When it comes to the first meal of the day, there are staples: bacon, egg and cheese on a roll; cereal with cold milk; granola and yogurt with honey and berries; roasted cauliflower with beet tahini.
Vegetables, more likely to appear in an occasional omelet or frittata or as a green accompaniment to a plate of bacon and eggs, are moving to the center of the breakfast plate. Call it the good-for-you extension of the all-day cafe trend.
Vegetables have been consumed during the first half of the day via green juices and smoothies for some time now, of course, but in this case, they are the star of the meal — rather than just an ingredient blended up with more pleasant (i.e. sweet) flavors like banana or raspberry.
At Dimes, breakfast-goers are digging in to the Power Bowl ($13), with kale, avocado and alfalfa sprouts over rice and beans. At East One Coffee Roasters, the grains salad ($15), with roasted root vegetables and avocado, is what’s for brunch.
Ryan Whyte-Buck, the former chef at Golda in Bedford-Stuyvesant, is the creator of one of the most vegetable-forward breakfast items in New York City: roasted cauliflower with chermoula, quinoa and beet tahini ($15, extra $3 for soft-boiled egg). Whyte-Buck, who recently relocated to California with his family, says it’s one of Golda’s most popular dishes, “selling from the small hours before sunrise to the late evening.”
When West~Bourne opened in a shoebox-sized storefront in SoHo earlier this year, founder Camilla Marcus wanted to bring the energy and sensibility of California to NYC via the restaurant. On the all-day menu, there are grain bowls and buckwheat waffles, both veggie-focused if not veggie-forward, but then there’s The Bounty ($15).
The plate of both raw and roasted veggies changes with the seasons based on availability. Currently, that might mean purple potatoes, sweet cherry tomatoes, purple heirloom radishes, cucumbers, heirloom carrots, castelfranco radicchio, purple endive, delicata squash, romanesco and housemade beet chips. It also comes with labne and walnut bagna cauda dipping sauces.
“The Bounty was a way for us to debunk preconceived notions about what you can get and in what season and at what time of day,” said Marcus, adding that guests often order the popular dish to share. “It’s clean, fresh, fun and interactive.”
So what is going on in New York City that has diners seeking out vegetables for breakfast?
For Whyte-Buck, the health benefits and the positive environmental effects of eating less meat are what attract him to eating more vegetables.
“Moving away from animal products is a huge way to conserve water and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Whyte-Buck. “As a chef, choosing to use vegetables for the most important meal of the day really pushes the need for creativity to the next level.”
Originality is definitely at work in these vegetable-forward breakfast dishes. Chef Champ Jones of the vegan-for-non-vegans restaurant Sans in Carroll Gardens just launched brunch service with creative variations on breakfast classics. In the eggs Benedict ($15), charred avocado and dehydrated tomato stand in for eggs and ham, respectively.
But of course, flavor still rules, and there’s no doubt vegetables face an uphill battle when the opponent is bacon. But Whyte-Buck is confident.
“[Cauliflower] tastes amazing,” he said. “When cooked it has crunchy bits on the outside with creamy stalks in the center. It’s both sweet and savory with a great buttery nuttiness.”
For Marcus, the culture is shifting, and food is the most obvious place to start a quest to attain good health.
“Everyone is seeking wellness in their daily lives,” she said, “and what better way to start than with food?”
Where to eat the trend
- Dimes: 49 Canal St., 212-925-1300, dimesnyc.com
- East One Coffee Roasters: 384 Court St., Carroll Gardens, 347-987-4919, eastonecoffee.com
- Golda: 504 Franklin Ave., Bedford-Stuyvesant, 718-484-7065, goldakitchen.com
- Sans: 329 Smith St., Carroll Gardens, 929-337-6292, sansbk.com
- West~Bourne: 137 Sullivan St., 347-534-3050, westbourne.com