A few weeks back, when Katie + I were prepping for our first New York visit since early spring, we ran through a usual routine for us: Meticulously assembling a list of new vegan and vegan-friendly NYC eats and prioritizing said eats. Los Angeles is an amazing resource for superb vegan food—some would argue better than New York—but there are some things Gotham will just always do better than our new home.
As we were assembling this substantial list, we noticed a trend amongst our top-runners—many, many sandwiches, and, amongst them, specifically a lot of places now known for their vegan burgers; prime among them, the much-lauded Superiority Burger and the über-cute By CHLOE in the Village.
As we noted in our write-up of LA’s Burgerlords last month, GQ named Superiority Burger’s vegetarian burger the year’s best burger…not the year’s best vegetarian burger, year’s best burger. Now, one could argue that GQ’s pulling some sort of publicity stunt, poking the red-meat-loving bear that is their primary demographic, or, if you’re more generous, you could argue they’re concerned about the health of their average reader and want to promote a meat-free lifestyle more publicly. You could even argue that Superiority Burger’s burger is indeed the best burger of 2015. Us—we don’t care, we just love that people are promoting vegetarian + vegan food more and more every year, that it’s getting easier and more mainstream to rid diets of animals, and that it all results in fewer animals being locked into a cruel system that ultimately ends in their death. I think the animals are with us on that one.
Yeah yeah yeah, you say, preaching to the choir—HOW ARE THE BURGERS‽ Well, they’re fucking good.
We’re not going to play the Who Has the Better Vegan Burger game—we’d be tempted, but they’re both so good and we feel like we’d need a side-by-side comparison, ideally; plus, they’re both great, so everybody wins! The two establishments couldn’t be more different in their general approach to food and space, though; that we will comment on.
By CHLOE has nailed the fucking adorable branding, going to the restaurant branding go-to, Paperwhite Studio (hats off to you, sirs + madams). From restaurant signage to sandwich wrappers to fry holsters to even coconuts with her logo, chef + partner Chloe Coscarelli comes across as having a clear idea of her brand and it’s communicated clearly and copiously. CHLOE also trends toward the younger, more health-minded crowd, stocking juicing and air-baking fries (which, are actually remarkably good), which is super-smart given their proximity to NYU. Again, absolutely love that this beautifully done, amazingly tasty spot is so easily accessible to the mainstream NYC college kid. And the food is just that—tasty, very tasty. The burger’s great, with a savory housemade tempeh-lentil-chia-walnut patty that’s got a great texture and…hate this word, but…mouthfeel (shudder), and is topped off with fresh pickles, onion, lettuce, and awesome beet ketchup on an equally awesome, soft, slightly sweet potato bun. AND it’s all gluten-free. What might be even better than the burger in this barbecue-lover’s opinion, though—their Whiskey BBQ sandwich, smokey portobello mushrooms + housemade seitan smothered in a bourbon barbecue sauce and topped with sautéed kale, onion marmalade, and grilled pineapple on that same delectable potato bun. It’s just as messy and amazing as it sounds. Our only complaint with regards to CHLOE—the place is on the small side and seemingly ceaselessly packed to the gills with customers, to the point that seat-hunting becomes a sport both stressful for the hunter and the guilt-ridden seated alike. It’s a superb problem for Chloe + co. to have, but not the most enjoyable eating experience.
Superiority, by comparison, is about as laid back as it gets, in both its presentation and it’s overall attitude toward its food. Though the place is small (it’s actually in Dirt Candy‘s old spot), it’s staff is extremely chill and the seating’s so sparse it’s kind of a non-issue, making for quicker eating at the European-style swivel-out tables or counter-eating to the side or, more likely, take-away or street-eating. And the menu and space are both nearly equally adorable to CHLOE’s in their lack of refined branding and clear marketing expertise. The main menu (billed as vegetarian with a lot that’s “accidentally vegan just ask!”) focuses on cultivating a small number of staples and doing them really well—the namesake red quinoa-based Superiority Burger, the sloppy Joe-style Sloppy Dave (tofu in a mildly spicy tomato-based sauce on a larger sesame seed bun)—and then branches out with some really well-done, plant based sides that tend to circulate. We had a really great beet dish and a baked potato sopped with a relish and both were wonderful. Friends and frequenters of Superiority actually swear by the sides, telling us that they trump the burger itself. We think it’s all great though. And, as mentioned, the staff’s super-nice—they actually threw in a couple off-menu items when we ordered, the shiitake BLT and a tiny yuba Philly vegan cheesesteak that packed quite a punch and ended up being one of my favorite things. It’s clear that chef + founder (and former executive pastry chef at Del Posto), Brooks Headley, is a creative fucking dude and we’re excited to see what else he has in store. You can actually hear a great piece that Evan Kleiman did with Headley recently on KCRW’s Good Food on the thinking behind the burger and his general philosophy on food. Our only complaint with SB—the Superiority Burger itself is pretty tiny…slider-size, in fact. We hear that’s a relatively new development, but, regardless, they’re really great.
In conclusion, mmmmmmmmmmm, vegan food.
Thank you, goodnight.
Photo above of CHLOE’s offerings and just below of their facade courtesy of by CHLOE; just below that, CHLOE’s burger; the Whiskey BBQ; a shot of the sandwiches and fries; Superiority Burger’s facade; their starkly jaunty menu; the Superiority Burger; the fried onion-covered Sloppy Dave; Superiority’s beet side; their burgers again; the shiitake BLT; and SB’s tiny interior with immeasurable attitude. To the right, an amazing old White Castle poster at SB.