• Manhattan's fast and famous: vegetarian take-away in New York.

We had a couple of weeks in Manhattan, the most densely populated borough in New York City.  Let’s be honest, when I think of the island, it is the four savvy women from Sex in the City who are conjured in my mind.  Fashion, dating, dilemmas, dinners with mood lighting and tight apartments – these are the icons I have come to know about the lifestyle of a New Yorker.  In my several days there, I picked up another trait too – fast and easy snack food which can become as renowned as the best restaurants in the city.

Shake Shack
Shake Shack is perhaps one of the biggest success stories of fast food carts turn enterprise.  Beginning as a hot dog cart in Madison Square Park, founder, Danny Meyers, was able to secure a permanent kiosk before opening restaurants in other locations.  The chain now has nine restaurants in New York and has expanded throughout the country and internationally.

Walking past Shake Shack in a city full of jet-lagged tourists, it made no difference if it was a typical meal time or not – the queues were always flowing.  It was named best burger in 2005, the popularity is still soaring.

Vegetarians are catered for with the ‘Shroom Burger.  This is served with simple lettuce and tomato.  Packaged neatly in an attractive carry bag, this is an easy snack for take-away, or “to-go” as the locals say.  I was humoured finding the burger was made from a sandwich of two mushrooms filled with cheese.  This had been crumbed and fried so that when I first bit into it, hot, melted cheese came spurting out at me – watch out for the first bite.   The bread was soft and sweet.  The chips were crinkle cut and crispy.  I could understand why it had skyrocketed to fame.  These things could be addictive.

Katz’s Dellicatessen
Katz’s Delicatessen is at the other end of the scale.  This place has been around since 1888 and managed to survive all the ups and downs of the city.  It is celebrated for its pastrami sandwiches and as a vegetarian surrounded by meat eaters, I had the choice of potato latkes, salad or... well, to be frank, I was not at home here.

Thriving with tourists and locals alike, we struggled to find a table and ended up at the back around the L-shaped dining area.  The potato  latkes were like rosti, with potato grated and then fried.  The interest was in the apple sauce and sour cream, which were different accompaniments to the usual salt or tomato sauce.  At $11 for three – I was feeling slightly ripped off and unsatisfied.

As we were leaving, another vegetarian entered.  I heard her asking the staff if there was anything for her to eat, to which they had answered: “Of course, we have salads and potato latkes.”  Sorry darl, disappointment awaited you.

Halal Guys
Catering slightly better to vegetarians, and just as infamous in this cosmopolitan metropolis is Halal Guys.  Still a road side food cart, this eatery dishes out meals by the hundreds.  The queues are only bearable in the cold seeing the dramatic efficiency of the cooks, serving multiple freshly made meals per minute.  The falafel on rice was of course my order.  They heat the falafels on the grill and place them in a foil tray with rice, pickled chillies, salad and pita.  For tourists like me, the sauce is in little containers on the side – even then they give too much of it.

The falafels are moist and all the ingredients are fresh. The tangy creamy sauce is indulgent, whilst the red chilli sauce gives such a kick, I cannot help but eating more and more.  The whole thing is tasty, and, with salad, somewhat healthy.  Even better it is cheap.  I found myself lining up for falafel on rice here multiple times.

Chelsea Market
I’d visited the Chelsea Market last time I was in this fabulous city.  This time, the shops had been extended with new ones added.  The pasta at Rana was too tempting – freshly made and gourmet.    This is a full restaurant from one side, take-away counter from the other.  The spinach and ricotta girasoli (like sunflower shaped ravioli) is a typical choice for vegetarians.  This was served with butter and wilted baby spinach leaves.

This was delicious – butter, cheese and Italian authenticity, what’s not to love.

With such memories of L’arte del gelato from my previous visit, gelato was an obvious choice for dessert.  Cherry and dark chocolate flavours.  Delish!

Shake Shack
Corner 23rd and Madison
New York, NY 10010
(212) 889-6600

Shake Shack on Urbanspoon

Katz’s Dellicatessen
205 E Houston St
New York, NY 10002
(212) 254-2246

Katz's Deli on Urbanspoon

The Halal Guys
Corner 53rd St and 6th Ave
New York, NY 10019
(347) 527-1505

The Halal Guys on Urbanspoon

Giovanni Rana  Patifico & Cucina
75 9th Ave
New York, NY 10011
(212) 370-0975

Giovanni Rana Pastificio & Cucina on Urbanspoon

L'Arte Del Gelato
75 9th Ave
New York, NY 10011
(212) 924-0803

L'Arte Del Gelato on Urbanspoon