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New York Dispatch: On a Food Quest with DJ Bad Vegan

One of my goals in 2015 – besides eating more – is to crowdsource the food quests: I would love, love, love to start publishing stories of your taxi adventures here, in any city, in any form – whether photo, video, or (50 to 500-word) postcards in text, like this one from my friend Brant Smith (alias DJ Bad Vegan).

If you’re interested in contributing a story, or if you have ideas about how best to crowdsource the taxi adventures, I’m all ears: layne(at)taxigourmet(dot)com. Meanwhile, I give you this dispatch from Brant, a filmmaker and passionate eater who turned to a cabby for help in the midst of a food emergency in NYC while shooting scenes for In-World War, his upcoming sci-fi epic.


Cruising down 5th Avenue in search of a meal.
Cruising down 5th Avenue in search of a meal.


I was in NYC for four days. We were working so hard and such long hours that I didn’t have time to do anything other than [the shoot]. It was torture, since NYC is a mecca for a vegan foodie like me. Yet each night I was so exhausted that I barely had energy to scarf down cold cereal and wheat thins in my hotel room, before crashing out.

The last night I was there, I couldn’t take it anymore and — despite massive exhaustion and an early wake-up time — I headed out to find a late-night eatery. Thanks to Yelp, I searched for vegan-friendly restaurants nearby, but I kept coming up empty and as I dashed from place to place, the minutes ticked by. Every 30 minutes a new set of restaurants would close and my options would dwindle further.

Frantic and frustrated but not willing to give up (you know how I am), I hailed a cab and said simply “head down broadway and I’ll tell you to stop when I see what I want.” The Sikh driver obliged and we got to talking (as I often do with cabbies). I told him of my plight: a (mostly) vegan on his last night in NYC with no friendly restaurant in sight.

He sighed and consoled me. There’s not much around in this area (way upper westside) at this time of night (it was past midnight at this point), except for that 24 hr vegan Indian place nearby. HUH??!? I said, “that’s the place.” And we turned around and he dropped by by a little hole in the wall with a few plastic chairs and clientele that seemed to be comprised only of other Sikh taxi drivers. It wasn’t the best Indian food I’d ever had (nor the best vegan Indian food, for that matter), but it was easily the most precious.
Brant Smith


PS: If Brant’s story made you hungry for good vegan Indian food in NYC, I can’t recommend Punjabi Grocery & Deli highly enough. What’s your favorite vegan spot in New York?

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