While taking a botany class all-week at the gorgeous New York Botanical Garden, I thought it was fine time to do some blog reporting in the northern-most borough of New York City. The Bronx. The Bronx has a handful of vegan gems, mostly Rastafari-owned Ital counter spots/health food stores, that grow more valuable when you consider what surrounds the eatery–The Bronx.
Since I was a child, the Bronx perplexed me. When we’d visit my grandmother, crossing the “Frog’s Neck Bridge,” (kid interpretation) and see the “Carvel” sign (another kid interpretation; it was really a Citgo sign), I knew we were in Bronx. There are spray painted buildings I can still picture in my head: one big one of a Smurf and another that read “Dead End Kids.” Lots of loitering on the street. My dad locking the doors. Litter. I associated all of those things to the proximity to Grandma’s and her almond biscotti that I called “Sticks.” But there were other things I picked up on as a kid but didn’t really understand. This was, after all, New York City in the 80’s. The Bronx in the 80’s. Parts were considered a ghetto. There was poverty, racism, the tension my Dad had with his 4 kids in his crappy car in the ghetto. Those were different times for a million reasons. But the Bronx always stood out to me because I hadn’t seen anything like it or felt anything like it before.
Decades went by and that allure gave way to associated annoyance as the Bronx thoroughfares became a traffic-heavy obstacles in between me and heading North out of the city. But rarely did I ever have a destination in the Bronx, save for trips to the Bronx Zoo and New York Botanical Garden. I took a conservation class at the Zoo when I was an undergrad and now, a class at the Garden. It was time to go beyond the borders of these beautiful parks to see how the real Bronx was doing.
But first, some of the beautiful flora of NYBG…
…and this funny guy with his eyeball markings…
…and these cupcakes from Sweet Envy bakery in Nyack. Sweet Envy is owned by the friend of a new teacher friend at my table during the botany class. Amy of Sweet Envy makes vegan options, as great bakers often do. In this surprise 6-pack my table shared, a vegan strawberry lemonade! It was a wonderful and well-appreciated treat.
Up close and personal. This was just one of the vegan options Sweet Envy offers.
Onward to the Bronx’s vegan options! My first stop had to be the aptly named Vegan’s Delight in Baychester. Vegan’s Delight offers standard Caribbean veggie fare, like patties and spooned mock meat stews and cooked vegetables. I ordered the Tofu Jerk patty but set it aside for lunch. It was, after all, 7 in the morning. It was still delicious at lunch. Its crust was still flaky and its nicely spiced tofu and vegetables inside were still warm. I took more pictures of it but my phone crashed and burned 2 days ago, deleting the pictures I took of the innards (along with everything else I had handed over to the phone and cleared from my head.)
Later in the week, I headed to H.I.M. Ital Health Food Market in Wakefield. H.I.M., named after Haile Selassie, the Messiah of the Rastafari Movement. In fact, Tarafi (from Ras Tafari) is derived from his first name. H.I.M. is a narrow shop with vegan groceries, incense, and other such spiritual items. In the back, a hot deli case at its center manned by a benevolent Rasta.
I asked the benevolent Rasta to choose the 3 selections from the hot bar for me. Though I got the determinedly best dishes, I wasn’t 100% sure what they were. There were a hill of creamy beans, a tofu with assorted vegetables, a hefty side of bulgur, and a deep fried, veg-filled bite. Everything was really good–spiced and sweet, well balanced. And more delicious than it presents.
They had some vegan baked goods, too. Like this chocolate cake…
…and this pineapple-upside down cake I picked up. All-vegan deliciousness.
For the ride home on my final day, I headed over to Kingston Tropical Bakery in Edenwald. Kingston Bakery makes fresh bread that draws a crowd. But basking in the smell of the bakery while on line was pretty pleasurable. They are also known for their patties, including their all-vegan vegetable patty for $2 (cash only).
I ate the toasted hot patty while creeping along in the EZPass lane for the Throgs Neck.
Now, you must know that the vegetables in these patties are fresh and cooked and seasoned perfectly, making this pocket extraordinary. Sometimes when you see broccoli and carrot in a dish, it’s overcooked to mush or had frozen origins. These patties treat veggies right. Even the cabbage is exceptional. What a way to spend $2!
It was fun to explore the Bronx a bit. I think I reported on the best of the vegan options in the borough but maybe I’m wrong. I will further explore… some day!