Is this the city’s first vegetarian restaurant?

Before every city neighborhood featured a vegan bistro or bakery, before 1970s Manhattan became dotted with “health food” stores and macrobiotic restaurants, there was a local mini-chain called Farmfood.

At three midtown locations, Farmfood served meat-free meals as far back as the 1930s to city residents who considered themselves vegetarians.

I found Farmfood’s appealing ad on the back of a vintage matchbook, interestingly enough.

Vegetarian eateries today would lose all credibility if they did anything that seemed to endorse smoking. But hey, it was the 1930s.

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5 Responses to “Is this the city’s first vegetarian restaurant?”

  1. T.J. Connick Says:

    I was a patron of their 49th Street location, where they were still dishing good, plain, healthy meals as late as 1984.

  2. Jan Burke Says:

    It would be interesting to know if there were even earlier vegetarian restaurants. A London vegetarian restaurant is mentioned in a Sherlock Holmes story, and so I wonder what 19th century examples there might have been in New York.

    Perhaps they were hoping the matches would be used to light candles and gas stoves. 😉

    Thanks again for this wonderful blog.

  3. wildnewyork Says:

    Thanks! I did a little research last night and found an old guidebook from 1920; it mentions the vegetarian restaurants on the Lower East Side started by “Russian followers of Tolstoy.” It also implies that the food smelled really bad….

  4. Kendra Arnold Says:

    I’m sure there were earlier vegetarian restaurants; if you search the New York Public Library Menu collection for ‘vegetarian”, it turns up a cafe or cafes called Pure Food from 1900 that include things like Breaded Mock Chicken or Fried Mush.

  5. History in the Making: The 'Good Show, Ole Chap' Edition - Bowery Boys: New York City History Says:

    […] There were New York restaurants for vegetarians – in the 1930s? [Ephemeral New York] […]

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