Pure Food & Wine
photo by Reimy Gonzalez
Sarma Melngailis’s shift to a mostly raw vegan diet helped her spot a gap in the market: She couldn’t point to an upscale, non-preachy restaurant that catered to like-minded eaters. So she built one. Chicly appointed Pure Food & Wine opened near Union Square in 2004 with a bill of fare that, in addition to being made entirely of plant matter, is never heated above 118 degrees. Pure’s kitchen, helmed by chef Nikki Bennett, goes to great lengths to prove eating raw vegan does not mean surviving on crudité platters, and it turns out stunningly composed dishes like cornbread cashew pudding with pickled shishito peppers, zucchini and heirloom tomato lasagna, sweet corn and cashew tamales, and decadent cakes and sundaes. The depth of Bennett’s talent is best understood via the five-course tasting menu, though you should plan to leave stuffed if you order it. That Melngailis makes sure no one on her staff attempts to evangelize on behalf of the raw vegan cause means this spot attracts omnivores and vegetarians alike. Pure has seen more than its share of celebrities, too: Alec Baldwin famously met his wife here, and Bill Clinton made a stop last year. In summer, be sure to check out the garden, an Eden-like oasis in the middle of the city.