If you happen to drive by the Honey Tree around lunch time on a weekday, you might ask yourself why a ton of people -- including men and women in business attire -- are coming in and out of a health food store. Well, here's your answer: Despite the humble sign, the Honey Tree serves one of the most delicious vegan (minus the occasional use of feta cheese) lunches in town.
Though it's nearly 20 years old, the Honey Tree is your typical blink-and-you-miss-it spot, and we would hate for vegans, vegetarians, and yes -- even meat lovers -- to be kept in the dark about this Upper Eastside gem.
All the action happens at the back of the unassuming store, where a selection of hot and cold dishes are displayed, and you're tasked with deciding what to put on your plate. The predominately organic menu changes five days a week (Saturday is leftover day), which further complicates the decision process. But despair not. There's always the option of taking items to go.
Rarely would a carnivore, or even a vegetarian, describe vegan food as "comforting," yet the hot items we tried at the Honey Tree were precisely that. Take for instance the eggplant Parmesan: it oozed with flavor, and the cheese was so gooey you'd never know it was made using Daiya non-dairy mozzarella cheese.
The aptly named "soy and wheatballs" mimicked the texture of meatballs but were decidedly lighter -- ideal for those having to return to their desks. The brown rice with ginger was fluffy and aromatic, while the salads and vegetables were fresh and well seasoned.
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We would've loved to have room for the lentil and rice loaf and the tofu spring rolls -- maybe even a carrot and beat juice, but our $11 plate was surprisingly filling.
At the Honey Tree, the home-style cuisine matches the inviting atmosphere. Here, the knowledgeable and friendly staff seems to know everyone by name -- and even by food allergies. They won't rush you even when there's a long line of hungry customers.
Follow Valeria Nekhim on Twitter @ValeriaNekhim