A Stop Along the Way: Pure Food and Wine, NYC

Raw “taco” salad made with walnut meat. My favorite part is the fresh guac.
“Sushi” roll made with jicama instead of rice.



Raw portobello burger on manna bread (only food not gluten-free on the entire menu) also my favorite part of the entire meal! The contrast of the onions with the meaty mushroom is enticing.



Brazil nut croquettes. Delicious, rich, and insanely filling. Probably the heaviest item on the menu.




I live for this raw mint chocolate chip sundae. If you have a limited amount of time to stop by Pure, make sure it’s for this insane sundae.


A “Mallomar” made with coconut! Also delicious!



Raw lemon cake. Not a huge lemon person, but the coconut crust was sweet and chewy.



I was first introduced to Pure Food and Wine a while ago by a family member. This was during my vegan days, so for a gluten-free + vegan foodie, Pure was the place to be. I left feeling satisfied, full, and with the happiest taste buds on the planet.
Fast forward to a few years later, no longer vegan, but still an avid foodie and health nut. Pure is a go-to restaurant for meetings I have in NYC. Located on a side street on Irving Place (next to Union Square) you may have seen celebs like Alec Baldwin and Hilaria Baldwin posting pics at the hotspot, calling this a celeb favorite.
Pure is an intimate setting with a tight restaurant (you’re seated close to the people next to you) and a beautiful patio, perfect for a spring brunch. Expect to be at the restaurant for at least an hour if eating at dinnertime- the food comes out slowly to ensure you’ve digested the previous course (no one can choose just one option). Taco salad made from walnut meat with a “sour cream” made from cashews, sushi made without rice, entirely from vegetables, and meaty sandwiches without meat. Everything on the menu is gluten-free and vegan (excluding the burger) including the desserts. I had the opportunity to meet owner Sarma and interview her. 
The idea that “raw” food is carrots, hummus, and celery is completely wrong. I’ve never had a dessert as indulgent, somewhat sexy, and intriguing as their sundae, made from coconut and cashew. The chocolate is rich and insanely addicting. Your wallet may not love Pure, but I guarantee you the minute you stop foot in the earthy joint, there is no turning back. 


A: Tell me what motivated you to begin PF&W


S: I’d been working in the restaurant business for
a few years when a friend brought me to dinner at a raw vegan café. I’d never
even considered the idea of going vegetarian or vegan and I assumed I’d hate
this restaurant, I was dreading it. But once we ordered and started eating, I
was surprised to find how much flavor was in the food. My friend explained the
philosophy behind raw food and it all made so much sense. I was excited and
intrigued. I also noticed that I was eating a ton but I felt great, and
energized, rather than feeling tired and sluggish like I would after a regular restaurant
meal. Besides the food, I noticed some tall models walking through to pick up
to-go orders. There was also an attractive girl eating at the next table by
herself. We chatted with her and she described how her life changed for the
better since she went raw, she said she felt like a different person, and was
really excited about that, but then said her friends “would never come to a
place like this… I wish someone would open a cool raw food restaurant.” And
that was the light bulb moment. I realized she was right. The city was ready
for raw food done well, and not in a crunchy little café but in an upscale
environment with an extensive wine list and the kind of atmosphere appropriate
for a business meeting among fashion executives, or a romantic birthday or
anniversary dinner.
A: How did One Lucky Duck come out of it?
S: When the restaurant opened, we had our juice
bar around the corner called Pure Juice and Takeaway. During the first year
when I was on deadline to complete my first book, I realized I’d be sending a
lot of people to other online sources for the hard to find ingredients required
for many of the recipes. Despite knowing nothing at the time about e-commerce, I
thought, how hard could it be to start an online store? We also were selling
some of our cookies in packages, and they didn’t really have a brand name. And
I wanted to sell those cookies to people online, as well as other products for
healthy raw living. One Lucky Duck became the brand because I wanted a name
that people would remember, and a distinctive logo that people would see and
think, hmmm, I wonder what that is, oneluckyduck.com? I wanted it to convey
fun, and have at least some degree of kid-appeal as well. I chose the duck
because we have three beautiful photographs of a duck on the wall at Pure Food
and Wine, kind of our mascot. Of course, there are no animals on our menu, so
with each plant-based meal, shift, lifestyle change, it’s another lucky duck,
or pig, or cow, or chicken. But really, it’s just meant to be a cute, fun brand
name that makes people smile. As soon as the logo design was complete, I went
and got it tattooed on my arm. I figured it was a good way to lock in my
A: For people that can’t afford spending the added
price on organic food vs. just regular produce, what advice would you give?
S: Sadly, the healthiest food is way too often the
most expensive. Just do the best you reasonably can. Organic is really
important, but if you need to pick and choose, there are lists online showing
which are the worst foods to buy conventional. Google “organic dirty dozen” and
you’ll find lists of which are the worst foods to buy conventional. Strawberries
for example, I won’t eat a strawberry that’s not organic. Unfortunately, a lot
of the ingredients that go into juices are on the “dirty dozen” so it’s really
important to drink only organic fresh pressed juices. And if you really want
strawberries out of season, better to buy organic frozen strawberries.
A:  What are you long-term goals for the restaurant?
S: This summer will be our ten-year anniversary.
So, I’d like to keep growing over the next ten years, and possibly open one or
two other locations, and expand the juice bar space.
A:  When you first began Pure Food, where did you
expect to be now? Have your expectations succeeded what you expected?
S: I had no idea where I’d be now… I didn’t really think
about it or have a plan. It’s good to have goals, but whatever plans we have
usually end up changing anyway.
A: What is your fondest memory of the restaurant so
S: This is easy. Bill Clinton taking my hand and
telling me “Thank you for what you’re doing.” This was after his second visit.
After his first visit, he sent a hand written note to me at my office. Both of
these things kind of blew me away.
A:  Who comes up with the extensive amount of raw food
options at the restaurant?
S: My talented chefs!! I often give them ideas but at
this point, they’re coming up with new dishes, new desserts, and we work
collaboratively on new packaged cookies, snacks and other things. Really, I’m
just the taste tester.
A: Why is raw food better than cooked food?
S: Food grown in the soil with water and the sun’s
energy has a life force, it’s full of enzymes and packed with nutrition. When
food is cooked at high temperatures, not only is much of the nutritional value
compromised, but the enzymes are killed off, making the food more challenging
for your body to digest. Veganism can be healthy if it includes a lot of fresh
vegetables, and plenty of fresh greens, but there are also a lot of vegan junk
foods out there (Oreos are vegan, plenty of sugary candy is vegan, lots of
starchy pastas, breads, oily French fries, all vegan). Raw is always
unprocessed, whole organic plant foods, and as such it’s nutritionally dense
and optimally healthy.
A:  What is your favorite item on the menu?
S: This is always hard to answer, but right now I
love the Philly Roll with Avocado, Kim Chee, Creamy Cashew Cheese, Tatsoi,
Hijiki, and Sweet Chili Sauce. I like the combination of the creamy cheese with
the tart kim chee. From the main dishes, the Cauliflower and Sweet Corn Polenta
with Bourbon Maple Persimmons, Radicchio, Cherry Tomatoes, Mache, Candied
Pistachios, Cashew Cheese, and Avocado Pistachio Vinaigrette is my current
favorite. And for dessert, always one of the sundaes, they’re sort of a classic
and we can’t take them off the menu or we’ll get yelled at. (really!) Or, my
pastry chefs recently created some new cakes that we have for special order and
that we sell through the 17th Street One Lucky Duck shop. Most
people find it hard to believe they’re raw, vegan, organic, and gluten free,
like everything we do. They’re beautiful, layered and frosted cakes with big
frosting roses.

Miss Fashionista

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