Just in time for summer and BBQ season, the first-ever vegan, gluten-free barbecue restaurant has opened its doors in NYC. There are other restaurants that serve vegan BBQ but this is the first place we have ever heard about that is both vegan and gluten-free.

Finding delicious plant-based fare in New York City isn't too much of a challenge, but vegan BBQ is a whole other story. Pure Grit BBQ is Manhattan's first eatery of its kind, so I knew I had to hurry downtown and check it out. I called my friend Carly who eats mostly plant-based but still enjoys meat from time to time to tag along and be an impartial judge of the plant-based barbecue offerings.

The smell of sweet and spicy barbecue sauce filled the air as we approached the door of the restaurant, and we shot each other a knowing nod, as if to say, this is going to be good! We were not disappointed.

The experience was made that much more personal when we were greeted at the door by Pure Grit founder Kerry Fitzmaurice, who has a welcoming, cheerful, presence. And she is passionate about plant-based barbecue. Her company started by selling Pure Grit BBQ sauce and this restaurant is her latest brain child. The company's tagline: BBQ for all, comes to life in this new spot.

We ordered at the counter, drooling over all the delectable sounding options. To accompany the food, we ordered two mandarin cardamom drinks – which come in recycled packaging – while we waited for our food at the pink picnic benches outside.

When the food arrived, we went silent, in awe of how amazing everything looked. We didn't want to waste a minute with words before diving in forks-first. I couldn't help but smile when Carly took her first bite of vegan chicken because her reaction was priceless – check out the video below.

Try the Game-Changing Mac & Cheese with Shiitake Bacon

I started with the gluten-free mac and cheese, covered in almond parmesan, and topped with bits of shiitake bacon. The macaroni didn't taste like it was gluten-free! Sometimes gluten-free pasta can be a little tough, with a strange aftertaste, but this macaroni was delicious and made us nostalgic for our childhood.

The dairy-free cheese sauce achieved the perfect combination of gooey and cheesy using the humble cashew. The most exciting, and interesting part of this dish was the shiitake bacon which had a crunchy texture just like traditional bacon. The smokiness from the shiitake bacon added an extra "wow" factor and brought me right back to the first time I ate real barbecue in Austin, Texas – long before embarking on my plant-based lifestyle.

"I'll Have the Fried Tofu Bites to Start Please"

I would recommend ordering the Fried Tofu Bites as a starter. These flavorful crisp tempura tofu bites are tossed in BBQ sauce and excite your taste buds, an incredible appetizer to prepare you for the full BBQ experience that will follow. These were my second favorite, after the Smoked Impossible Cut, because they weren't over-fried or under-fried, striking the perfect texture with a hint of sweet barbecue sauce that makes them addictive.

Try the Chicken and Waffle Open-Faced Sandwich for a Burst of Flavor

We ordered the Fried Daring Chicken Sandwich served open-faced on a homemade waffle. The vegan chicken is expertly battered, fried, and drizzled in hot maple sauce and topped with pickles, pickled red onion, coleslaw, and BBQ ranch. You can imagine how many flavors you get in one bite, an ideal balance of tastes.

This was the first time Carly has ever tried vegan chicken and she honestly couldn't taste the difference. between it and the real thing. "I'm mind blown," she announced after her first bite. We had to keep reminding ourselves that the waffle was gluten-free not because, like the plant-based chicken, it seemed too delicious to be true.

The Smoked Impossible Cut Tastes Just Like Meat

My favorite dish was the smoked Impossible cut: The texture was crispy on the outside with a melt-in-your-mouth texture complete with hints of onion, garlic, and bbq. The recipe reminded me of the BBQ cut (made with meat) at my old cafeteria in grade school; a delicious, indulgent moment I waited for all school day long.

The Impossible cut tastes just like meat, and with the added lentils, it achieved a chewiness that's hard to find with meat alternatives. The cut comes with two sides so I chose the potato salad and charred broccoli salad – both of which exceeded expectations. Other options include coleslaw, baked beans, fried sweet potato bites, or french fries. I liked the combination of these two because the broccoli had a tangy bite and the potatoes were a creamy palette cleanser.

Treat Yourself to a Fried Waffle or Kitchen Sink Cookie for Dessert

You can't leave without sampling the two dessert options – the kitchen sink cookie, one of their most popular items, was sold out so Carly and I scarfed down the Fried Waffle that was truly irresistible. The crispy-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside waffle was topped with powdered sugar and homemade whipped cream.

The waffle alone was incredibly delicious with hints of sweet and savory tastes. The sugar-coated dough reminded me of the sugared pretzels from Aunt Annie's I used to eat as a kid, but flatter, chewier, and better. We drizzled maple butter and chocolate sauce on top, adding an extra richness and sweetness. We were inclined to ask for another to go, but luckily, Carly's apartment is just around the block so we'll be sure to visit again.

You can find Pure Grit BBQ located at 36 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10010.

For more places to eat vegan in your city, town or neighborhood, check out Find Vegan Near Me, The Beet's City Guides, and our helpful search tool to help you eat your favorite foods, but plant-based, all over the USA.

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