Urban Vegan Kitchen as seen from Carmine Street
When it comes to food, I am always up for an adventure. When it comes to dining out, I prefer a sexier environment that is chill with unique design elements. When these two things are combined, I am a happy camper, and this is the case with Urban Vegan Kitchen. I attended the grand opening event in late October directly after a hot yoga class, ready to eat, drink, and learn more about the new culinary outpost. As I have many friends and family members that are vegetarian (some vegan), I am always in search of restaurants that have plant-based meals that I can equally enjoy.
The brainchild of co-founders Pamela Elizabeth, of Blossom Du Jour fame, and David Tianga, Urban Vegan Kitchen serves up vegan soul food in the former space of Blossom on Carmine. Once crossing the threshold inside, I was immersed into a super cozy space of white-painted exposed brick walls, standard table & cocktail table seating, lounge chairs, with framed photographs and posters hung on every wall. The lights were dim, evoking a sexy, but not too sexy nighttime vibe, with sounds spanning A Tribe Called Quest to salsa hits played by the DJ of the evening.
Menus & cocktail table seating
The dining area was separated from the kitchen with a glass block wall (seen above), offering a distorted, light-filled peek into where the magic happens. Passed hors d’oeuvres were served throughout the evening, my favorites being the Fried Okra served with ranch dressing, and the Chickpea Hush Puppies served with a house-made remoulade. I saw folks with drinks and realized there was another level below. I arrived quite early, but once I found friends and was able to put down my gym bag, I headed downstairs for a cocktail.
Ambience on the ground floor
The basement of the restaurant houses Chris’ Cathouse and Soul Lounge, a more laid-back space that is open all day for customers to meet and chill, that serves as a cocktail bar at night. Filled will plush seating with a mix of posters and framed photographs of old & new school musical greats including Fela Kuti and Muddy Waters, along with NYC-centered films like Kids and West Side Story, I immediately felt at home.
I ordered the Chambucha which is kombucha & prosecco cocktail served in a champagne flute. I felt fancy and healthy at the same time, which is an awesome feeling to be honest. I switched up later to try the Strawberry Margarita, which consisted of Espolon Tequila, strawberry, and lime. Quite refreshing!
UVK Quarter Pounder
When I retreated upstairs to the main dining area, I made it my duty to try ALL THE FOOD. At this point, more of the main dishes were being served, both breakfast and dinner offerings. For brunch, they offered an out of bounds (insert Guy Fieri voice) Breakfast Sandwich which consisted of crispy tofu rounds, avocado, kala manak (black salt) shiitake bacon, hollandaise aioli, arugula, and red onion served on a multigrain English muffin. The kala manak, which is a sulfuric salt, added a pungent aroma near identical to that of fried eggs. Between that and the unique texture and flavor of the shiitake bacon, I could have been fooled that I was actually eating meat.
For dinner, they offered the UVK Quarter Pounder which consists of a roasted mushroom barley patty, crispy fried shallot rings, housemate special sauce, tomatoes, pickles, iceberg lettuce, served on a toasted potato bun. The mushroom & barley patty gave the burger a unique texture, very similar to that of ground beef. Yet another dish that could have fooled me again.
What I found most intriguing about Urban Vegan Kitchen, aside from the delicious food & drinks and people, was the incredible vibe. I do not frequent vegetarian or vegan restaurants often because I generally feel uninformed, judged, or completely left out. As cliché as it might sound, I felt nothing but love the evening of the opening, from the staff, fellow members of the press, and all attendees. Although I may not have been familiar with all of the ingredients in the menu offerings, the dishes were recognizable comfort foods. I would definitely recommend folks of all dietary regimens to try out Urban Vegan Kitchen as the options are quite thoughtful, and made to satisfy.
Urban Vegan Kitchen
41 Carmine Street
New York, NY 10014
*All photos courtesy of Urban Vegan Kitchen