We decided to keep things local on our third day in New York, staying in Brooklyn to eat, shop and explore. We started off at Bliss Cafe, a Bedford Avenue spot that was both vegan friendly and open early for breakfast (a lot of the US seems to think that 'brunch' starts at midday or something ridiculous).
The menu at Bliss is all vegetarian with about half the dishes either vegan or vegan adaptable. I've decided to go crazy for the tofu scramble on this trip, so I ordered a serve of Bliss' version (with home fries, toast and jam, $US7.95 ~ $AU8.45) and a side of tempeh bacon ($US3 ~ $AU3.20). The scramble was quite good, with plenty of greens, onions and mushrooms mixed in, although the tofu mix itself wasn't bursting with flavour (thankfully every cafe in the US seems to offer hot sauce as a default table setting). The tempeh bacon was a bit better than the version at Champs, but basically convinced me that I shouldn't keep ordering it - we make it too well at home to be paying $3 for inadequate imitations. Cindy had the vegan bagel delight ($US6.50 ~ $AU6.90), which involved the same tempeh bacon and tofu scramble served on a bagel with a slice of tomato. It had basically the same strengths and weaknesses as my dish. Don't get me wrong, Bliss is a handy and decent option for a vegan breakfast in Williamsburg, but the food isn't that exciting and the breakfast menu is pretty limited (after 10 the full brunch menu opens up, offering chilli, seitan steak sandwiches and the like). Basically, it's no Champs and with so many more things to try on their menu, we quickly decided that any future Brooklyn brekkies would be there rather than at Bliss.
One of the reasons we were staying in Brooklyn was to check out the Brooklyn Flea (which K and Toby had raved about). It's a nice mix of food, craft, vintage clothes and random odds and ends (plenty of furniture too).
Melbourne readers: check out that weather! NYC was sweltering in the mid-thirties most days, and the Brooklyn Soda Works provided me with a refreshing rhubarb and ginger soda to help me survive the markets.
We took a little break at home and then headed out to explore Park Slope, another Brooklyn neighbourhood. On our way to the subway we stopped off at one of the many Momofuku Milkbars that are dotted around New York. We grabbed a couple of milkshakes - espresso flavoured for me and cereal for Cindy ($US7 ~ $AU7.40 and $US6 ~ $AU6.40, respectively).
They were tasty, but not quite the life changing experience I was hoping for. Maybe that's too much to ask from a milkshake. This weird little crochet alien on a nearby fence made up for any milkshake-related disappointment.
We eventually made it to Park Slope and wandered 5th Avenue looking through op-shops and fancier stores, before stumbling onto The V Spot, a Latin vegan bar and restaurant that had the perfect menu for the small lunch we needed (it's hard going eating even 3 meals a day in the US due to the bonkers portion sizes).
We split a serve of the Jamaican jerk empanadas (tortillas filled with brown rice, pigeon peas, carrots, collard greens and spicy jerk seitan, $US8 ~ $AU8.50) and an arepa con todo (grilled corn patty topped with melted Daiya mozzarella, house made salsa, guacamole and black beans, $US7 ~ $AU7.40). Both were excellent, with the spicy empanada filling and the house made salsa particularly impressive (they sell the salsa in bottles and I'd have been taking a couple home if I didn't imagine them smeared all through our luggage and/or confiscated by customs). The staff were lovely, they've got an outdoor courtyard and a relaxed vibe. V-Spot is one of the many places I was sad not to make a second trip to - maybe schedule it in for dinner so you can really get stuck into the menu.
One of the places we did make a second trip to (and a 3rd and 4th!) was Champs. It was perfectly located between the subway and our evening's entertainment (free Sunday night comedy at the Knitting Factory, well worth a visit if you're in the neighbourhood) and it had a whole lunch/dinner menu we hadn't explored yet.
There are so many options that we sat there paralysed for a while - should we build our own burger (choosing one of three different patty options), grab a banh mi or a Philly cheesesteak or go for a healthier salad option? Eventually Cindy decided on the Buffalo ranch salad ($US11 ~ $AU11.70, crumbed chicken pieces with spicy Buffalo dressing, greens, celery, cucumber, tomato, grated 'cheddar' and a tub of ranch dressing), while I chose the Baja fish burrito ($US9 ~ $AU9.60, crispy fish cutlets with purple cabbage, greens, sour cream, guacamole, salsa fresca and chipotle dressing in a wholewheat tortilla).
These were both excellent - the fish burrito in particular was to die for, crispy and saucy and loaded with fresh avocado, it really takes the vegan burrito to new heights. The salad was no let down either, combining a rare chance to stuff some fresh greens into our faces with still more delicious mock meat. Champs quickly became our go-to option in Williamsburg - it's a total winner.