Iconic. Epic. Once in a Lifetime. Those terms describe a day of activities in midtown New York City on New Year Eve, culminating in a private viewing of the midnight countdown and ball drop from an office space on West 43th Street. These events were the makings of my New Year’s Eve 2022, with some incredible vegan restaurants in NYC to seal the deal of perhaps the most memorable end-of-year-experience in this healthy foodie’s life.
Midtown Manhattan Activities
As a prior long-term resident of NYC who avoided tourist spots and long lines, I adopted a focused goal of navigating a family of four throughout midtown on the afternoon of December 31st by circumventing Times Square. The spectators of the ball drop located at One Times Square on the corner of Broadway and 43rd Street were locked behind police barricades after 3 p.m.; many thousands of additional tourists hovered around the area along 5th Avenue and Rockefeller Center to witness the holiday lights, festive decorations and join the communal experience of New Year’s Eve in the center of it all.
Midtown Manhattan Hotel– Residents Inn by Marriot Midtown East
We chose a hotel for our one-night stay northeast of Times Square at the Residents Inn by Marriott Midtown East on 48th Street between Lexington and 3rd Avenue. The larger room with two queen beds included a small kitchenette, and even a top-bottom washing machine and dryer, plus a buffet breakfast. The next morning, I made myself oatmeal with walnuts and house-made blueberry sauce. I came armed with my 8-ounce container of Not Milk to add to my coffee.
After checking into our hotel, we walked along Park Avenue to The Escape Game New York, where we completed The Heist one-hour challenge with increased know-how after having done 10+ escape rooms. I took a peek at the stunning New York Public Library at 5th Avenue one block away (photo featured above).
A Walk Through Central Park
After dinner, we took a power walk across the southeast section of Central Park. We made our way uptown, entering the park on 59th Street, and looped down a stairway and northwest around the half-frozen lake called The Pond and ice-skating rink. The luminosity of vintage style streetlamps along the walkways, city lights that framed the barren tree branches, combined with the misty air and haze of drizzling rain at dusk made for an invigorating, mysterious scene. We fought to see clearly around each bend and tightened our hoods as we trudged along the muddy paths. We made our way back to the hotel along 5th Avenue, where we brushed elbows with the crowds at last in order to see the oversized holiday decor situated along the sidewalk and take a quick peek from the east side of 5th Avenue at the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center.
Midtown Dining—Vegan Restaurants
We walked uptown from the hotel along Madison Avenue and made our way to Beyond Sushi on West 56th Street, where we had an early dinner. I had been wanting to eat at the vegan kosher Japanese restaurant that opened in 2020, which is now a chain with three locations throughout Manhattan. The plant-based sushi rolls were artistry at work—the mock salmon had a pale pink fleshy appearance—and the complex flavors constituted a palate explosion with pickled vegetables and spicy, creamy sauces. We ordered one of dumplings, the meatless meatballs, a cold noodle dish, and an array of rolls. Most of the rolls are plant-based and gluten-free–they’re made mainly with whole grain rice and vegetables without oils or refined products. Beyond Sushi is an excellent restaurant choice for healthy eaters and those on a plant-based diet. My menu recommendations:
- Shiitake Truffle Braised shiitake, baked tofu, spinach, dark soy, porcini mushrooms, chili panko, micro arugula, shiitake truffle and spicy bean sauce
- Glazed Impossible Meatballs Dark soy and sambal glazed Impossible meatballs, sushi rice, scallions, sesame
- Peanut Noodle Salad Cold buckwheat soba noodles, miso, peanut sauce, sesame, scallions, red chilis, roasted peanuts
- Rainbow Roll White rice, “tuna,” zalmon, marinated carrots, cucumber, avocado, pickled red cabbage, dill, hijiki, lemon zest, smoked pepper sauce
- Charred Avocado Roll White rice, jackfruit crab, cucumber, charred avocado, black truffle caviar
- Philadelphia Roll White rice, zalmon, cucumber, vegan cream cheese, everything seasoning, dill, seaweed roe
- Mighty Mushroom Roll Black rice, shiitake and enoki mushrooms, tofu, micro arugula, shiitake truffle sauce
Discussion of vegan dining in midtown Manhattan would not be complete without mention of the wonderful P.S. Kitchen, located at 246 W 48th Street. The all-vegan venue features a calming vibe among the madness of the theater district with chic, modern, bright décor. The menu is everything a healthy eater would wish for and more—extensive options include salads, small bites, hot courses and cold sandwiches, including the chicken Caesar wrap. The dessert is perhaps the highlight—during a prior visit to midtown, we tried the airy, delicate pumpkin mousse tart and the rich, creamy blueberry cheesecake.
Another family-friendly dining option in midtown NYC, especially for a group who want poultry and red meat menu options, is Serafina, the upscale Italian restaurant chain with a location on West 49th Street. The menu features a statement plant-based spaghetti squash course, which is served warm with sautéed vegetables, pine nuts and tomato sauce. I ordered the beautiful dish several times in the past–it’s an all-time favorite vegan, gluten-free restaurant menu item of mine.
Worth mentioning is healthy take-out chain Juice Generation location on East 42nd Street, which was closed on New year Eve. The dessert menu includes vegan cookies and other healthy dairy, gluten and egg-free treats.
Private Event Catering—Vegan & Gluten-Free
Our evening culminated in a private party at a business space with one corner office directly facing the ball that drops at One Times Square at midnight on New Year’s Eve. The gourmet food was catered by a private catering service featuring chef Leo Bustamante. All of the menu items including appetizers, small plates and desserts were gluten and nut-free due to allergies among the guests. The party planner thoughtfully included these incredible vegan items (no photos) with moi I mind:
- Maitake mushroom polenta with red wine shallot reduction
- Papaya mango salad with red onion, chili pepper, lime juice and cilantro
- Soy braised honshimeji mushroom lettuce wrap with pickled vegetables and mushroom sauce
- Smoky red pepper hummus with kalamata olives, pickled red onions in a cucumber cup
- Coconut milk panna cotta with caramelized pineapple
We nibbled, socialized and had champagne refills throughout the evening. The countdown to midnight was a special sight to see, as if a surreal mirage of bulbous white surrounded by fireworks and smoke that seemed unreal after having watched the spectacle on television for decades.
More Vegan Food—DeCiccos & Sons
I continued my marathon of eating gourmet vegan food on New Year’s Day, when a dear friend hosted a luncheon at her house in the suburbs outside New York City. She graciously ordered the Mediterranean platter from DeCicco’s & Sons, a beloved suburban New York grocery store chain that caters to discerning shoppers seeking out organic, local and specialty foods, including lots of healthy, vegan, plant-based and gluten-free products. The Mediterranean platter included hummus, chickpea kale salad, tabbouleh, eggplant caponata and dolma—rice stuffed grape leaves.
New Year’s 2022 featured a series of fun family activities in midtown Manhattan and incredible gourmet vegan culinary experiences. A life experience for the proverbial books, for sure.