Angelica Kitchen was established in 1976, when the East Village was still a grungy haven for punks and artists, when the rent was cheap and the drugs easily accessible, when CBGB was still open and literally blocks away. The entire menu was, and always has been, vegan, made of sustainable, locally grown organic foods (and no refined sugars or preservatives!) that appear like brightly colored jewels on clean white plates.
Though I originally ventured in for the first time with DW, where we discussed art and process over dashi and vegetables, tonight I was alone. I snuggled myself to a table near the floor-to-ceiling glass window overlooking the street and felt my cheeks begin to warm with that winter glow brought on by artificial heat. I felt myself beginning to thaw, but I wasn't quite there yet. Tired of my usual chai lattes, hot chocolates, and plain ol' teas (I can't drink coffee), I opted for a hot Cranberte--a mixture of "pure cranberry juice, kukicha tea, apple cider & fresh orange juice." The concoction arrived in a white ceramic mug, just hot enough to drink and warm my insides back to their normal 98.6 degrees. I glanced around at the friendly interiors while I sipped, exposed brick painted a camel color, walls textured with swirls of nutmeg, black, and gold paint, cherry wood tables topped with brown recycled paper napkins wrapped around both silverware and chopsticks.
As I'm sure I've said before, it takes a lot for me to go back to a restaurant in New York more than once, even if I like it, because there are just so many options, so many new places to try. So to go to a new place twice in less than a week was no small event. Upon my first visit with DW, I had one of the restaurants famed Dragon Bowls, a plate of of brown rice, pinto beans, sea vegetables, kale, squash and sweet potatoes, all separated into a gorgeous vegan rainbow. The ingredients are only steamed, with no added flavoring, not even salt or pepper, so every flavor of each ingredient on the plate is exactly its own. The night I returned, craving the clean, fresh taste of the ingredients, I ordered another. I think what draws me so much to the Dragon Bowls is that you know and can see exactly what's in it. There are no secrets, just vegetables--subtly sweet squash and sweet potatoes, crunchy kale that really tastes green, salty sea vegetables, mushy, meaty pinto beans. Even the thought of it makes me feel warmer, in this apartment that is somehow only degrees warmer than the below freezing temperatures outside.
So if you happen to be in the East Village, and you need a good meal that feels like a big hug but is also actually good for you, I highly recommend Angelica Kitchen. Not to mention the entirely reasonable prices--everything is under $20. How often do you find food that warms your heart and your bones, and isn't going to kill you (or your wallet) someday? Dive in and embrace the vegetables. And call me, because I'll want to join you.
300 East 12th Street at 2nd Avenue