The Lunch Break Series: Bonobos Vegetarian (and a recipe)

by Gena on April 17, 2009

I’m very lucky to work within walking distance of not one, but four fantastic raw and vegan restaurants: One Lucky Duck, Adelina, Jivamukti, and Bonobos (yes, like the monkey). While I bring my work to lunch or have work lunches on most days, I also like to support and take advantage of these great dining spots. Bonobos is one of my very favorite, for so many reasons: it’s got a ton of options, from the city’s best selection of nut pates to raw ice cream; it’s friendly; it boasts cheap and generous lunch specials; and, most of all, the people at Bonobos have created the world’s best version of chai (more on this in a moment).

Yesterday, I met my friends Cassie and David there for lunch. As usual, it was nearly impossible to choose what to eat, but I went with a tried and true: a make-your own salad with carrots, celery, peppers, marinated sweet broccoli, and lots of marinated kale. Bonobos offers two salad sizes, regular and “gorilla”; with my appetite, I went with gorilla. Here’s a close up of my giant bowl:


Bonobos’ best lunch menu items, in my opinion, are their raw soups. They have a creamy avocado soup, a tomato basil, and a spectacular red pepper and coconut. We decided to split the tomato basil, which mimics the sweetness and creaminess of the conventional version and is totally delicious. Like all Bonobos soups, I learned, it’s made with minimal ingredients: tomatoes, olive oil, basil, sea salt, and agave. Here it is:


But the true Bonobos masterpiece is without a doubt their coconut chai masala. It’s a blend of young coconut meat, coconut water, chai spices, agave, and some other sly ingredient that makes it spectacularly addictive. Think it’s hard to get people into raw foods or drinks? Try giving them this stuff. I’ve shared it with coworkers, many of whom are now calling it “coconut crack,” due to the compulsive cravings it provokes.


Here are more shots of the restaurant, including the selection of nut pates and pre-made salads:



The huge selection of giant nori rolls:


And the tasty raw ice creams, which are nothing more than blended frozen fruits:


Bonobos is at 18 East 23rd at Madison Avenue; if you’re near the NYC area, I highly recommend a visit!

This is my first night off all week, and, even if I’ve got some work to do, I’m so grateful to be curled up in yoga pants on my sofa. And I was equally excited to make a non-office dinner! Inspired by my homage to Bonobos, I tried recreating their incredible red pepper soup tonight. It was a success! Not quite as perfect as the original that inspired it, but a very good tribute.

This is a super simple soup to make. And even though it tastes rich and sweet, it’s sinlessly indulgent: young coconut meat is a nutritional powerhouse. The meat of one young coconut is full of healthy fat, potassium, and approximately 17% of your daily calcium. Coconut water, as we know, is full of vitamins, minerals, and potassium. (You can find young coconuts at most health food stores and Whole Foods markets nowadays.)

The recipe:

Red pepper and coconut soup (serves one)

I red pepper, chopped
Meat of one young coconut
¾ cup coconut water
½ packet stevia (you could also use dates or agave here)
¼ inch fresh ginger
Squeeze of lime

Blend ingredients in a high speed blender for several minutes, until very smooth. Here’s what you get:


What to do if you don’t have young coconuts lying around? I would replace the coconut meat with avocado, add a bit more water, and throw in some parsley and salt. The results should be similar, if a little less sweet (and you can sweeten with stevia or agave if you like).

Alongside, I had one of my big spinach salads with tomatoes, avocado, and sunflower sprouts I picked up at the greenmarket today.


From above:


It was a really nice meal, and it felt well deserved after what has been an exceptionally long week.

I’m off to read, and then reward myself with a week’s worth of DVR. I hope you’re all enjoying your Fridays—and, if you’re here in NYC, enjoying the beautiful weather! xo

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

VeggieGirl April 17, 2009 at 5:52 pm

I’ve never been there!!

Happy Friday evening, dear Gena!!


Gena April 17, 2009 at 5:55 pm

Happy Friday, my friend! Maybe this summer :)


Laura April 17, 2009 at 6:12 pm

I wish DC had lunch options like that! Looks amazing!


Emily April 17, 2009 at 6:29 pm

Hi Gena ~
You just know I am going to try that soup out! Sounds delicious :)


Daneen April 17, 2009 at 7:23 pm

Oh, how I wish I lived in NYC with all the vegan restaurants. I’ll definitely be trying the soup – it looks so good.



melissa April 17, 2009 at 9:54 pm

You are a luck girl! I have never heard of Adelina, yay for new places to check out. I was just thinking today about how much I miss all the great healthy options near my old job on 23rd street–right near bonobos!…and shake shack. Everything in the village is overpriced and the salad quality is pretty poor, which sucks if I don’t have the time to run to whole foods or PJATA. I wish I worked in midtown so I could go to FreeFoodsNYC. the menu is droolworthy.


Gena April 18, 2009 at 5:23 am

It’s SO funny you say that, babe, because my friend Cassie swears that Free Foods is the best: she says that the raw lasagna is better than Pure’s, and half the price!! Hope you’re having a good wkd so far :)


ashley (sweet & natural) April 18, 2009 at 5:58 am

Bonobos looks great! I’m drooling over those Nori rolls. I’ll have to take a look sometime for sure. Have a great weekend!


Melomeals: Vegan For $3.33 a Day April 18, 2009 at 6:24 am

What a GREAT restaurant. Those nori rolls look especially good.

I love your red pepper soup too.


lauren April 18, 2009 at 6:29 am

Bonobos is definitely on my list of raw restaurants to visit along with Adelina and Quintessence. Thanks for the review, now I know what to get when I go! :) Have a wonderful weekend! Enjoy that sun!!


David April 18, 2009 at 3:30 pm

thank you for your wonderful revue of Bonobo’s!
just wanted you to know we are so grateful for your
support. we are thrilled that you enjoy our food and
hope to continue to keep you happy!
all the best to you and continued success with all your ventures
-from owners and mgmt of BONOBO’S


Gena April 18, 2009 at 7:29 pm

Hey there David! I was actually going to send this to your email. I love you guys, and you’ll see me there soon! I’ll keep spreading the word in the meantime :)


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Christy July 14, 2009 at 9:01 pm

Hi Gena,

I just tried the Red Pepper Coconut Soup and loved it! I posted it on my blog and linked to your blog. Thanks so much for the recipe.



kimberly oatman October 28, 2010 at 7:53 am

I visited bonobo’s on my birthday on 10/17/10 while on vacation. i learned about it from a wonderful lady on the plane to jfk.. this place is awesome. i just started my vegan journey and i was so tantalized by all the different options. my favorite was the kale salad and the bockchoy salad.. i need the recipe. when i return, i will be back… i also posted this as a great spot to eat on website….


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