Today’s news:

Vegetarianism is dead — long live meat!

The Brooklyn Paper

Meat is certainly murder — murder on vegetarian restaurants, that is.

Next week is Brooklyn’s second annual vegetarian restaurant week — but even the organizer says the herbivorous event can’t blossom because diners keep getting steered towards beef, pork, poultry and other protein-packed pleasures of the flesh.

Only seven restaurateurs from Greenpoint to Park Slope concocted special vegetarian and vegan menus to lure in plant-eaters for “Brooklyn Goes Veg!” between Oct. 19 and 25.

Many of the proprietors told The Brooklyn Paper that demand for their animal-free fare has flattened out. Melissa Danielle, the restaurant week producer, said that the crash of vegetarianism is a result of livestock being raised more humanely and in a more environmentally conscious manner — reducing the knee-jerk reaction against consuming animals.

“[That has] something to do with vegetarian food losing momentum,” she said.

But even if the movement is losing traction, Danielle said Brooklyn Goes Veg! will be a feast for the ages.

“It’s not necessarily about bringing new people in, it’s about celebrating what exists,” she said.

Danielle added that she tried to cook up support from NYC & Co, the city’s official tourism promoter, but claimed the promotional group didn’t want to send a message that tourists should limit themselves to flora when on vacation in such a diverse food city as New York.

“They get very sensitive around you using the word ‘vegetarian’ or ‘vegan,’ because they don’t want to say, ‘Don’t eat meat,” Danielle said.

Not all the participating eateries are strictly vegetarian. The reason? If you want to be successful these days, you can’t risk having patrons ask, “Where’s the beef?” — a main problem of all-vegetarian joints.

That’s why Cody Utzman, chef-owner of Papacitos, a Mexican joint on Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint, offers tacos and enchiladas in meat, veggie and vegan varieties. (Next week, all lunch tacos are $1.50 for the fest.)

But don’t count out vegetarianism entirely. There are still some people who are willing to experiment with the vegan lifestyle for a night or two, said Matteo Silverman, the chef at 4 Course Vegan, a private supper club in Williamsburg.

“Sixty to 70 percent of my customers are not vegan,” he said. “They’re just seeking out quality, seasonal food.”

But even Silverman admitted that there are fewer and fewer new vegetarian restaurants in the last year or two because non-vegetarian eateries are doing a better job, thanks to increasingly high quality local produce available at green markets.

Eating vegetarian no longer means pasta primavera seven nights a week.

Still, the trend appears to be in the direction of all-vegetarian menus going the way of the dodo bird (which, apparently, tasted pretty darn good) since the bumper years of vegetarian restaurant, 2002–2005.

“People tend to be a little less abusive to the restaurant” for selling meat dishes, said Charlie Statelman, the owner of Café on Clinton in Cobble Hill, and veteran of the seminal Patois on Smith Street, a bistro that did not cede any ground to vegetarians.

“[Vegetarians] used to come in and expect special orders and be hard on the wait staff,” he said.

Not anymore.

Brooklyn Goes Veg! runs from Oct. 19–25. Visit www.bklyngoesveg.com for info and a list of participants.

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Reader Feedback

veggiedude from South San Francisco says:
And if —— tasted good, you'd be eating that too. Your point?
Oct. 16, 2008, 11:54 am
veggiedude from SSF says:
I meant to say dung
Oct. 16, 2008, 11:56 am
kyle from Sunnyvale says:
Yes, vegetarianism is flattening out but Veganism is gaining speed quick.
Oct. 16, 2008, 7:28 pm
Pamela Rice from Nolita says:
Veganism is far from dead. It's coming into its own. Google Veggie Pride Parade. Meat eaters have now officially been put on notice.
Oct. 17, 2008, 12:33 am
Elaine says:
Some people would have you believe that vegetarianism is merely a trend or a fad. Well, it's not. It's a philosophy. And it's growing.

WHO YOU EAT MATTERS. Omnivores need to take a closer look at their consumption choices and stop eating animals.
Oct. 17, 2008, 1:48 am
Daniel from The Great White North says:
Aristotle and Socrates were vegetarians. So were Einstein and Gandhi. Vegetarianism isn't a fad, it's been around for millenia - God even commands man to be vegetarian in the Bible (Genesis 1:29).
Raising animals because we like the taste of their flesh (it isn't necessary to eat meat to maintain good health) is barbaric and cannot be done "humanely" because in the end the animals are slaughtered. If that's what it means to be humane, then why don't we allow euthanasia for humans? Because it's not humane to kill people and it's not humane to kill animals.
The vegan potlucks I attend each month have grown tremendously over the last two years. Long live Compassion! Long live Vegetarianism!
Oct. 17, 2008, 8:20 am
Daniel says:
This is what history tells us -- All liberation movements will, given enough time, succeed.
Oct. 17, 2008, 10:43 am
Janet from Park Slope says:
Because this promoter can't get the proprieters of vegetarian restaurants to participate in her festival, vegetarianism is dead?

There are at least twenty purely vegetarian restaurants in the borough, and if they're not doing well, it may be because the restaurant business is a tough one, and these are tough times. Restaurants for omnivores don't typically last long, either.

I've been a vegetarian for many years, and it would appear that more and more people are joining me. Maybe there are people who've gone back to flesh because it's raised "humanely" (I really can't get my head around that) but I haven't met any, despite Daniele's theory that this has something to do with her lack of success at arranging this festival this year.

This article seems to be lacking any interviews with the restaurant owners who turned her down, and I'd be curious to read their reasons for failing to participate, because if demand for their meals has indeed "flattened out", a promotion like this would help recruit vegan and vegetarian diners who aren't necessarily familiar with their restaurants.

There's a restaurant on Fifth Avenue with "vegetarian" in its name which isn't even a vegetarian restaurant, so it would seem that, contrary to the spin of the article, vegetarian food draws customers.
Oct. 17, 2008, 8:11 pm
Janet from Park Slope says:
Statelman says “[Vegetarians] used to come in and expect special orders and be hard on the wait staff,” but his establishments are reported to "not cede any ground to vegetarians".
Perhaps these restaurants can manage to stay in the black without recognizing the need for good customer service, but they're losing the business of groups of diners--even if only one is a vegetarian--if they won't take the needs of vegetarians seriously.
(There's a hint that perhaps some vegetarians were rude and demanding, but I'm confident that behavior is seen in omnivores, too.)
Oct. 18, 2008, 10:24 am
Texas MD from San Antonio says:
It's about conginitive dissonance. People are addicted to consuming dead bodies, and when they are told that doing so is now "humane" - they jump on the chance. What they do not consider are the actual definitions of terms like "cage free" and the like, which stray far from the conjured image of happy family farms. All these animals endure (or die during) the brutal shipping process and all end up meeting the same violent, gruesome fate. For your health, the animals, and the planet, they very best thing we can all do is go vegan.
Oct. 18, 2008, 1:40 pm
Elaine from Vegas says:
PS
I spent two years living in NYC. In that time period I went from vegetarianism to veganism, partially because of all the fantastic veg*n restaurants in NYC. (I especially enjoyed Red Bamboo and Candle 79.)

I moved back to Vegas and took my veganism with me. So even if you think veg*nism growth is slowing in the big cities like NYC, it's still growing in smaller, younger cities like Vegas. In the last ten years, Vegas has probably double or tripled it's vegan restaurant fare. We've still got a long way to go, but we're moving in the right direction.

The statement that "vegetarianism is dead" is simply false. Compare your local grocery and notice all the new veg*n meat alternatives, non-dairy ice creams, and more. It's CERTAINLY growing.
Oct. 18, 2008, 3:25 pm
Laura from Brooklyn says:
There is NOTHING humane about animal slaughter except the illusions people must lie to themselves about. If the animals were slaughtered behind a glass wall at every eatery that has their parts on the menu, people would SEE the truth...
Just because an article reports that killing tens of millions of animals every day is being done more humanely, DOES NOT mean it is so. People believe anything they are told if it eases their conscience.
They need to SEE for themselves the abject and unspeakable agony every single bird, cow, pig, endures, all their short lives and to death.
This journalist gets an F for research. Let him spend a day, if he can, at a Tyson, Smithfield, Hormel, or so called "Kosher" plant like the disgustiung place in Iowa that tortures cows.
Our society really must get the blood out of our kitchens and off our plates. It reflects a far deeper philosophy that transcends food and spills over into other social behaviors.
Everyone read Karen Dawns book, Thanking the Monkey !!!!
Oct. 18, 2008, 8:26 pm
Janet from Park Slope says:
I agree that "this journalist gets an 'F' for research", but not for the reasons Laura says. The article treated as fact one woman's suggestion that fewer people are eating vegetarian or seeking out vegetarian restaurants because she got few takers for her Vegetarian Brooklyn Week. A real journalist would have investigated the premise rather than taking it as fact. Instead, to "flesh" the article out, as it were, he includes an irrelevant quote from the owner of a meat restaurant and then draws an illogical conclusion.
Oct. 19, 2008, 7:22 am
snarkyvegan from Somewhere North of BP says:
What was the point of writing this article? This is crap writing at its best.

I was just on the Brooklyn goes veg website, and the coordinator posted a follow-up: bklyngoesveg.com
Oct. 19, 2008, 1:35 pm
Ed from Gowanus says:
Is this a "news" article or an op-ed piece? The author cites no evidence at all for the supposed decline of vegetarianism. Mike McLaughlin claims that all-vegetarian menus are going "the way of the dodo bird" despite the fact that there are more strictly vegetarian restaurants in Brooklyn (and nyc in general) in 2008 than ever before in history. In fact, many of the all-vegetarian restaurants listed in the print version of this 'article' opened after 2005. I would expect that anyone working at the Brooklyn Paper would have least used Google to check the aforementioned fact. That's either sloppy journalism or slanted journalism. The goal of Brooklyn Goes Veg week is to get omnivorous restaurants to explore how lucrative and tasy veg food can be. The fact that not many restaurants signed on has more to do with the closed-minded fear of change exemplified by the "journalist" who wrote this weak "exclusive".
Oct. 25, 2008, 1:01 pm
Alex from Bensonhurst says:
I did some research on Mike McLaughlin, the author of this piece. He is a self-professed meat lover, which has obviously compromised his journalistic integrity here. Sad that the Brooklyn Paper can't find better journalists to write its' cover stories. I guess using select annectdotal info is easier than fact-checking...but sheesh if I was that lazy at my job i'd be canned!
Oct. 25, 2008, 1:15 pm
Adam says:
Instead of "long live meat" shouldn't the headline be, "recently dead meat"?
Oct. 29, 2008, 12:07 pm
RC from Prospect Heights says:
I find all these anti-vegetarian claims and discussions pretty funny ... but also pretty sad. If you are so sure about what you are eating is good for you, why do you need to so frantically convince others of it?

I eat red meat, but my husband does not and has not for about 40 years. He is not a vegetarian, since he eats fish, but he does eat lots of purely vegetarian food. He is over 60 years old but looks much younger and is in perfect health. Many people think he is in his late forties. He is healthier than I am, and I am 10 years younger than he is.

I will probably never totally stop eating meat (although, because I want to be healthy, I eat red meat as little as possible), but I often have to wonder why meat eaters feel they have to be so hostile toward vegetarianism? Feel threatened? Cannot admit to yourself what an overwhelming amount of medical research and clinical examples have shown: eating too much meat and meat fats can kill you. High blood pressure, clogged arteries, heart disease. Go ahead, bury your heads in the sand, try to hurl anti-vegetarian slogans, loud, to prevent yourselves from hearing the truth: a diet that contains too much meat and too little vegetables (and omega fatty acids) has a high chance of making you sick, really sick.
Nov. 19, 2009, 11 am

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