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Food: Best Vegetarian

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Eating vegetarian in New York involves making a choice not only among restaurants but among genres -- whether to go the "crunchy," mostly East Village route or to follow the ethnic path. The main complaint with the former is that it's hard to find a place whose atmosphere matches its healthful principles. But our favorite in this category is Herban Kitchen (290 Hudson Street; 627-2257). They serve exclusively organic food and are a good choice for people who don't want to feel like a pariah for wanting a glass of wine or, gasp, perhaps a piece of fish on occasion. The food comes beautifully prepared -- mixed-vegetable filos arrive with spring flowers -- and manages to avoid the usual pitfalls of overdoing the spice rack or not adding any flavor at all. With its soft lighting and great roster of tunes (Billie Holiday and Nina Simone the last time we were there), Herban Kitchen has the principles of organic eating down pat, without any of the attitude.


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