6 at Bleecker St.; F, V at Lower East Side-Second Ave.
American Express, MasterCard, Visa
Delancey St. to 14th St., Ave. C to Sixth Ave.
Atlas Cafe is a Moroccan bazaar of vegan and vegetarian (and non-vegetarian) fare. Its eight colorful tile-and-wrought-iron tables fill all but a pathway to the tiny cafe's cash register; behind that, close-quartered cooks sing along with the persistent soundtrack of classic and Top 40 Middle Eastern tunes. Chalkboards and mirrors hanging from the exposed brick walls reveal a lengthy menu of coffees and fruit shakes, crepes, wraps, panini and sandwiches, as well as heartier couscous and pastas. The couscous with merguez is especially fine; the sausage is redolent with aromatic spices. Sandwich-style items are generously packed with vegetables, tofu or dairy-based cheeses, smoked fish, and faux or real meats, often in creative combinations. An especially fine Tunisian tuna sandwich on whole wheat contains an earthy-tart combination of tomato, roasted peppers, olives, and hard-boiled eggs. The incongruously named Mississippi Chicken Chops Baguette puts bouillon-flavored seitan chicken with a tangy, creamy tofu spread, roasted red peppers and ripe avocado. Kalamata olive-spiked Mediterranean crepes taste strangely but deliciously like the pizza of a vegetable-lover's dream. Such well-prepared, healthy and affordable grub draws a constant stream of regulars into the bohemian nook—a motley mix of NYU co-eds, track bike-riding punk rockers, and neighborhood vets. Don't leave without trying a brownie or slice of cake from Vegan Treats bakery of Bethlehem, PA. They put the butter-and-eggs class of desserts to shame.