The busy, bare bones dining room of Cafe Euroasia is unremarkable, but the Russian-Ukranian food is quite good and the service is friendlier than many other Brighton Beach restaurants. The only vegetarian items are in the hot and cold appetizer sections, but there is plenty to make a filling meal. The assorted pickle plate is a great version of the type; nothing surprising, but the pickled green tomatoes were especially good. For a more hearty and filling dish I got the Julienne with mushrooms — sliced mushrooms and onions cooked in cream, then baked with cheese on top. Both the pickles and the mushrooms were great with a half order of the warm almost Turkish-style bread, puffy and crusty on the outside but flat in the middle.
Cafe Euroasia — 602 Brighton Beach Ave
I don’t understand the current food hall boom around NYC. They are usually loud and over-crowded, and it seems like vendors often drop out or the entire food hall closes. I didn’t have high expectations for the Time Out Market when we stopped by for an after-theater dinner. And yes, it was too noisy and there were too many people. But I have to admit the food was pretty great, and there are lots of vegetarian and vegan options.
We got the vegan ramen from Mr. Taka, with a creamy soy milk-based broth (I got mine spicy). It’s a delicious bowl of ramen, full of mushrooms, tofu, avocado, and even blowtorched slices of zucchini. We also stopped by Ice & Vice, where I enjoyed a poppy-sesame ice cream called Opium Den, and Breads Bakery for a chocolate babka to go. As long as you ignore all of the people, Time Out Market New York is pretty great.
Mr. Taka Ramen
Ice & Vice
Time Out Market New York — 55 Water St
I’ve written about Monk’s Meats before, and I’ve continued to follow them around Brooklyn. They make excellent vegan sandwiches, usually with seitan or mushrooms. I follow them on Instagram, and a few weeks ago I saw that they were doing a vegan Korean pop-up at a dive bar in Bed-Stuy called Cpt. Dan’s Good Time Tavern, for one night only. I immediately added it to my calendar.
The menu was short but intriguing. I chose the bon chon cauliflower, battered and deep-fried, then coated with a sweet-savory-spicy glaze and topped with sesame seeds and scallions. I also got a Korean fried “CHCK WHEAT” sandwich, a mock fried chicken cutlet topped with various pickled veggies. I washed it all down with a cold beer and pretended I was at a dive bar in Seoul.
Cpt. Dan’s Good Time Tavern — 497 Greene Ave
Many years ago there was a vegan Jamaican restaurant that opened in an old White Castle here in Brooklyn. It was called Veggie Castle, and it was good. Then they had to close, and re-opened way out in Queens under the name Veggie Castle II. I made the trip out once, and as much as I loved it I knew I wouldn’t be able to make the trip out there as often as I would like. Over the past few years I kept tabs on them via Instagram, and had to content myself with experiencing Veggie Castle vicariously. Then a few months ago they announced they would be coming back to Brooklyn. And then finally, a few weeks ago, they opened. I stopped by during their soft opening, with a limited menu and a cash-only register. In the past I had always gotten a platter of veggies and fake meats, but this time my attention was caught by the sandwiches. One sandwich in particular, the fried oyster mushroom po’ boy. There is no real place to sit and eat in the new space, so I took my sandwich (along with a side of Brussels spouts) to go. The sprouts were well-seasoned and delicious, but the sandwich was the real star. The mushrooms were battered and fried until crispy, then piled onto a roll with lettuce, carrots, onions, cucumbers and “remoulade sauce.” It was a great sandwich, but I think next time I’ll get one of the platters instead.
Veggie Castle — 2085 Flatbush Ave
I probably walked past Mori, in Park Slope, a few times without taking any notice of it. There are lots of nearly identical sushi restaurants in the neighborhood, and I must have just lumped Mori into that category. But then my friends Matt and Phaedra started talking about how good the food was, and how great their selection of Japanese beer was. And then for a birthday dinner we all got together there, and I was amazed by what I found. Mori is no copycat restaurant, it’s serving modern, seasonal Japanese food (with a French twist).
The starters are packed with vegetarian and vegan options, and you could put together a meal with those alone. I started with Kyo-yasai Carrots “a la Vichy” – a red variety of carrot, glazed with a maple-miso sauce. The carrots were sweet and savory, cooked until just soft and topped with candied walnuts. I also tasted some great shishito peppers, and strips of excellent tempura sweet potato.
There’s only one vegetarian main dish, a Japanese-style risotto topped with roasted maitake mushrooms and cured egg yolk (this can be omitted upon request). The rice was creamy and flavorful on its own, but it really came alive with the provided toppings: puffed rice crackers for crunch, a yuzu-soy sauce for some acid, and some chives for freshness. It’s too bad I didn’t take notice of Mori sooner. I can’t imagine all of the good food I missed out on.
Mori — 351 5th Ave
After grabbing a couple of slices at Paulie Gee’s I stopped by Polka Dot Cafe. Somehow they had gotten onto my radar as a place where you could get vegetarian pierogi, as well as other vegan versions of Polish specialties. I was too full to eat there, but I got a selection of goodies to take home for dinner.
I was a little overwhelmed by the selection of vegetarian and vegetarian options – there are soups, clearly labeled, and a meatless section of the prepared foods case. I ended up taking home lazanki (pasta with mushrooms and cabbage), wegetarianskie golabki (vegetarian stuffed cabbage), and a vegan version of bigos (stewed cabbage). I also took home a container of ogorkowa (pickle soup) made with sour cream and rice. It was all delicious, reheated later. Even though there were similar ingredients in all of them the flavors were all different. The cabbage, stuffed with veggies and grains, had a light, earthy flavor. The pasta with mushrooms and cabbage was hearty and rich, while the bigos was sour with vinegar and yet creamy at the same time, despite the lack of dairy. The real winner though, was the pickle soup. I love pickles, but I have never had them in soup form. I highly recommend it if you’ve never tried it.
I need to go back to Polka Dot Cafe, I never ended up getting any of their pierogi. Or their fried croquettes, or their blintzes, or their potato pancakes…
Polka Dot Cafe — 726 Manhattan Ave
Tortas Morelos in Bay Ridge is tiny – there are two and a half tables, seating for ten if everyone squishes in. The tiny space puts out a pretty big menu, though of course I was there for a torta. Upon learning I was a vegetarian my server gave me two torta options. Their standard vegetarian torta features grilled pineapple in addition to the standard avocado-cheese-beans on a roll. But she also mentioned a special, and it was something I had never heard of before. If you know me at all, you probably know that when I come across something I’ve never heard of before I feel compelled to order it. So I ordered the special – a Tecolota, or chilaquiles torta. Fresh tortilla chips are deep fried, then soaked in your choice of green or red salsa. The soaked chips are then piled onto the roll, and topped with queso fresco, chopped raw onions, cilantro, and sour cream.
It’s a good sandwich – I got the green salsa, which was slightly acidic and spicy, and cut through the richness of everything else. The chips were still slightly crunchy, which made for an odd eating experience. I was missing the avocado and beans though, I think that would have really taken the torta to a whole new level. I’ll have to go back for the vegetarian torta.
Tortas Morelos — 271 Bay Ridge Ave