Two weeks ago, my friend Jim and I met for lunch at a new, mostly vegan dining outpost called (cheekily) The Butcher’s Daughter in Nolita. I’d heard some great things about The Butcher’s Daughter from friends, and I’m pleased to say that the hype was legit. The menu features cold pressed juices, raw food specialties, classic vegan fare, and a bright, elegant interior.
The team members behind this sunny restaurant are owner Heather Tierney (a mixologist and owner of Apothéke and Pulqueria in NYC), juice expert Brandi Kowalski (formerly of ABC Kitchen), and chef Joya Carlton (formerly of Buvette). Their individual contributions add up nicely in the space: it feels hip and stylish, the juices are fantastic, and the food is wholesome, simple, and well executed. The menu is not exclusively vegan, but it is primarily vegan, and it highlights the ways in which plant foods can be every bit as versatile and satisfying as some of the animal proteins we (most of us, anyway) grew up with.
When I tell people that I’m vegan, one of the responses I most often get is the (somewhat condescending) assumption that I must know nothing about animal agriculture to have made the choice I did. I must not know what it’s like to witness the ins and outs of life on a small farm, to see how farmers treat their animals, to taste the fresh meats and dairy that spring from these operations.
In fact, I am the granddaughter of a butcher who later ventured into the supermarket industry, the daughter of a devoted hunter, and I spent a good portion of my childhood in New Hampshire farm country. My uncle’s family raised chickens and kept horses, and the farmer down the road, for whom I used to help collect sap for maple syrup each winter, produced dairy. I have at least some firsthand acquaintance with how animal farming—at least the small scale, independent model—works. And I’m vegan anyway, because I still see no justification for bringing animals into the world so that we can consume them when there is no necessity for us to do so. A friend of mine once said to me (before he got to know me well) “you couldn’t possibly be vegan if you’d ever tasted a farm fresh egg, just collected that morning.” I have indeed tasted such things—I collected eggs for my parents quite a few times as a kid during my NH summers—but the pleasure I remember is pretty small in comparison to my many present day reasons for being vegan.
I don’t know enough backstory about The Butcher’s Daughter to say whether Heather Tierney is actually the child of a butcher. But I love the name and its subtle implication of filial revolt, of evolution between generations. I also love the idea that one’s birthright need not dominate subsequent life choices. Most vegans do their best to create continuity with family traditions; they talk openly with family members about their lifestyles, veganize classic holiday dishes, and bring crowd-pleasing food to potlucks. But it’s an undeniable fact that becoming vegan almost always entails some feelings of revolt. This is true on the home front, and it is also true ideologically; for me, being vegan means alleging that something is not enduringly or necessarily right, simply because it is tradition.
Of course, becoming vegan need not mean absolute culinary revolution. Instead, it can mean finding ways to translate traditional culinary concepts into a plant-based model. And that’s what The Butcher’s Daughter does so craftily. Just check out the “beet tartare" or the vegan charcuterie plate on the lunch menu!
Or the butcher’s burger, or the raw pesto linguine. All familiar food concepts, rendered in a bright and newfangled way.
As much as I’m dying to try the “beet tartare,” it was a chilly day when I met Jim, and the root potato salad (root veggies dressed with whole grain mustard dressing) was calling to me. So was the “best kale salad.” How on earth could I turn down a dish with that title?!
The best kale salad was, if not the best I’ve ever had (that would be like having to choose a favorite novel), very very good. I loved the way the smoked salt balanced all of the creamy avocado and tahini. The apples also added a nice bite and bit of acid to all of the healthy fats in this salad.
And the root vegetable salad? Just divine. Mustard and sweet potatoes are such a good match.
My friend Jim, an omni, ordered the kale and cabbage coleslaw, which he gave two thumbs up, along with the roasted caprese sandwich. It featured cashew mozzarella, which was very good (I sampled it!).
Jim is one of my best friends, and conversation with him is always long, fascinating, and funny. As we caught up on an entire six months’ worth of life, we enjoyed the restaurant’s cheerful ambiance:
Before I left, I picked up one of the “heritage juices”—a green blend of green veggies and lemon. Simple and good.
In all, I loved my meal at The Butcher’s Daughter, and look forward to going back. The restaurant features just my kind of food—simple, hearty recipes that allow good ingredients to shine through, but offer just enough imagination to feel playful. I do wish the menu were entirely vegan; the few egg dishes listed don’t really seem to enhance the menu, and such good use is made of cashew cheese and cream throughout that it’s hard to say why the eggs are vital to the restaurant. But I am grateful, regardless, for the efforts made to showcase the versatility and beauty of vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and grains.
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I loved reading your post – love the photos, too. I’m planning my next trip to NYC and a friend has recommended me this restaurant. I know you went for lunch, but would you think it would be nice for dinner, too? Look forward to finding out!
Great review! The interiors of this restaurant remind me of Bob’s Kitchen, a wonderful little vegan restaurant in Paris. Also, if you’re looking for some great smoked salt, you can get it at Smucker’s Farm on 14th Street NW in DC (between V and W Streets) if you haven’t been.
Gena!! I am blown away by how lovely your review of my food turned out to be. So pleased that you enjoyed yourself. Please come back soon!
Well, I was blown away by the food itself! Thanks so much for the meal. I’ll definitely be back.
This looks fantastic! I have been following your blog for awhile now and I am very impressed! Your photos are amazing, your advise is spot on and very inspiring! Living in a little coastal town in Florida, we do not have restaurants like what you get to visit. I hope that changes some day 🙂
It will, Dawn! Things are changing so fast, every single day.
another one to put on the bucket list. funny name but the menu looks great.
While I sadly won’t be trying this great new spot til I’m visiting NY in May, my mom is there for a ten day yoga intensive (she’s quite excited to be in ny for that long!) and I just passed this info along to her. Thanks!
It looks so yummy.
LOVE your discussion of how vegans are obviously “naive” if they choose not to partake in the exploitation of animals on family farms, especially the quote that comes from your friend: “You couldn’t possibly be vegan if you’d ever tasted a farm fresh egg, just collected that morning.” Um, yes, I can, thank you very much, because eggs, no matter how farm fresh, are not mine to take–they belong to the hen who layed them.
I must remember to check out this restaurant on my next trip into the city!
Thanks Gena, as always.
The kale salad sounds especially good! I have been toying with avocado dressings lately, and the combination of the creamy avocado, a bit of Dijon mustard, and some diced celery (a recent favorite) are reminiscent of Waldorf Salad to me, and I think the addition of the sweet-tart of apple would be a great low-cal way to enhance the dish.
Ooo I hope you get a chance to have a go at remaking that salad! I’ve never tried a sunflower seed dressing. Looks yum!
This is a fantastic review; Gena. Very intelligent (as usual) and enlightening as to yr background. Both this and yr review of Eat in Greenpoint really make me want to check out both places; neither of which I’ve heard about! I’m so happy you had such an enjoyable time – but how could you not, with that kale salad!
Ha! Exactly 🙂
Hope you get to try both spots. I really enjoyed them.
I just left the city to live in Paris for a few months, but I’m bookmarking this place for my return. I usually have a tough time finding restaurants that are pleasing to both me and my omni family and friends, so usually we stick to Spring Street Natural as a safe bet. Funny how this is in the same neighborhood!
Yeah, I think it’s a great place to bring omnis. Enjoy it and enjoy Paris!
Sounds like a rad place! Thanks for the great review and good find! I’ve heard the place is a bit on the pricey side… thoughts? And also, it is only open for breakfast and lunch, correct?
Not sure about the hours; I was there for lunch. Definitely not cheap, but…good food is (almost always) worth it.
I really like the sound of that menu. It is creative in a fun and different way than your traditional vegan restaurant. And the name is so sassy! That looks like a place I’d love to work in fact.
Thank you for finding this place! It it totally up my alley. Cannot wait to go check it out. I always love your writing style, too.
I used to work for a chef and when I first went vegan he completely dismissed it saying that I “didn’t even grow up vegan.” At the time, it was difficult for me to vocalize a defense but I love the perspective you present here. That sums it all up! Basically, I still cherish many family recipes, some just get stylized with my twist, to not include animal products. And I’m proud to say that my mom figured out a way to veganize her classic chiles rellenos (my favorite dish of hers) using cashew cheese and coconut yogurt. It is the best it has ever tasted!
Thanks for the great blog post and gorgeous pics! I’m already hungry. LOL
Glad this resonated, Anita; I think we vegans often have trouble interacting with those in the professional culinary world, but it’s all about emphasizing that vegan culinary traditions may be separate, but are equal.
All of the food looks delicious! I love root vegetables and would love to have tasted that salad.
This place looks amazing, gorgeous pics and such a serene, natural atmosphere that reminds me of a place in SF we went too. Great review!
Thanks Christine, happy new year!
I’ll have to look this up the next time I’m in NYC! The pesto linguine sounds amazing. Thanks for sharing!
I absolutely love the look of this restaurant, the sound of their dishes, the vibe, the everything, as well as your remarks about “filial revolt.” Yet another place I’ll need to visit if I ever make it NYC one day…
You’d really like it, Amber. Perhaps this is the sort of spot you will one day be in charge of yourself, as a chef 🙂