Ask Mannes Anything: Veganism on a Budget
A really, really, really large budget.
This is the debut of my restaurant advice column: AMA, or Ask Mannes Anything. Need to decide where to eat but have some very specific constraints? Email me at email@example.com with your question (start the subject line with “AMA:”) and I’ll try my best.
My housemate’s boyfriend is a vegan crypto zillionaire. She’s already been with him to Dirt Candy. Where should they eat on their next visit to NYC?
I’m not used to working with this kind of bankroll, but maybe I can still help your housemate put it to, uh, effective use.
Let’s start with the options that are reasonable for the rest of us: excellent spots, but your friend will be stuck with just about the same experience that’s available to anyone else.
Hangawi is a vegan-friendly vegetarian Korean restaurant with a wooden interior that’ll make you feel at peace. That effect’s even more special because of its location in K-town, just one block from the Empire State Building: a neighborhood I love to come back to, but not exactly the most soothing place in NYC. Wear cute socks, because you’ll have to take your shoes off at the door before sitting down on the floor at your table.
Someone treated me to a meal here in college, back when I was Master Carver (i.e., president) of my school’s beef appreciation club. It’s been so long that I don’t remember what I ate there. (Maybe a delicious pumpkin porridge? Or was that on another visit?) What I do remember is that it woke me, an arterially-hardened carnivore-in-chief, up: vegetarian food could be good.
Want more of a date spot? A jumping-off-point for a night of drinking in the East Village? Try Avant Garden. Make your reservation at the chef’s counter and watch them prepare all your small plates.A post shared by Avant Garden | New York (@avantgardennyc)
I didn’t love their spaghetti, but I think you’ll be happy with everything else.
Head into Brooklyn for Ras Plant Based’s vegan Ethiopian food. Although I am partial to the fasolia (carrots, green beans, hella garlic), the mushroom tibs, and the sambusas, you should get a platter in order to try everything.
But any vegan on a tech salary can afford to visit those restaurants. Y’know what not just any vegan can afford to do? Charter a helicopter to a great restaurant outside the five boroughs.
For most people on a short trip to NYC, visiting Blue Hill at Stone Barns just isn’t worth the hassle. To arrive at the Westchester County farm in time for a 6 PM dinner reservation on Friday night, either budget 2.5 hours in bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic out of the city or arrive at Grand Central by 4:30 PM to catch the Metro-North Hudson line to Tarrytown. (Actually, you should get to the restaurant with plenty of time to spare in order to explore the grounds before your meal.) After a five-hour-long dinner, it’s another hour to get back home, and that’s only if there are any Uber drivers nearby that late. What a drag!and Stone Barns. I took the liberty of getting a quote from BLADE (Uber, but for helicopters): each way will set you back about $2200 plus a $100 surcharge per passenger.
Your housemate isn’t most people. Taking a helicopter will cut the trip down to fifteen minutes each way, and most of that travel time is the drive between Westchester Medical Center Heliport
Willing to go further? Vedge, in Philadelphia, is an hour away from Manhattan by helicopter. $8850 each way for a two-pilot Sikorsky, $5200 for a one-pilot Bell, both subject to a $100/pax surcharge and 7.5% tax. No sweat for your friend, right?
Still, dozens of people eat at both of those restaurants every dinner service. Try for something completely absurd! Your friend is in a unique position to buy the impossible.
Kajitsu, a restaurant serving shojin ryori (Japanese Zen Buddhist monastery cuisine), opened in 2009. I had a nice dinner there once, back when I’d just started dating a vegetarian. It had one Michelin star. Never been? That’s too bad, because Kajitsu’s final dinner service was on September 18th of this year.
… Or was it their final dinner service? Dead people can’t be brought back to life, but maybe restaurants can be. With your friend’s kind of money, they could commission a very special pop-up. Put the gang back together for one last job—one last night of Kajitsu cuisine.
Now, would it be utility-maximizing to go through all that effort only for Hiroki Abe to cook dinner for two? Surely not. If this pop-up’s happening, why not invite me along as well?
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In case you were wondering, this vegan crypto zillionaire does not sport a wild mop of curly hair. Quit guessing.
You’ll need to separately get permission from the hospital. Opting for Westchester Airport will add fifteen minutes to your drive to the restaurant. Conversely, getting permission from Dan Barber to land in a clearing at Stone Barns will save you about ten minutes each way, at the risk of disturbing some farm animals and fellow diners.
Another jewel-like review! I loved learning about Dirt Candy! They have beautiful photos on their website. Not sure I'll splurge on a helicopter, but it sounds like a fun thing to do at least once in a lifetime!