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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6 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] […]

  6. Buzz Says:

    I, too, used to go to the 49th St branch. As for vegetarian and dairy restaurant history, we can now refer to Ben Katchor’s THE DAIRY RESTAURANT, just published. He has excellent documentation for dairy restaurants in the US as far back as the 19th century.

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