photo Courtesy Dirt Candy
Amanda Cohen worked in nearly every upscale vegetarian restaurant in the city before alighting on the philosophy that would inform her own place: “For a long, long time, most vegetarian food was about saying ‘no’ to meat without saying ‘yes’ to vegetables,” she says. “I want to celebrate vegetables, push them further, liberate their tastes from their textures, show people that they can taste better and be more interesting than they ever imagined.” In 2008 she opened a tiny garden-level temple to produce in the East Village, setting up her kitchen as a “lab,” she explains, so that every meal in her restaurant could be an adventure. New experiments hit the menu daily (though Cohen admits the portobello mousse, the nanaimo bar, the corn, the jalapeño hush puppies, and the popcorn pudding are too beloved to be trifled with). With every meal comes a unique thrill, because, as the owner puts it, “No one else is doing this, so my kitchen is like the world’s greatest roller coaster ride every day: no rules, no boring people telling me what I can and can’t do; it’s limitless.” Dirt Candy will move to the Lower East Side at some point in 2014, but for as long as Cohen remains in the East Village, be sure to book ahead. The dining room fills up two months out.