That the city’s first vegan mayor can get his lunches so easily is proof of how the city’s culinary landscape has changed in the last five years, especially as the pursuit of wellness has become commonplace. Adams, for his part, credits a plant-based, whole-food diet that cured his diabetes, vision problems and other serious health problems diagnosed in 2016. He arrives at his post in a city that appears to be on a similar path. .
“Mayor Adams is not causing this,” said Matt Marshall, who tracks the vegan food scene on Instagram at @ vegan.nyx. “But we are at this great inflection point, where having a vegan mayor and having all these restaurants open, everything is moving in the same direction.”
New York City has about 1,000 specifically vegetarian and vegan restaurants, according to review site Happy Cow. In 2008, when Marshall adopted a vegan diet, he remembers there were about 20 totally vegan places, including now-closed cult favorites like Angelica Kitchen in the East Village. There are now more than 200, including the elegant Eleven Madison Park, where most dishes do not contain animal products. Hundreds more, including ones like Just Salad and Dig, and even mainstays like Serendipity3 among others, have plentiful meat-free and nutritious options, though they’re not entirely vegetarian.
The mayor’s vegan lifestyle takes center stage during an already booming month for perceived healthy restaurants: January.
Sales can be as much as 20% higher than they did in the previous December or February, said Nick Kenner, Just Salad’s chief executive officer.
The seasonal boom accompanies a longer-term shift in the way New Yorkers eat. “More and more people are signing up for a healthier lifestyle,” he said. Someone who chooses a whole-food meal once a week in January could end up ordering that same lunch more often as the year progresses.
For some, as for Adams, each food choice may be about more than just lettuce, but about life or death. At The Nourish Spot, a vegetarian take-out restaurant and juice bar in Queens, owner Dawn Kelly said customers are increasingly arriving with verbatim prescriptions for specialty plant-based diets. He said he watches clients lose weight or thrive after a cancer diagnosis.
The arrival of Covid increased his clients’ quest for good health through food, he said. “People were calling and texting,” Kelly recalled. They would ask: “Mrs. Dawn, what should I bring?
Currently, the best sellers at Nourish Spot are homemade vegetable soups, juices with wheatgrass, ginger and turmeric, nuts that contain trace elements such as magnesium and a smoothie known as Green Goblin. The business has grown every year and Kelly expects 2022 to have the highest sales yet.
That’s what Sabrina Rudin, owner of the vegetarian Spring Café in Lower Manhattan, has noticed among her clientele. “People are beginning to understand the connection between wanting to stay healthy and seeing that one way to do that is to make good food choices,” he said.
Not just for vegans
In May, Steven Salm opened a branch of Planta Queen, one of several concepts in his fully vegan portfolio of restaurants already operating in Florida and Canada.
Planta Queen serves vegetable sushi like mushroom “bacon” inari, wok dishes like pineapple fried rice, and small plates like XO tofu. So far, sales have been fast, he said, but not only among meatless people.
“A big part of our spirit, and the reason that Planta was created in the first place, was not [only] attract plant-based diners, ”Salm said. To have a greater impact on the environment and people’s health, he said, restaurants like his must attract a wide range of diners, not just official vegans or vegetarians.
Similarly, at Spring Café, “you don’t feel like one of our guests, it’s your only vegetarian meal or your meatless Monday,” said founder Sabrina Rudin, a lifelong New Yorker and lifelong vegetarian, who said They don’t even market the restaurant as “plant-based”. Rudin has run the original Spring Café in Aspen, Colorado, for nine years, though he lives here in New York City. She identified the same demand in her hometown for well-made, nutritious food that had led to her success in Aspen. In March 2020, he finished raising funds for the New York location, which opened earlier this year and has already amassed repeat customers.
“We not only get people who come in or order lunch every day, but they also make the decision to eat Spring Café two or three times a week,” Rudin said. Dishes like spinach and mushroom enchiladas, veggie burritos and spaghetti squash with a veggie tempeh bolognese are among the most popular.
For one person, vegetable-focused hotel industry owners said they were eager to see what Adams would do with his ability to highlight his approach to cooking.
“This is one of the most exciting political figures that I will have the ability to experience first-hand,” said Salm, who said having a politician who sees food through a similar lens could help drive discussions about sustainability, environmentalism. and food supply at the forefront.
Restaurants outside of the plant-centric sphere may also want to pay attention, Marshall said. Adams has said that he will frequently visit restaurants and clubs throughout the city. That means everyone should be prepared for their potential vegan guest.
“I think there will be many restaurants that anticipate that he will come one day and have something ready for him, or people who eat like him,” he said. “It will encourage restaurants to have a strong vegan option on their menu.”