and it is super-easy: His directions are perfect, just follow them and it’s a breeze.

To be clear, chef Iyer is not a vegan chef BUT I WANT HIM TO BE and apparently his cookbooks have tons of veg-friendly recipes. Maybe someday he’ll make an all-vegan cookbook? Please, chef Iyer?! Pleeeeease???

Needless to say, I recommend making this immediately. And then invite me over.

Laura Yasinitsky is a writer, comic, waitress, and animal-lover based in New York City. She has appeared on Comedy Central’s Open-Mic Fight and writes for US Weekly’s Fashion Police. You can follow her silliness on Twitter @LaraYaz and read about her animal friendly adventures here.

10/19/2011

Vegucated premieres in NYC! Everyone loves it! You must see it!  »


Last week I attended the U.S. premiere of the Toronto Film Festival Best Documentary winner, Vegucated. Hilarious, heartwarming, and with a spot-on message, this film is brilliant. [Ed.: We agree!]


After seven years of work, Marisa Miller Wolfson has triumphed as a filmmaker. Her documentary shows the journey of three volunteers who go from entirely traditional (roughly, Standard American) diet, and zero experience with vegetarianism, to a completely vegan lifestyle for six weeks. 

Vegucated entertainingly captures all the obstacles, thrills, confusion, guilt, joy, passion, and frustration that we experience once our eyes have been opened to the truth of animal exploitation. Our hero’s tales are intercut with artfully placed and deliberately chosen images of slaughterhouses and factory farms. 

These images are incredibly effective. Vegucated is not hard to watch, although there are hard moments, but the selective use and poignant placement of such footage makes it even more powerful. Whenever the images get too intense you are whisked back to the compelling test subjects and their delightful adventures.

When the credits rolled the audience leaped to its feet in a standing ovation for this wonderful movie. A brief Q&A with the cast afterwards revealed that two of the test subjects are currently vegan and the third is vegetarian. Amazing. A show of hands revealed the audience was primarily vegan, with about 20 declared omnivores. Obviously, I was specifically interested in an omnivore’s reaction, so I found one at the after party and pressed him with questions.

I was not supposed to be at the fancy after party, as I did not have a VIP ticket (‘cause I’m poor). However, Brian, one of the stars of the documentary (who is even more charming and adorable in person than in the film, if that’s possible) saw me wistfully gazing at the party filled with vegan food/celebs and offered get me in as his plus-one. As if I weren’t already in love with him. [Ed.: OMG YOU HAVE TO GET MARRIED!]

JACKPOT. I hobnobbed with the vegan elite and noshed on Foodswings' mac and cheese. There were also veggies, hummus, cookies, So Delicious ice cream treats (So Delicious is sponsoring the film, because they ROCK) and most importantly, Sweet & Sara Rice Krispie treats, which I repeatedly dunked in the chocolate fountain. That's right, you heard me: THE CHOCOLATE FOUNTAIN.


I digress. My omnivore, a good friend of the Vegucated test subject Brian (my future husband), said he had come to support his friend. He currently eats a totally SAD and had never looked into anything regarding veganism or vegetarianism before. He told me the film had shocked him, and that he was unaware of most of the information presented. He said that it had never occurred to him to think what these farms and slaughterhouses must be like. It truly seemed to have affected him in a positive way. As a vegan, I thought it was great and it touched my heart, but to see that a non-vegan audience member thoroughly enjoyed it as well was inspiring. 

This is what I hope it can do for many more non-vegans. It is so funny and stimulating, it will captivate any audience. The humor can be a bridge for people who would never have approached a film like this otherwise. 

Last night’s show was the first in a tour, so check out the website to see if it’s coming near you—if it is, GO SEE IT. It is radical. You can also pre-order copies of the DVD or arrange to host a screening in your town. [Ed.: Oct. 24 in Berkeley and 25 in SF!]

This movie is awesome. Watch it. Send it to all your family members as Christmas presents. (or Hanukkah or birthday or whatever presents). I loved it and extend my congratulations to all involved.

Laura Yasinitsky is a writer, comic, waitress, and animal-lover based in New York City. She has appeared on Comedy Central’s Open-Mic Fight and writes for US Weekly’s Fashion Police. You can follow her silliness on Twitter @LaraYaz and read about her animal-friendly adventures here.

08/31/2011

Guest book review: Veganist by Kathy Freston!  »

Veganist: Lose Weight, Get Healthy, Change the World came out last year and spurred several notable Kathy Freston appearances on major talk shows, including Oprah, Martha, and Ellen (my fave, duh. I LOVE YOU ELLEN!!). Surprisingly, it didn’t make the VegNews list of 2010’s most influential non-cookbook books and frankly, that’s a mistake. However, its message is not abolitionist, so I can see why it might be omitted. The book simply encourages you to make gradual changes and provides convincing evidence and testimonials.   

I understand why some vegans have a problem with the non-abolitionist approach. I get this way occasionally, too. Even though Meatless Monday is great—and I’m grateful for friends who’ve said my influence has caused them eat more vegan food—it’s still annoying sometimes. I want to shout at everyone, “DON’T YOU JUST WANT TO STOP EATING THINGS THAT USED TO BE ALIVE?” This book does not shout that.

Veganist is super-interesting. It outlines 10 promises that Freston assures will come true if you make an effort to adopt a vegan diet. A good chunk of it focuses on the health benefits of a vegan diet, the evidence for which is overwhelming. She interviews several specialists on heart disease and diabetes and knocks your socks off by showing you how far-reaching the effects of eliminating cholesterol and animal fat can be. She also has a few weight-loss testimonials. I can’t totally agree with that one however—I haven’t lost a pound since going vegan. I am still sexy though. And single. Ahem, gentlemen. 

The most powerful chapters for me were the ones on animal suffering and spirituality, especially the story of two generations of cows who live and work on a dairy farm. This is a heart-wrenching and in-depth tale that reveals the horror of the milk and cheese industry, told convincingly by Freston. It’s nice to see her focus so clearly on the foodstuffs most folks have the hardest time giving up. Talking about a slaughterhouse or a broiler farm would be almost easier and more acceptable, but she takes the difficult path and does so brilliantly.  

The spirituality chapter is wonderful. It shows many angles of all religions and encourages you to question what your god would really think of you eating animals and participating in a world of violence. It is a fascinating argument, backed up with evidence from spiritual texts and testimonials from different spiritual advisors, and it got me thinking in a way I hadn’t before. 

I was apprehensive about reading this book. My opinion of Kathy Freston has always been tainted. She has written a bunch of self-help-type “finding love” books, she used honey on her Martha Stewart appearance, and her whole involvement in that “vegan-ish” Oprah episode was annoying—I felt like the whole thing was basically just Michael Pollan jerking off. 

However, she handled Martha Steward’s difficult questions with grace, she put her hand on Michael Pollan’s arm when he said there was nothing wrong with eating animals and gently disagreed, and my distaste for self-help/love books is mostly just because I am single (and sexy!).

Ultimately, I think Veganist is excellent. It’s an easy read, but her arguments are indisputable. Though I don’t know how many people it will actually convince to go vegan, it’s an excellent source of inspiration and information, especially regarding health issues. It provides great insight into the vegan lifestyle: There are shopping lists and meal suggestions in the afterward, which any parent or sibling of a vegan would find informative and useful. It would make a fantastic gift for a non-vegan family member, too.

If you are already vegan and looking for a solid read, pick it up. If you’re feeling particularly abolitionist, you might not like it. Nevertheless, it’s very good and I think Freston’s exposure, along with the great information she provides, will create a huge ripple effect. Even though it may not make people go vegan, it will open a lot of eyes, minds, and hearts to the long list of benefits this lifestyle provides. 

Good job, Kathy Freston. Now, let’s get me a boyfriend!

Laura Yasinitsky is a writer, comic, waitress, and animal-lover based in New York City. She has appeared on Comedy Central’s Open-Mic Fight and writes for US Weekly’s Fashion Police. You can follow her silliness on Twitter @LaraYaz and read about her animal-friendly adventures here.

07/11/2011

Guest post: Vegansaurus NYC: Red Bamboo is delicious!  »

Go to Red Bamboo. GO NOW!

This is what it looks like.

I’m pretty sure those two people aren’t always there so don’t consider them a landmark.

I have been fairly interested in having a big meal at this establishment ever since I’d first heard the buzz. One of my louder vegan pals had raved about one of their burgers declaring it the NYC faux-meat mecca; I raised my eyebrow.

I invited my friend, Michael, he’s a lovely vegan and also a lovely person, and we had  great time. The ambiance is pleasant and the service was excellent. Please note that I work in the restaurant business and I don’t just throw around the word “excellent” when it comes to waiter skills. I got standards! And I thought the food was super good.

They have an extensive menu with a TON of options on it. However, it is a vegetarian place, not a vegan place, but all the vegan food items are clearly marked. Yay for convenience. Boo for not being 100 percent vegan.

To be clear. This Red Bamboo food is not healthy food. It is not for the ultra-health-conscious. Do not go to Red Bamboo if you are in the mood for a salad. I know many folks like to keep their grub on the “whole food” side, and I would not recommend a Red Bamboo outing for you folks. It is for junk food lovers!

We had buffalo wings for an appetizer. (sorry, no photo, I was busy EATING) Then we had 2 entrees. Michael is nice so we shared a little.

I had the cashew “chicken.”

Yum city! Seriously some of the best “chicken” I’ve had in my young vegan life. My mouth is totally watering looking at this pic.

Michael had a dish whose name I can’t remember. I think it was Dante’s Cuisine? I scanned the online menu and that was the only thing that sounded familiar. Whatevs. It was good.

I’m way too hungry to be writing this right now.

I say yay Red Bamboo. Deliciousness! Not too expensive either and huge portions; I took some home and ate it for lunch the next day.

We also had a peanut butter chocolate something cake? It was awesome. I LIKE EATING! I especially liked eating at Red Bamboo and will definitely go again. Yum yum. Apparently they had another location in Brooklyn and it used to be yummier but they revamped it and serve dead things now? Two thoughts on this: 1) TOTAL HATE; 2) The West Village one is plenty yummy. Still eat there. Don’t let that Brooklyn incident keep you away from the drumsticks. You’re worth it.

Laura Yasinitsky is a writer, comic, waitress, and animal-lover based in New York City. She has appeared on Comedy Central’s Open-Mic Fight and writes for US Weekly’s Fashion Police. You can follow her silliness on Twitter @LaraYaz and read about her animal friendly adventures here.

05/18/2011

Vegansaurus NYC: John’s of 12th Street’s new all-vegan menu!  »

I heard some chatter that one of NYC’s oldest Italian restaurants had added an all-vegan menu in addition to their regular menu. Naturally I looked into it. Sure enough, John’s of 12th Street has not just vegan options but an entirely separate vegan menu, which proclaims: “We want everyone to be able to enjoy our Italian specialties made with the freshest ingredients available! All of our vegan dishes are plant-based and contain no animal ingredients whatsoever. We use dedicated cooking utensils for preparing vegan dishes.” Wow! I arranged a dinner immediately with a bunch of my vegan friends and we promptly showed up forks in hand.

John’s is an old-school Italian place. It opened in 1903 and the space has an old-fashioned feel. The waiters are all in white button-ups with ties and have Brooklyn accents. And at one point our waiter actually yelled at an adjacent birthday party to keep it down—for the record, they were being wicked loud—totally awesome.

When we sat down, we were asked if we’d like garlic bread; my friend said we’d like the vegan garlic bread. Our waiter asked if we were all “goin’ ve-gaan tonight?” We nodded and he quickly whisked away our menus and replaced them with the vegan ones. Super exciting. Vegan appetizers, salads, pastas, entrees, and desserts. We were a large party so I got to taste a wide variety. Two kinds of bruschetta (one with avocado!), Caesar salad, stuffed mushrooms, minestrone soup. All quite good. For my main I order pasta with vegan Alfredo, BECAUSE HOW CAN YOU NOT. It was good. I won’t lie, I put a lot of salt and pepper on it but after that it was delicious. My roommate had the tofu spinach ravioli which I though had really impressive texture, just like a traditional ravioli. Another friend let me taste the seitan parm (it was yum) which came with a SIDE of pasta. Would you like a side of pasta? Only with everything please!

Then came dessert. This was the true highlight. I got the vanilla cannoli. Oh man. Cue picture:


Crazy delicious! Some of my friends got the chocolate version but I didn’t taste it because no one was interested in sharing at this point, just scarfing. There was also a panna cotta (surprisingly good) and ice cream from Lula’s (always a delight).

Bottom line: I was ultra-stoked about this trip because I LOVE Italian food, but I wouldn’t tell a vegan from out of town to go out of their way unless they are a major fan like me. Except for the cannoli which IS worth going out of your way!! You should go get one NOW. This is a great place for a large dinner party, especially if it’s a mixed party with vegans and nons. The food is good. It is not unbelievable or particularly special but it is a solid “good.”

I think its super important to point out that John’s is freaking radical for doing this!! How many restaurants can you just walk into and not just have a few options but your whole own entire menu made with special animal-free pots and pans? Like NOWHERE. Go John’s of 12th Street! You are sexy like a vegan! I hope this is the sign of a trend because I would love for more restaurants/bakeries/delis/etc. to have good vegan options. And I MEAN options; one item is not “options.” Yay for vegan Italian food! Is it the best food ever? No. Is it good? Yes! I’ll take another side of pasta please!

[Ed.: Oh, snap! It looks like you can ORDER ONLINE!! Ugh, do they deliver to Oakland? BECAUSE WANT.]

Laura Yasinitsky is a writer, comic, waitress, and animal-lover based in New York City. She has appeared on Comedy Central’s “Open-Mic Fight” and writes for US Weekly's Fashion Police. You can follow her silliness on Twitter @LaraYaz and read about her animal friendly adventures at Laura Goes Vegan.

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