Method actors stay in character even when they’re not on camera. Daniel Day-Lewis has a bunch of Oscars because he made the cast and crew of Lincoln refer to him as Mr. President for three months, and he learned how to trap animals and build canoes before filming The Last of the Mohicans. Regardless of the value of making a canoe before hopping in a helicopter to get to the next set location, we can’t argue with the results.
So when we checked out Modern Love, an entirely vegan restaurant in Williamsburg, did we take a page out of DDL’s playbook and avoid meat for a month? Of course not. But you also don’t need to be vegan to enjoy the food at Modern Love, a cool spot where dinner won’t feel like a compromise for anyone.
Modern Love’s name might make you think it’s the kind of place where servers say namaste as they bring you grain bowls, or that it’s a takeout spot that sells bags of ashwagandha for $13. That is not the case. It’s a modern space with high ceilings and industrial chandeliers, and we’ve had to wait for a table each time we’ve shown up without a reservation. Also, don’t come here expecting plates of micro greens on macro greens - the food here is as heavy as you’ll find at most comfort-food places around the city.
The menu is made up of vegan takes on classic comfort foods from around the world - they serve BBQ cauliflower wings and mac and cheese, but also stuff like arancini, fish and chips, and our favorite dish, the Caribbean jerk tofu. It comes with strips of spicy tofu, plantains, and coconut rice in a pool of curry, and whether you forage for ramps in the McCarren Park Farmer’s Market or you never pass up veal sweetbreads on any restaurant menu, you’re going to want to eat this.
That said, there are definitely a few places on the menu where it’s obvious there’s no butter or cheese. If you’re not used to bacon cheeseburgers that have bacon and cheese and burger, then you’ll probably enjoy the version here. We are used to those things, though, and we’d rather eat an actual bacon cheeseburger and a poutine with real gravy. Either way, we’d advise you commit to trying the more interesting items on the menu for best success.
Modern Love is a vegan restaurant, but that isn’t the selling point of this place. The selling point is that it’s a great place for a date or group dinner, where everyone will enjoy what happens to be vegan food. No method acting required.
The majority of the dish is half of an avocado, so yeah, you’re going to like this. It’s topped with some mashed tempeh, which gives it some crunch. We wish they’d go heavier on the house hot sauce, or actually, just let us hang on to the bottle.
Pieces of cauliflower covered in a five-spice barbecue sauce that kind of reminds you of General Tso’s. You don’t really taste the cauliflower, but that’s fine, because we’d put this sauce on pretty much anything.
Our server told us that this is the most popular dish here, which confirms our hypothesis that everyone wants gravy and fried stuff. However, the huge portion of fries is overloaded with salt, and the ricotta doesn’t mix well with the liquidy gravy. We’d go with just about any other appetizer instead.
Despite being topped with creamy cashew cheese, this burger (pinto beans, soy, and wheat) is pretty dry. In case you’re looking to cut back on your bacon intake, know that tempeh is not a satisfying alternative.
The mac and (cashew) cheese tastes like what would happen if you used water instead of milk or only half the cheese packet when making a box of Kraft. It’s lighter than any other mac and cheese you’ll eat, but we’d order it again solely for all the stuff that comes on top - slabs of cornmeal-crusted tofu, which somehow taste like mozzarella sticks, and blackened cauliflower, and spicy pecans.
This big portion of Caribbean-flavored tofu skin, curry, and coconut rice is our favorite thing here. The pool of curry has some spice, and the sweet plantains and rum-soaked raisins give this dish a ton of flavor. This needs to be on your table.