Planning a Romantic Vegan Date in NYC

Ariana DiValentino


With its shimmering skyline, bustling streets, and wealth of culture and activity, it's little wonder why New York is the backdrop for so many romantic movies and books. But if you're planning a night on the town with (or as) a vegan, you're going to have to come up with something other than oysters and a New York strip steak. Fortunately, there are a wealth of ways to have a romantic day or night out, cruelty-free. Whether you’re looking for something fun and exciting to do during the day, or a more traditional dinner and drinks date, options abound. Here are some sweet ideas for treating your animal-loving sweetheart.

For an active day out

It’s a stereotype that all vegans are earthy-crunchy folks into fitness and nature, but just about everyone needs a change of pace from sitting, eating, and drinking sometimes. If you’ve already had a couple of sedentary dates with your sweetheart and want to switch things up – or you just want to plan a daytime date that’s a little more creative than coffee – consider getting up on your feet and moving.

While walking through the meandering paths of Central Park is always lovely, consider taking things up a notch with an outdoor yoga class held in one of the city’s many gorgeous parks during the summer, or in the winter months, going skating at the famous Wollman Rink. Both are great – not to mention free or cheap – ways to do something active and fun with a date, all before the beautiful backdrop of New York City. As an added bonus, the post-activity photo ops will be unbeatable.

Want something more out-of-the-box? Go really wild with an instructional foraging tour of one of the city’s parks, guided by an expert who can teach you what’s safe (and tasty) to eat, and what isn’t. Discover the unlikely flora hidden within the city’s pockets of nature, and pick up some sustainable food sourcing skills. This naturally leads into an at-home cooking session, so you can continue the date by experimenting with your herbal and vegetal yield. Depending on the season and the location, you might head home with juniper, wild garlic, oyster mushrooms, and/or various fruits and nuts.

For drinks and light bites

For first dates or any kind of date where you want the flexibility to sit and talk for just one drink or hours on end, New York is home to a wealth of intimate options. While a standard drinks date is generally pretty vegan-friendly already, it’s extra considerate to pick a place where your date can get a little something to eat. Night Music, in the East Village, offers Indian-inspired small plates and an exciting roster of cocktails and punches. You could stick to papadum or naan with chutneys and spreads, or sample a few small plates like the turmeric crepe and vindaloo maitake buns.

Way uptown, in Washington Heights, couples can sample the entirely plant-based menu of Caribbean tapas at Poción Lounge, featuring an extensive and exciting cocktail menu to match. Get a couple of empanadas, or maybe a dessert like the arroz con leche, and sip one of the many cocktails, like the pachamama – mezcal with kale and cucumber juice and a chipotle and saffron syrup – or a passion fruit mimosa.

For engagements earlier in the day, check out the fully vegan, French-style café Terms of Endearment in Williamsburg. The atmosphere is peaceful but feels fancy enough that it’s a definite upgrade from a standard coffee date – and plus, your vegan companion will be able to eat something. Split an impressive laminate pastry or some ricotta vol au vent, or a couple of sandwiches (like the beet lox or vegan prosciutto pear) if you need something more substantial. To drink, enjoy a nice cappuccino or something trendy like the lavender butterfly pea latte.

No-holds-barred dinner locales

For a grand romantic (and vegan-friendly) dinner, options abound depending upon what you’re in the mood for. John’s of 12th Street is a long-standing red sauce institution in the East Village, serving a full menu of both traditional and vegan Italian food – right down to the tiramisu. Vegans can enjoy dairy-free alfredos, seitan parmigiana, veggie and tofu-stuffed ravioli, and a wealth of appetizers and desserts – even cannoli. Nothing feels quite so classic New York as a big plate of pasta accompanied by a generous pour of wine, enjoyed in a venue that’s not frilly but plenty memorable.

Over on the west side, try Blossom in Chelsea, serving elegant plant-based dishes along with dessert, wine, and beer. Consider sharing an appetizer or two, like the cashew cream ravioli or the gnocchi in lemon-truffle-cashew sauce, and follow it up with more carbs like the rigatoni (served with truffle oil, porcini cream, and pistachio gremolata) or something some veggie-forward like the curried stuffed sweet potato. Then, if you still have room, get something indulgent like the cheesecake or chocolate ganache for dessert.

For something both trendy and approachable, try Modern Love in Williamsburg, serving elevated comfort food by popular cookbook author and native Brooklynite Isa Chandra Moskowitz. The menu changes fairly often, but the Mac & Shews is one of their core dishes that can’t be missed. Don’t hesitate to embellish your meal with an appetizer, like the Swiss fondue, or a dessert like the chocolate-dipped cannoli – or better yet, both. And as an added bonus, the wine and beer menu here is fairly small but well-curated, so beverage aficionados are sure to be impressed. 

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