“Who looks at candy and is like, ugh, that’s disgusting?” Amanda Cohen says. She digs the bliss that candy brings, and she wanted to evoke that same feeling when people walk into her restaurant on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Dirt Candy offers a circus of eye-popping, innovative, and endlessly pleasurable dishes—all made from vegetables. Brunch here begins with improbable-sounding but ridiculously enjoyable pastries like chocolate-onion croissants, beet coffee cake, and red pepper fritters that celebrate the natural sweetness of vegetables before the cavalcade of savory dishes begins. Though it’s technically a vegetarian restaurant, don’t go mistaking Dirt Candy for a juice-driven, joy-free palace of virtuous abstention.
When we visited her, Cohen gleefully shared a few of her most popular brunch entrees, such as the Canadian cracker, which is a waffle with fried eggs, covered with cheese and tomato confit, served with extra-crispy home fries; a beet sandwich that’s a play on a classic New York deli-style pastrami on rye (see above photo); and “green huevos, no ham,” which are deep-fried poached eggs with salsa verde, cheese, and tortillas—not a cleanse in sight on the menu. Cohen is clearly in her element as ringmaster here, and once brunch is done, the whole restaurant turns over for a dinner service with a whole new set of tricks. Whether you’re a full-time veg or a hardcore carnivore, you’re gonna want to get your hands dirty some weekend in the near future.