So it begins — the season in which we need to start saying hello to warmer days and crop tops and goodbye to mohairs and comfort food that kept us warm during the winter. So with all of the “cheating” you’ve done in the past winter months (the holidays are not the best season for dieting, we all know that), we’re here to offer you a gift: a long list of places where you can wine and dine guilt-free.
Yes, you can enjoy a dinner out with friends, family, or special someone without feeling remorse in the days to follow. In a place like New York with all of the amazing, tempting cuisines, there are also those gems that have our best interest at heart. With lighter and healthier menu options, they’re our blessing in this soon to come calorie crisis. Here is our select list of restaurants in the NYC that you can enjoy carefree. Your body will thank you.
We love this place and you probably read about it thanks to our Wednesdays With series (and everyone’s Instagrams) but it’s so good that we need to list it here again. Started by Chef Chloe Coscarelli, by Chloe is one of those seemingly too-good-to-be-healthy-places, where everything is 100% vegan, completely all-natural and locally sourced. This young, fun Greenwich Village eatery is a casual spot to chow down with friends mid-day or grab grub and go. With offerings ranging from fresh pressed juices, sweet treats, lunch, and brunch, you can order up your guiltiest vice with a cleaner twist like the Classic Burger made with a tempeh-lentil-chia-walnut patty, pickles, onion, beet ketchup, special sauce, and potato bun (pair it with their air baked sweet potato fries) or Kale Caesar with shiitake bacon, avocado, almond parm, maple-wheat croutons, and caesar dressing. Got a sweet tooth? Try their vegan and gluten free ice cream treats like the Salted Vanilla Caramel, a medley of pure Madagascar vanilla, homemade salted caramel swirl, almond milk, coconut milk, and raw agave nectar.
We love a great, inventive fusion spot, and Gardenia is our latest fix. Not only is the restaurant beautiful (a bright space with light woods, planters cascading from a small skylight, white washed walls and a pastel painted Mexican tiled bar), the cuisine is right up our alley. Latin Mediterranean fare inspired by Greece, Brazil, Spain, Mexico, and Italy, you’re bound to get a mouthful of flavor with dishes like the yerba mate braised short ribs empanada with orange marmalade and chimichurri and the fava beans with crème fraiche and mint. But when you want something lighter and clean, start with raw bay scallops with orange, long beans, habanero ponzu, and avocado or the roasted heirloom carrots with walnuts, maple nora glaze, and goat cheese. For your main, dig into the roasted chicken with preserved lemon, asparagus, and charmoula avocado salsa or the fresh hake with gigante beans, calcots, salbitxada, and salsa verde. Wash it all down with a cucumber margarita or their Mediterranean Sangria made with rosé, St Germain, brandy, and berries.
Brought to you by the group behind Brooklyn famous joints like Marlow & Sons and Diner, comes Reynard. And if you haven’t checked it off your bucket list yet, it’s time. Infamous for their mosaic tiled floors scaling the vast dining hall, this Wythe Hotel restaurant offers a small, yet hearty dinner menu that appeals to the healthy diet we’re all trying to sustain or convert to. With beautiful, rustic dishes like pears and Bulgarian feta cheese, scallops in broth with chanterelle and matsutake mushrooms, and half chicken with concord grapes and lavender, you’ll indulge in warm, filling dishes that are just as healthy as they are delicious. Pair your meal with a bottle of wine and finish with a little persille de chèvre (a goats milk cheese from France) or sorbet for a refreshing conclusion to a cozy meal.
Michael Chernow, co-owner of the extremely successful chain The Meatball Shop, opened up Seamore’s, a bright beachy haven in the midst of Nolita, last year. With light wooden accents, white and turquoise touches, and vast windows welcoming loads of natural light, you’ll get those Montauk vibes all year round. A perfect venue for a fish focused menu, you’re guaranteed to satisfy those taco cravings guilt-free (try the spicy squid tacos with kale, apple, cotija cheese, and corn nuts) or if you’re looking to stay on the lighter side dig in to one of their delicious salads like the baby lettuces with carrot, sunflower seeds, grapefruit, and coconut-cumin vinaigrette. Make sure to add any of the fish from their “Daily Landings” board, a guide to all of their fish options captioned with helpful descriptions of flavor profiles and textures (a drawing of a Yellowfin Tuna is described as “firm and moist; mild, hearty flavor”) to ensure you get exactly what you want. The main event though, modeled after The Meatball Shop, is their Reel Deal plate, a build-your-own dish entailing a choice of fish served over greens accompanied by three sides and a choice of sauce (miso brown butter, salsa verde, and harissa cashew just to name a few).
This wine and beer only rustic, seasonal Italian West Village restaurant is a charming green beauty. With a roof garden upstairs growing their very own fresh produce, this locavore lovers joint is a far cry from heaped up plates of carb loaded pastas and cheesy, breaded parmesan. Instead, Rosemary’s has all the offerings for a healthy, sustainable meal. Even the decor exudes the au natural concept and mood: a rustic interior adorned in wood, exposed brick, and live green. Bring along the ladies and start your meal off with a selection of three veggies, like the beets with dandelion and hazelnuts, the cabbages with pecorino, chilies, and almonds, and the eggplant caponata, a sweet and sour eggplant relish. Move on to a light fish app to share like the tuna crudo with sugo tonnato, shaved fennel, grapefruit, and pomegranate. Finish with the smoked lamb served with poached carrots, roasted peaches, smoked onions, brown butter, ricotta and breadcrumbs. Don’t forget the wine. Known for their affordable selection, it’s a great place to order a bottle (or two) of white and enjoy some great eats and conversation with the girls.
There’s really nothing better than a clean meal. That’s why we’ve been dabbling in the whole veggie/vegan movement slowly making its way from Cali to New York. El Rey is one of those places you can have a delicious, flavorful meal without the dairy and meats that tend to weigh us down. Though not entirely vegan, this tiny (I mean really tiny), luncheonette nestled in the Lower East Side is our go-to for a quick, super healthy lunch amongst all the cool, downtown kids. Our favorites include the popular kale salad (it may or may not be their most Instagrammed salad) with shaved almonds, almond vinaigrette, and lemon zest, which we then add their buttery avocado to. If we’re looking for a little protein, we’ll skip the whole vegan thing and add a delicious pickled hard-boiled egg too. Skipped breakfast? Order their chia seed breakfast pudding with coconut, almond, and seasonal fruit or any of their house made pastries with a Mexican coffee.
The Meatpacking District had its culinary heyday and then the hotspots kinda fell flat. Known for places like The Standard, the High Line, and cobblestone streets lined with high-end boutiques, it has an array of reputable establishments to keep as an attraction. Though, as far as new, inventive restaurants, it falls short. But then along came Santina, a glass encased coastal Italian restaurant tucked beneath the High Line (prime location). Inside lies a tropical oasis with fruit baring trees, palm leaves reaching high toward the wood paneled ceiling, and other vibrant flowers to brighten up this festive joint. The food is equally lively. Primarily fish and vegetable centered, the dishes are light, refreshing eats anytime of the year like the squash carpaccio, branzino crudo, or arugula fig salad. For mains they have everything from spaghetti with blue crab to lobster Catalan. We suggest sharing the whole grilled porgy topped with mint and parsley salsa verde and flattened bay leaves. You can’t leave without trying one of their desserts, which all happens to be gluten-free. Go with the lime meringa, a lime meringue garnished with lime custard. A perfect citrusy finish to a meal that transported you to the Italian Riviera for the night.
Like we’ve mentioned, there’s always plenty of time to eat meat. You can find it at essentially any restaurant prepared a number of different ways. But when you can stumble upon a joint that reworks vegetables into satisfying dishes, you’ve struck gold. Dirt Candy is that joint. Now located in a much larger space in the Lower East Side, it’s known to the be the original go-to vegetarian restaurant that has continued to flourish even with many NYC restaurants implementing more and more veggie friendly dishes and menus. With no shame admitting that her produce doesn’t come straight from an organic local garden or pricey farmer’s market, Amanda Cohen is a straight shooter focused more on providing a delicious meal that has a lasting effect on your memory bank, not your financial one. Each item off the menu is named after the star veggie in the dish, for example the Radish is a black radish spaghetti with radish ravioli, radish greens pesto, and horseradish. Though some of the plates aren’t your quintessential vegetarian, health focused concoctions (instead you’ll find Korean fried broccoli and jalapeno hush puppies served with maple butter), there are options that are wholesome and healthful. Try the Eggplant made of mapo eggplant with baby bok choi, baby pea shoots and eggplant sformata or the Cauliflower consisting of cauliflower and curry with green pea saag, papaya chutney and pappadam. You can’t leave without trying a one-of-a-kind dessert like the carrot meringue pie with candied carrot chips and sour cream ice cream or the vegetable ice cream salad, a medley of lettuce sorbet, cucumber sorbet, yellow beet ice cream, grilled radicchio ice cream, goat cheese ice cream, walnut cake croutons, maraschino grapefruit, and dill sprinkles.
First of all, we applaud whoever came up with that name. Brilliant. The Butcher’s Daughter is a “vegetable slaughter house” located in Nolita (and opening in West Village soon) with a bustling scene during their standout breakfast and lunch hours. In our generation, we can see that veggies and fruits are taking main stage and seamlessly kicking hearty meats off their high horse. The Butcher’s Daughter is well aware of this trend, so it offers a vast and delicious menu based on meatless and healthy ingredients. One of our favorites is the Tagliatelle Bolognese, with thick ribbons of zucchini and carrot pasta topped with black bean-tomato “bolognese”, basil, and white wine. If you want something lighter, order the Spicy Kale Ceasar Salad, with local kale, avocado, almond parmesan, toasted almonds, crispy shallots & 7-grain croutons. Don’t forget to order one of their fresh, and colorful, juices.
*Insiders tip: after a rough night out get the Hangover-Killer juice with young thai coconut, pineapple, yuzu, chili, primrose oil, and cilantro; it’s the perfect solution to our dreadful hangovers.
When you think healthy, you think light, when you think light you just might think Mediterranean. This region has long been known to host one of the healthiest cuisines around. With lots of fish, fruitful veggies, and wild herbs, you’re working with a lot options for a restricted diet. This is why we love Greek food. It’s flavorful, fresh, and more importantly healthy. What’s the first thing we order when we walk into a Greek joint? A Greek salad with grilled chicken (gotta get that protein) and dressing, most likely, on the side. But there’s a lot more to Greek food than lettuce, feta, cucumber, and tomato. Enter Kiki’s. This LES restaurant, neighboring partner bar/restaurant Forgetmenot, is a neighborhood restaurant to get amazing five star eats in the coolest part of town. What we love is it’s where you can take visiting mom and dad, go on an intimate date, meet friends for dinner, or just dine solo. It’s where you can get straight-to-the-point, no fuss, and no frills Greek food. Try the grilled octopus, sliced and floating above a thin layer of olive oil drizzled with just the right amount of lemon or the melitzanosalata, a delicious eggplant mash served with warm pita. Looking for something belly warming for the spring chilly nights? Their moist roasted chicken is an absolute must. And hey, there’s no shame in ordering their Greek salad, too. It’s a delicious mix of cucumber, tomato, onions, bell pepper, and olives topped with a generous blocked slice of feta. Yum and yum.
We all love heading to a good Japanese restaurant and delighting our tastebuds with fresh salmon rolls and sashimi. But, as tempting as that is, the vegan sushi here might be even better than the non-vegan selection… no, really. Beyond Sushi offers an assortment of distinctive sushi rolls and other nutritional staples at their three outposts in Manhattan: Union Square, Chelsea Market, and Midtown West. Some of our favorites include The Mighty Mushroom (six-grain rice, enoki, tofu, shiitake mushrooms, and arugula) and the Sweet Tree (six-grain rice, avocado, sweet potato, and alfalfa sprouts). It’s the perfect grab-and-go place for a quick and healthy meal during your lunch break. You’re welcome, beach bod.
Grab the girls and head to these Soho spot for a fun night of refreshing food and drinks at Chalk Point Kitchen. Named after a spot in Lower Manhattan where the Dutch dumped oyster shells a long time ago, this Soho spot has a lax vibe and atmosphere, with homey wooden tables, mismatched chairs, and barn-style decos in the wall. Their market-to-table menu, created by Michelin-starred chef Joe Isadori, is focused on fresh local vegetables and organic products (although they do have delicious sea food and meat options that you can’t miss). We recommend you to order a lot of different plates to share and some tasty drinks on the side (Kale martini, we’re looking at you). You can’t miss the cast iron brussel sprouts, the woods mushroom, and the charred octopus. Hungry yet?
By Eliana Awada & Izzy Setaro
Feature image via byChloe