Today’s my day off, so I won’t be in the same areas of Manhattan as yesterday (which is a shame because the East Village is the best for cheap vegan food). I live in a more expensive area of the city, the Upper East Side, so I already know my breakfast will be expensive and I’ll have to carefully budget the rest of my day.
I went to my usual spot: The Green Bean Cafe. It’s a vegetarian spot, and they do serve eggs and dairy. But who needs eggs when you can customize a cheesy tofu scramble?
I went with the tofu scramble whole wheat wrap, which has Daiya cheddar, salsa, potatoes, and veggies. I threw in some jalapeno peppers for an extra 50 cents, I skipped my usual addition of avocado as it was a whole extra dollar. Still no coffee! It was $7.50 total, but it was worth the splurge.
Total: $7.50 including tax and tip
I decided to head back down to the East Village for my favorite, Superiority Burger. Run by chef Brooks Headly, the six-seat burger joint serves unique meals and ever-changing specials. On Monday, there are tofu fried tofu sandwiches that taste amazing. On Friday, focaccia covered in whimsical toppings. On Sunday, hoagies stuffed to the brim with fresh ingredients. Brooks is a genius with food, and nothing costs over $9.
Superiority is a vegetarian joint, but most menu items can be veganized. On the burger, vegan cheese is an extra $1, but the burger is equally as good without. My normal order would include sweet and sour pink beets with jalapeño cashew cream, my favorite side, but the $20 challenge has limited my options.
I ultimately went with the Superiority Burger with no cheese, which is $6.53 before tip. The Superiority burger is nothing like meat, and it’s not trying to be anything like meat. It’s perfectly good in its own right — a true veggie burger.
Heads up for readers with allergies, the burger is not nut safe: try the Sloppy Dave instead.
I had boxed myself in financially and wasn’t sure where I could go for a full, vegan meal for $5. Just as I panicked that I would fail the challenge and call it a wash, I remembered Vanessa’s Dumpling House.
This Asian spot serves up giant sesame pancakes with vegetables for under $4, and plates of vegan vegetable dumplings for the same price. (A lot of their vegetarian options are easily veganized; just make sure you ask that everything is made vegan)
I went with the grilled tofu sesame pancake sandwich for $3.99, a soft fluffy bread covered in sesame seeds, filled with pickled veggies and grilled tofu. It’s light, fresh, filling, and a great meal for the price. I left the rest of the $5.50 for tax and tip.
I had sweet, sweet victory for dessert after completing what I thought was going to be an impossible challenge. Turns out, it’s totally doable to eat cheap and vegan in Manhattan. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Here in NYC, there are good options for vegans if you’ve only got $20 a day, and there are also tons of great vegan restaurants that are $20 a meal (or much more).
Now that I’ve proven to myself that I can do it the cheap way, I’m going out for a $10 milkshake.