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Vspot 1 Latin American Vegan Vegetarian East Village

Vspot Organic Restaurant is the second restaurant opened by Dan Carabaño, Alex Carabaño, Steve Simicich, and Nathan Smith. Brothers Dan and Alex were raised on traditional Colombian food in Brooklyn, the site of their first restaurant. Like the original Vspot, the St. Marks eatery churns out entirely vegan Latin fare. Steve and Dan took the time to speak with me about their joint venture and the move to the East Village.

Dan had been vegetarian for many years before making the switch to the vegan lifestyle in 2003. He then sought to “veganize” the type of cuisine with which he grew up. Before entering the restaurant business, Dan was a math teacher. “Many math teachers are vegetarian,” he told us, “Like Pythagoras: you had to be vegetarian to join his club.” His brother Alex is a stand-up comic who was originally an omnivore who used to sneak meat into the back of their Brooklyn location for his dinner. He soon joined Dan, however, in cutting meat out of his diet. Dan and Steve, a land-use lawyer, are college buddies from SUNY Albany.

This spot on St. Marks is unique in that it is all organic and locally sourced. Charles, the owner of this East Village building Vspot calls home, is very passionate about organic farming, having grown up on a farm since the age of three. Though excited to have a vegan restaurant as a tenant, he insisted that the food be entirely organic, and Dan and Alex were happy to agree to his demands.

Members of the Manhattan Sideways team sampled two of their delicious empanadas: the Philly empanada is filled with mushroom, onions, green peppers, vegan cheese, and house-made seitan while the Colombian empanada has potatoes, carrots, onion, corn, and Latin-seasoned house made seitan. Both were perfectly crispy on the outside and flavor-packed on the inside, with two accompanying sauces: a house-made spicy vegan mayo and a pico de gallo. Another favorite with their customers, Steve informed us, is the cheese quesadilla made with vegan cheese and plantains.

Vspot is friendly, full of good energy, and the food is fabulous. As we were leaving, we managed to catch Alex, who was just arriving. He told us that on the last Thursday of every month, there is a comedy open-mic at 7pm followed by a pre-booked comedy show. He then sat down to the dinner that Dan had ordered for him. “I eat here every day!” Alex happily declared, while tucking in to his quesadilla.

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Vspot 1 Latin American Vegan Vegetarian East Village
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More Vegan nearby

Lost Gem
Caravan of Dreams 1 Brunch Vegan undefined

Caravan of Dreams

“I’m not a chef. I am a scholar of nutrition and an idealist who loves health and happiness, ” proclaimed Angel Moreno, who left his home in Spain in the 1980s to embark on a voyage of self-discovery and to set up a chiringuito — the Spanish term for a cafe or juice kiosk — in the U. S. Before finding what he calls his “true purpose, ” Angel was a pilot. “But this was killing my heart, ” Angel said. He reevaluated his life and chose to pursue his aptitude for music. Though untrained, Angel had a good ear, a passion for playing the drums, and a desire to share music, poetry readings, and photography exhibits with the public. He came to open a handful of cafes and bars throughout Spain that were akin to laidback performance venues. Just as Angel planned to start a new venture in London, he met a master of Sufi (a form of Islamic mysticism). “This man was doing everything I wanted to do: yoga, traveling, and music. He was a fun guy. ” The guru made such a powerful impression that Angel followed him to the States, where he spent the next decade doing odd jobs, learning to practice Sufism, and waiting for the right time to start his chiringuito. As Angel puts it, the universe eventually led him to the ideal place. It had two rooms — one that would serve as the dining area and a second space that was used to educate others about nutrition, health, and assorted important subjects. At first, “I didn’t even know what kind of cuisine I was going to offer. ” But the teachings of Sufi, which focus on purity and wellness, inspired him to avoid anchoring himself to any specific type of cuisine. “Instead, I did international dishes and used my knowledge to adjust any recipe to incorporate organic ingredients and to be vegan or vegetarian. "Caravan of Dreams retains some of the elements of Angel’s first Spanish cafes, with daily live music and bright colors on the walls to spark joy in its guests. Yet the key component is the wholesome meals it serves. “Without health, we cannot be happy. ”

Lost Gem
Ladybird 1 Vegan Tapas and Small Plates undefined


At Ladybird, vegetables take center stage. According to Devante Melton, marketing director of DeRossi Global, Ladybird's parent company, “Instead of creating meat substitutes or serving dishes that propel that same kind of addiction to meat, we decided to create a vegetable bar that would be a sexy alternative without any of that pretense or exclusivity, ” Since 2016, Ravi DeRossi has been on a mission to turn his restaurants vegan - and change the way we think about meat. “New Yorkers are very, very dedicated to meat as a necessity, ” says Devante. “We go day-to-day in this kind of routine without actually understanding our food systems - what’s available, what’s produced locally. In doing so, we condition ourselves to believe that these things are necessary, but we don’t feel any need to lower our carbon footprint or create any environmental changes for us as a people. One way to do that is to go vegan. ”Ladybird’s aesthetic is a cross between one's rich great-aunt’s living room and a trendy bar. Gold-framed mirrors adorn the marble-patterned walls, while plants dangle from the ceiling. Customers sit in green velvet booths or at the mirrored bar and drink wine-based cocktails served in crystal punch bowls. The food evokes the same sort of airy opulence as the décor. Manhattan Sideways sat down to sample a variety of items from the menu: Beginning with The Reunion Ibis cocktail - In keeping with the bar’s theme, the drinks are named after birds - followed by some of the restaurants most favorite dishes: Three types of toast (avocado, cauliflower, and mushroom and onion), kale salad, baby corn, and melt-in-your-mouth fried eggplant. The star of the show was a beet and avocado ceviche, a dish that made us wonder why anyone ever bothered making ceviche with fish. That is, in the end, the goal: to engineer a new sort of culinary literacy, where one's taste buds are far too occupied to even consider missing meat.

More places on 8th Street

Lost Gem
Arts and Crafts Beer Parlor 1 Bars Beer Bars undefined

Arts and Crafts Beer Parlor

What a find... down a flight of stairs from street level on 8th Street, Arts and Crafts Beer Parlor is the "antithesis of a sports bar. " Artisan and craft beer are brought together in a friendly environment that certainly had us feeling like we were right at home. The Parlor is also named for the Arts and Crafts movement, “a cultural revolt against the ideals of industrialization. ”When we visited, we spoke to Robert, one of the two owners, with whom we thoroughly enjoyed chatting. Robert is an internationally recognized speaker and writer on dining out and traveling with special diets (he co-authored the series Let’s Eat Out! ), and he also has a background in acting and producing on Broadway. He told us that the other owner, Don, has an impressive resume working with the FBI and counterterrorism efforts both in New York and around the world - which left us wondering what brought this dynamic duo together as friends and eventually co-owners. Robert informed us it was a love of American Craft Beer and the visual and performing arts... and that they actually met enjoying a pint of beer in Manhattan. Just as intriguing as its owners, the interior of Arts and Crafts is beautifully designed; the sophisticated wallpaper is custom made by Bradbury and Bradbury, and the soft green and beige pattern was Frank Lloyd Wright’s favorite, supposedly. The constantly changing art is displayed along the wall opposite the bar, and an exposed brick wall and fireplace give the parlor a true “extension of your living room” feel. Described by Robert, as the “Bugatti of beer systems, ” the twenty plus beers the Parlor keeps on tap rotate monthly and are kept by this state of the art system at a refreshing 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Robert also astounded us with how small the carbon footprint of the Parlor is — he told us they are very conscious of keeping things compostable and earth-friendly. In addition to their rotating display of art from both established and up-and-coming artists, the Arts and Crafts Beer Parlor also hosts a monthly lecture series on the subjects of art as well as culinary topics. We could not get enough of how interesting this place is — both the concept of art and beer coming together and the two fascinating minds behind it.