Little Lads Basket - 120 Broadway (Lower Arcade) (Vegan... mostly)
Talk about a hidden location! Invisible from the street, Little Lad's Basket is buried in the lower levels of a financial district building - accessible only after a walk through the stark corporate lobby of 120 Broadway...down a flight of polished, marble stairs. It's an unlikely spot for a vegan restaurant - but then, who says all veggie places have to be in the Village, or Brooklyn?
Owned by Seventh Day Adventists, LLB is definitely unique...and not just due to locale*.
The fare is mostly vegan, with a focus on organic natural ingredients - both for takeout and eat-in. Lined with tables, the foyer features selections of fresh fruit, nut and seed snacks, and lots of little pastry items in portable plastic bags. But at LLB, it's actually worth it to stick around. 'Cause between 11:30am and 3:30, Little Lad's offers a lunch buffet - giving diners the opportunity to load up a plate and bowl with whatever's on hand for the day...all for the low price of $3.99.
Not surprisingly, the fare is kept simple. On the day of the Gaijin Girl visit, options included carrots, cabbage, tofu "chicken cacciatore" and split pea soup. A vegan mac and cheese proved particularly tasty...as did the blueberry pie and veg*n "nice cream" (only available on Fridays**.) Sadly, the much lauded shepherd's pie wasn't available...a dish which has earned many foodie fans. Though not gourmet or distinctively flavored, the food did satisfy, as did the little snacks near the cashier (including flavored popcorn, and a really good vegan mallomar.).
The service experience is equally nice....featuring a courteous, sweet staff, and a noticable lack of religious pressure. (Reading material is available if you want to partake. But if you don't, that's fine too.) And here's the kicker - LLB works on the honor system. You eat and then you pay. Go ahead, we trust you. Wow, what a concept.
All in all., a breath of fresh air - and a surprising oasis from the high stress world of Wall Street. It's a good place to go, relax, and grab an affordable bite. That's an attractive combination - especially for jaded New Yorkers like me.
* Available in areas other than NYC, LLB also has locations in Bangor Maine and Portland, OR
** Okay, the pastries were extra. But still quite affordable.