Candle Cordiality
November 7, 2010

The point of Vegan Mofo is for us all to share a lot of recipes, right? Right – and share we do – but I’ll take a short hiatus each week to share a restaurant meal or two. I dine out seldom compared to most New Yorkers, but I always enjoy sharing reviews of my fave vegan dining establishments with you guys.

candle79

79th street holds a special place in my heart. I grew up on 75th street, and every morning—rain or shine, snow or sleet–I would shuffle outside, drag my sleepy body to the 79th street bus stop, and wait for the cross-town bus to take me to school. The high school where my mom is an art teacher is on 78th street—a mere step away from the 79th street bus stop—which meant easy visitation rights for this kid. The Met museum, where I spent many free periods of high school in hiding, is right next to 79th street. Shakespeare in the Park is situated on 81st, which is technically a part of the 79th street cross-town, and so too is my customary park entrance for jogging. For a long time, the 79th street bus took me directly to my friend Gabi’s upper east side apartment. Get the idea? We New Yorkers all develop strong and sentimental attachments to certain streets, neighborhoods, and corners. 79th is one of mine.

Here’s another reason I like 79th street: Candle 79. Candle 79 has quickly risen to the rank of my number one vegan dining spot in NYC, for lots of reasons. For one thing, the food is remarkable. For another, it’s got both raw and cooked options (though I tend to find that the cooked options at 79 are best; I leave raw restaurant dining to Pure). It’s got an elegant and cozy interior, and it looks and feels like a non-vegan restaurant, which is to say that it’s not twenty square feet, the service is professional, and it doesn’t smell like a wheatgrass shot. I love vegan restaurants, really I do, but the smaller ones can lack prompt service, ventilation, and mood lighting. It feels as if one is dining in a health food store. Cute, sure, but not for a fancy dinner out, and especially not great if you happen to be bringing omnivores out with you.

Candle 79 makes it easy for me to promise omnivore friends a spectacular meal, and mean it—it’s even won the heart of my mom, who’s a little skittish about all vegan restaurants. Here we are at Candle on my 27th birthday:

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To the list of many things I love about Candle 79, I’ve got a new one to add: it’s the place where M and I had our first date. So it’s no shocker that we enjoy making return visits now and then, ogling the menu, feeling terribly indecisive about what to get (OK, lately it’s just me who’s indecisive), and then feasting. M noted that, as a vegan, one becomes so used to only having one or two options that’s vegan-friendly on a restaurant menu that it’s actually hard to order at a place where literally everything looks awesome. True! Even as a spoiled New Yorker, I’m accustomed to spending business lunches ordering the one thing that isn’t smothered in chevre. What a treat it is to be overwhelmed, rather than underwhelmed, with options.

On our most recent visit, we were treated upon seating to an amuse bouche. Few restaurants offer this genteel pre-dinner ritual, and I love than 79 still does. It was zucchini rounds with a tasty spread:

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Pre-appetizers, we began with 79’s famous flatbread and hummus. This is my favorite non-homemade hummus out there: thick, creamy, and not at all too garlicky for me!

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The flatbread is always warm, soft, and a little oily (in a very good way). It comes with a head of slow roasted garlic, which I steer clear of.

Next up, M got the restaurant’s awesome seaweed salad: carrots, cabbage, grilled shiitake mushrooms, edamame, radishes, wasabi leaves, miso-ginger dressing.

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Definitely one of my fave seaweed salads. It’s not too salty, not too vinegary, and it doesn’t taste as though it was ordered from a sushi restaurant and plated five minutes before I ate it. Which is more than I can say of most seaweed salads in restaurants. Ahem.

Next up, our entrees. I know I wanted a hodgepodge of stuff this evening, but it took me a good twenty minutes to figure out what that would mean. I was dead set on getting two simple veggie sides (Brussels sprouts and roasted root veg—perfect for a cold night), but torn on the salad I wanted with them. At the urging of Benay, 79’s hip and generous COO, I went with their famous stuffed quinoa salad, which I always enjoy:

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Baby greens, quinoa, butternut squash, jicama, cranberry beans, grape tomatoes, radishes, toasted pumpkin seeds, chipotle-avocado dressing—delicious! So were my veggie sides:

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For his entree, M got the daily special, which was some sort of glazed and grilled seitan. It was really, really good, and very hearty:

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As usual, it was a perfect meal from start to finish. We were even treated to a primo window seat (after a little musical chairs and table shifting).

Seated by the window, watching the 79th street cross-town lit up beneath me and New York’s upper east side shuffling by in all of its moneyed elegance, and sensing the first real chill of autumn in the air, I thought that there couldn’t possibly be a cozier or better place to be sitting than where I was. The unsurpassed company didn’t hurt, either 🙂

What’s your favorite restaurant? I envy any of you who live near Millenium in San Fran (where my bloggie buddies are convening right now for the Foodbuzz festival) or Horizons in Philly, but on the whole I tend to think that I’m the luckiest girl in the world for living a cross-town bus ride away from a place like Candle 79 – not to mention Pure, Bonobos, Caravan of Dreams, and all of the other NYC vegan hotspots I love so much. Next weekend I’ll be reviewing both an NY area vegan spot I loved, and a DC spot I did not love. So get excited for the first ever CR restaurant takedown.

How were your weekends? Curious to hear what you did – that is, if you weren’t frolicking at Foodbuzz!

xo

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    36 Comments
  1. I so wish you could have been in San Fran this past weekend and now I’m wishing I could hop on a plane to NYC. I actually missed out on Millenium to meet up with 2 best friends from grad school. Loved reading this review/story.

  2. In New York, I am a Candle lover…both 79 and the cafe…I grew up spending time at my grandmothers on 71st and lex and once I hit college and had internships in NYC (went to college in boston), I would return for the best veg meals of my life. They really helped me become a vegan and I will always remember Candle as my favorite nyc vegan restaurant.

    Now that I am in LA, I am determined to find some new favorite…there are so many out here I need to try! The list is building…

    Oh, and my mother is also weary of vegan restaurants and has loved everything at Candle.

  3. Wait a minute! When did I miss the announcement of this “M” person you speak of? That seems like the more exciting piece of your blog entry!

  4. I’m glad you had such an enjoyable meal! Finding anything other than steaks and burger here in rural Montana can be a challenge. Good thing I love to cook 😉

  5. You make me want to give Candle 79 another chance–I’ve only been there once and it wasn’t especially awesome. I agree, though, it is lovely to have a proper dining experience when going out for veg cuisine. Dearly though I love Bonobos, well, you know.

    Don’t think I could choose any one restaurant as my favorite, which is funny because I often attach sentimental value to dining experiences…this is probably because I’ve been determined to try new-to-me restaurants as often as possible since moving to NYC–I don’t repeat too often, and if I do, it’s something tasty but unremarkable like The Pump.

    But your mention of Millenium has me thinking…I’m going to SF for Thanksgiving…it might need to happen.

  6. Isn’t it fabulous being able to choose from an entire menu?! I always feel overwhelmed at entirely vegan places, too. 🙂 But overwhelmed in the best way possible, of course. Your meals look amazing, especially that seitan!

    I didn’t make it to Candle 79 last time I was in New York, but it’ll definitely be on my list next time I visit!!

  7. I am so envious! My husband and I went to Candle 79 about 6 years ago when we were in NYC. WE LOVED it. I also love being able to choose from the entire menu. My husband has celiac so it was great for him to have a menu to pick from too. I loved reading this post!

  8. Gena,

    You make me want to live in NY! Also, I’m always so rushed and quick to skim my favorite blogs but I FORCE myself to slow down to enjoy your eloquent writing.

    Delaney
    Minneapolis, MN

    • Rachel, I dined there the second week they were open and did a “light” review on my blog. It was v. good! It’s also an organic wine bar, which I think is a nice touch. It’s right around the corner from a building I visit a couple of times a month for work…dangerous! 🙂

  9. “What a treat it is to be overwhelmed, rather than underwhelmed, with options. “–

    That is SO true!

    I was in San Fran this weekend, great times, great to meet everyone finally…but you, you weren’t there…I wished you were! 🙂

    As for vegan restaurant options, there are lots here in San Diego…not necessarily purely vegan, but vegetarian with mostly vegan options.

    However, RAW vegan is not well represented. I wish it was b/c lots of vegan food that’s cooked tends to be heavier or made with salt/onions/garlic or spices that I don’t love. I really wish there was a “high end” raw restaurant like Pure here! or Candle! Until that day comes, I am my own raw chef, i.e. I cut up my & make my own raw food…lol.

    First date. Going back to where it all begin…fun for you two! One day we’d love to see pics of the happy couple 🙂

  10. I had my first meal at Candle 79 this July for my birthday. My omnivorous parents loved it – my dad devoured the seitan piccata and inhaled his chocolate peanut butter dessert. It made me so happy!

    My favorite restaurant is Darbster in West Palm Beach, FL. I must go at least 3 times a week. It’s all vegan, lots of raw options, gourmet, and has a fantastic atmosphere. Live music on Thursday nights and Sunday brunch – and is packed with vegetarians AND omnis on the weekend nights! If you ever find yourself in South Florida, you MUST stop in for a visit!

  11. I’m dying to head over to Candle 79!
    This weekend I tried Home on 8th in Chelsea, a diamond in the rough.
    The location isn’t the best, but it’s so nice inside and had delicious vegetarian Chinese food 🙂

  12. Girl I wish you were here, I would have loved to meet you!!! One day, hopefully soon ; ) I was a bad girl and ate some fish and cheese here…yikes, but body is hating me ; (

  13. You always illustrate NY so perfectly! I can smell the air just reading this post! 🙂 Ahh, I love NY moments, I wish I could get to the city one last time before this little one arrives. Oh, Christmas in NY has special meaning for me (T proposed at the Tree). Anyway (see what you did..lol)… such a lovely meal, beautifully recapped. I am so fortunate to frequent at Candle 79, the food is superb and the atmosphere tops any vegan restaurant. This post made me feel all warm and fallish..if that makes sense. You are the master of “comfort posts!” XO

  14. I have been wanting to try Candle 79 for so long, especially once they started offering margaritas! Now I really need to get there!

  15. I agree with M, as vegans we are so accustomed to only having a few choices, I think it makes it that much harder for us when we have a whole menu of selections! Candle 79 looks so good. I am really hoping to make it to NYC soon and check out that fabulous restaurant.

  16. I don’t know what my favorite restaurant is. I don’t eat out very much and even then I tend to eat pretty healthy. I guess I would say M Cafe is my favorite because they have seriously healthy and delicious food.

    My weekend was great, I spent ALL day Saturday volunteering at ActorFest, which is kind of like Comic Con for actors (there’s one in NY, too).

  17. I haven’t been to Candle 79 since 2002 and a big anti-war protest. I am sure it has gotten much better since then. I’ve drooled over yours and Lauren’s posts of the food there.

    So is M vegan? I am reading a little into his quote. Even if he’s not he seems veg-friendly enough but if he is, major score for you!

      • Considering the amount of available vegan men out there, it’s a good catch. But I am sure he has other great qualities as well.

  18. I can’t wait to make a trip to NYC and spend the whole weekend eating vegan! But I am grateful that we have an awesome upscale vegan restaurant here in ottawa now, called Zen Kitchen. It has beautiful food, and my omni friends and family are all loving it too. I recently visited Montreal, just two hours away, for a night and they have some great veg options too, including an amazing raw restaurant. But we definitely can’t compete with the NYC options!

  19. i am from philly and have been going to horizons for the past 4 years. it is far and away my favorite restaurant! not only is the food fresh, delicious and creative, it also has such a warm and welcoming atmosphere. there aren’t many options in terms of a vegan dining in philly, so horizons is all the more valued and important in my city.

  20. My husband and I ate there last spring for the first time, and it was SOOOOO tasty! I loved how…unintimidating it was. I know that’s a strange way to describe a restaurant, but I hate it when the servers are snooty, the atmosphere is uptight and super-fancy, etc. I feel like at Candle 79, everyone was very friendly, the service was great, and the food, of course, was spectacular!

  21. All of those entrees indeed look hard to choose from!

    My weekend has consisted of massage therapy class and homework. I love my school though, and I’m a huge anatomy nerd, so it’s alllll good. 🙂

  22. I love Candle 79! My husband and I dined there Wednesday evening and I blogged it Thursday! LOL Can’t go wrong at Candle 79. I agree with you– though vegan, it’s the place you can take anyone and know they will be in awe of the beautiful, fresh, flavorful food. We are going to SF and Napa Valley in January and Millennium is on my go-to list because of your blog post this summer!

    As for me, my weekend has been full of great home-cooked food while prepping a lecture yesterday and writing a paper today. (And sneaking in a quick peak on the TV to see how the NYC marathon is going)

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