Red Bamboo: Food That Comforts the Soul


Washington Square, NEW YORK– Often when I chat with good friends, the topic of food inevitably comes up, a matter I speak on with great authority. On Feb. 23, I was enjoying one such conversation with one friend in particular as we strolled through Washington Square Park. My friend is like most college kids: poor and living on Ramen noodles. But he was tired of wallowing in peanut butter and drowning in the jelly. That is where I came in; he asked me about the beautiful, healthy food I’m always eating.

All divine coincidence aside, we happened upon Red Bamboo, a  restaurant specializing in vegan and vegetarian food. We descended the steps from street level, venturing into a welcoming underworld. After hearing my friend's frustration with his food situation, I was emboldened to take some chances with this new cuisine.

We sat down and checked out the menu; he played it safe and ordered the Soul Chicken Sandwich.

“This is the best chicken sandwich I’ve ever had,” he said after biting into the succulent panko breaded soy chicken with romaine lettuce, tomato, vegan mayonnaise and Vidalia onion dressing, served on a fresh roll. He was astonished when he discovered that no poultry had been harmed in the production of his "chicken" sandwich.

I myself relished a pair of codfish cakes. I was rather skeptical at first, because I had never tried any imitation fish. Others in the restaurant seemed to be enjoying the same dish, however, so I thought I’d risk it.

What lay before me were two delectable-looking seasoned soy fish cakes, stuffed with red and green peppers, oregano, cilantro and fried crispy onion butter. With a roof of mango salsa and a side of deep greens, it was a well-balanced meal. Did I mention that I drizzled it with the best dressing I've ever tasted? We also shared a collard green roll and a soy chicken teriyaki skewer.

There was a dark side to this experience, though: the venue was built for hobbits. We are men. I’d also like to mention that the desserts sounded delicious, which was a problem because we nearly ordered some.  But Red Bamboo was worth waiting for. I knew I had to try it when I saw people waiting out on the icy Sunday evening to get a table.

As we climbed the steps back to the street, my friend praised his experience of the healthy and delicious food I’m always preaching. We left behind 15 dollars and gained a stomach full of “food that comforts the soul," one of the truest tag lines I’ve read in a while.

Red Bamboo can be found at 140 West 4th St. or online at their website: