Travelers know that they can get anything, anytime in New York City. As local and seasonal cuisine earns more and more followers, healthy food can now also be added to the anywhere, anytime list — if you know where to look. Across the city there are restaurants that will thrill your taste buds while keeping your waistline slim.
The following is a list of 5 favorite restaurants in Manhattan and Brooklyn where you don’t have to sacrifice flavor in order to have a healthy, nourishing meal created from responsibly sourced ingredients. These are the kind of meals where you can dig in — guilt free.
The Meatball Shop
Located in the Lower East Side, the Meatball Shop is a lively little spot that specializes in all things meatballs. Once you’ve taken a seat at the communal table (or snagged one of the coveted two tops) grab a marker and get ready to mark your selections on the laminated menu.
The classic meatball enthusiast should try the naked balls, four unadorned meatballs of your choice (anything from grass fed beef to heritage pork to veggie balls) served with your choice of sauce (I like the sauces with a bit of spice). Sliders are a popular way to sample as many different combinations of meatball and sauce as you like – I particularly liked the chicken meatball with pesto. Besides the fact that all the ingredients here are responsibly sourced, there are many vegetarian options, both in veggie balls along with sides and salads to keep your overall meal healthy.
Details: 84 Stanton Street, Lower East Side, Manhattan. Take the F train to 2nd Ave. Naked balls $7, sliders $3 each, salads $8.
Travelers that want to explore multiple neighborhoods during their trip to New York should hop aboard the L train and take a stroll throughout Williamsburg. One sunny cafe for a healthy meal is Simple Cafe. The chef here is of Algerian extraction, an influence seen in everything from smoky babaganoush to handmade Algerian bread.
All the flavors here are fresh and bright, including the couscous salad that is studded with plenty of tomatoes and cilantro. Sandwiches here are anything but boring, for more reasons than just the addictive, rustic house made bread. All sandwiches are served with a little salad to round out your healthy meal. This cafe shows that healthy, delicious food in New York can also be affordable.
Details: 346 Bedford Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Take the L train to Bedford. Babaganoush $6.50, sandwiches $8.50
If you’re going to have one brunch during a trip to New York City, make a reservation at Hundred Acres. Not only is the leafy SoHo location an adorable one, but the food is farm-fresh and incredibly good. Don’t expect this to be a quick meal, at Hundred Acres everything is worth the wait.
Start out by sharing a couple slices of their fresh banana walnut bread, served with in-house made preserves. I can never resist the egg dishes, all of which are interesting and packed with flavor. Take the goat-cheese thyme bread pudding for example, topped with a warm spinach salad and two poached eggs. If you’re in the mood for something lighter, check out the chunky nut granola, fresh berries, yogurt, and mint option. This Manhattan restaurant manages to be as relaxed as its name would suggest.
Details: 38 MacDougal Street, SoHo, Manhattan. Take the C or E train to Spring Street. Banana walnut bread (to share) $9, granola $11, entrees $14 – $22.
A trip to New York City is an opportunity to mix things up when it comes to the inspiration behind your meals. At Palo Santo, a restaurant in the ground floor of a Brooklyn brownstone in Park Slope, Palo Santo delivers market-driven Latin-inspired dishes. Ever since they were first placed in front of me, I have dreamed about Palo Santo’s tacos. Each individual tortilla is made to order; a dedication to freshness that translates into incredible flavor and texture when digging into a plate of pork tacos. If you’re looking for a light entree, stick to the fish dishes, especially any option served with sweet-roasted plantains. After a meal here, not only will your taste buds feel stimulated but you can feel like you’ve done your body good too.
Details: 652 Union Street, Park Slope, Brooklyn. Take the R train to Union Street. Tacos $13, Entrees $17 – $25.
When you think about burgers, you might not think about health food. Yet there are many restaurants that are turning our favorite comfort foods into something we can eat without an ounce of guilt. Burger Guru excels at this, creating flavorful burgers that will satisfy cravings without sending calorie-counters soaring.
In this Williamsburg corner restaurant, snag a seat in the back garden beneath a sunny umbrella during the warm months. Start out with one of the fresh, flavorful salads and then move on to the star of the show. Burgers here feature a range of interesting proteins, from ostrich to bison to alligator. Burger traditionalists will have plenty to choose from between classic beef burgers and zesty turkey burgers too.
Details: 98 Berry Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Take the L train to Bedford. Salads $8.95 – $9.95. Burgers $8.50 – $11.95.
Finding local spots that serve affordable, healthy fare can be just as rewarding as splurging on some of New York City’s most famous and celebrity-owned restaurants. Each of these unique, interesting, cozy restaurants are devoted to serving the best of local and seasonal ingredients, ensuring that your body gets all the nourishment it needs — even while on vacation.
Jessica Colley | Jessica Colley is a freelance travel and food writer based in New York City. She proudly called Dublin home from 2008 - 2010 and writes frequently about the city and Ireland. Three of Jessica's favorite travel destinations are Ireland, Italy, and Berlin. Find her online at www.thegreatamericantraveldream.com and on Twitter @jessicacolley.