Okay, we’ve said this before and we’ll say it again—we love it when non-vegan restaurants throw the vegans a bone. Well…not literally throw the vegans a bone. That would totally make no sense. We would hate that. But you know what we mean, Reader.
Places like Paulie Gee’s in Greenpoint that have a clearly labeled vegan menu with house-made nut cheeses and Daiya dairy-free cheese for their wood-fire-oven pizzas; places like Family Recipe in the lower east side that serve modern Japanese cuisine and feature multiple vegan options; those kinda places make us wanna shake our groove thang…give them a virtual and/or literal high-five…even record yet another version of “Call Me Maybe” and cleverly insert their establishment name and our favored menu items (why is that a thing, by the way?—we don’t quite get it).
Don’t worry—we have created no such version of “Call Me Maybe.” We do, however, have yet another NYC restaurant for you that’s very much vegan-friendly. AND it just happens to be one that’s been much-hyped in the press of late—it’s Pok Pok NY, the brand new eastern outpost of the loved Portland Thai street food eatery.
We heard Pok Pok was had eastward-looking eyes last fall and—when we learned that their original location was pretty vegan-friendly AND that they planned on opening up the New York hub blocks away from our home—contacted them to urge them bring the vegan-friendliness to their Brooklyn home. Their cordial response assured us they would. So what kinda food do they serve? AWESOME kinda food.
According to Pok Pok NY’s Web site:
“We serve food found at pubs, restaurants, homes and the streets of Southeast Asia with the majority of the food coming from Thailand, and specifically from the North and Northeast of Thailand. We do not make “fusion” food here; everything has been researched, eaten, and/or prepared in the country of it’s origin prior to being put on the Pok Pok menu (exception: the Pok Pok Affogato which is an unabashed riff on the Vietnamese breakfast of coffee and fried donuts). If you’d like to see some of the dishes in their native land, please check us out on Facebook; there are a lot of photos there. Our menu changes seasonally, monthly or at whim. We do not serve staples like Phat Thai or Penang Curry, but the food we do serve is very accessible to most people. We use local product when possible and practical. We do not use MSG. While we are not specifically vegetarian friendly, all our vegetarian dishes are either vegan or can be made vegan, and there are usually about a half dozen of those on the menu.”
See that last bit? It’s right on their site. THAT’S the kinda thing we love—not having to worry about explaining to a server what is or isn’t considered vegan and having them work vegan options right into their menu rather than potentially taking out of a dish the very things the chef planned his or her tastes around.
We’ve talked about this before, but we love it when restauranteurs who have a passion for food and serving their customers creatively have the open-mindness to include vegans among their potential patrons. Yes, in our ideal world, every restaurant would serve only vegan food and every person would happily eat animal-friendly fare and the creatures of this planet would throw a big parade for us all because we finally ‘got it.’ We’re working on that. And in the meantime, the more mainstream, non-vegan joints that work plant-based foods into their menu, the better, in our humble opinions. Especially when it’s this good.
You can take a look at the full menu yourself, but our favorite offerings are the vegan Khao Soi (pictured above)—a Northern Thai mild curry noodle soup made with a secret curry paste recipe, house-pressed fresh coconut milk, tofu, meaty lotus root chunks (I think), and served with house-pickled mustard greens, fresh shallots, crispy noodles, and an awesome roasted chili paste—and Phat Khanaeng—insanely tasty stir-fried brussels sprouts with thai chilies, garlic, and a sweet soy sauce that induces insatiable cravings for days on end after. Be sure you get some sticky rice to sop up the sauce on the sprouts—best. We also recently tried their spicy forest mushroom salad, with rings of fresh lemongrass, cilantro, toasted rice powder, and chili-lime dressing (pictured below). It too was superb, with its surprising meaty, woodsy mushrooms and exciting combination of fresh citrus and peppery spice. Be warned though, it’s not for the light of heart—when they say spicy, they mean spicy. Add to all that an admirable, fish-sauce-free (when ordered vegan) green papaya salad and an enticing-sounding (haven’t tried it yet) herbal root vegetable salad, and you’ve got quite a few options. Additionally, though they have no immediate plans, Pok Pok NY reps have mentioned that they do plan to switch them menu up a bit over time, so stay tuned!
And this needs its own paragraph, Reader—their kaffir lime leaf infused gin + tonic is mind-blowing. Katie doesn’t even like gin and, not only is it her favorite drink so far on their extensive menu of creative libations, but we made our version of it our signature cocktail (pictured to the right) at her recent birthday shebang, and it went over like gangbusters. And yes, I have now started writing like I’m in a Dick Tracy comic for some reason.
Pok Pok NY is located along the Columbia Street Waterfront—despite what is being written, that is not Red Hook, my friends; if it is, then Green Wood Cemetery’s well within Park Slope—features indoor, outdoor, and kinda in-between seating, and does not take reservations, which is cool, but requires a little planning. Our advice—plan on a wait of an hour or two, depending on the night and time. It’s worth the wait, and they make it easy on you with a bizarre text-paging system so you can wander the waterfront or head over to nearby bar, B61. Better yet, if it’s not too packed, you can wait in a dedicated seating area in the back of the restaurant where you can order drinks and snacks and have them billed to your table. One last top-secret tip—get there a little before they open to stand in line for a table right away, though plan on people queueing up pretty early. Again, totally worth it.
Pok Pok NY is located at 127 Columbia Street, near-ish to the Bergen Street F/G.