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2 Vegan Eateries You MUST Visit in Upstate, NY

2 Vegan Eateries You MUST Visit in Upstate, NY

| On 18, Jul 2013

Let’s go way back for a minute… to a time before Will Travel For Vegan Food had officially hit the road. A time when I was between Boston life and Van Dwelling life, hangin’ with my folks in Upstate, NY in order to prep for road trip departure – August, 2011.

Actually.. hold on a sec. Before we get started I feel the need to clarify what “Upstate, NY” means since so many people I meet assume that Upstate refers to anything outside of New York City and Long Island. :) To clarify, when I say Upstate I’m referring to the Capital Region which includes places like Troy, Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer, Saratoga, and the immediate areas within. My definition of Upstate does NOT include Central New York (Syracuse, Cortland, Utica, Ithaca, Oswego, Cazenovia, etc.), or the Adirondacks or Finger Lakes (northern), or the Binghamton (southern) or Rochester or Buffalo (western) regions.

Are we good? You still with me?

Hey, listen – we can argue about what constitutes “Upstate” later but for now, let’s get to the good stuff. FEHRD!

Lil’ Buddha Tea Company & Cafe

274 Lark St.
Albany, NY 12210

When I’m visiting the parental units I don’t get to Lil’ Buddha as often as I’d like (it’s a 45 minute – or so – drive from their house). But whenever I stop in for a fresh juice or filling wrap I’m reminded why I consider this place a hidden gem tucked along one of the most popular streets in the city.

Lil' Buddha Tea - Albany, NYLil' Buddha Tea - Albany, NY

Set inside a cozy, garden level space with layered, vibrant colors and patterned throws, offset by exposed brick, wooden beams, and a chill vibe, walking into Lil’ Buddha is reminiscent of a warm bear hug from a long lost friend.

Opened in the summer of 2010, Lil’ Buddha specializes in gourmet teas (they stock over 50 different kinds), bubble tea, raw juice, organic coffee, healthful smoothies, and organic vegan noms.

Lil' Buddha Tea - Albany, NY

Honest to goodness, they’ve got some of the best freshly pressed juice in the US. I’m not exaggerating.. seriously, they really know how to balance that “green” taste with the sweetness so that you benefit from the healthfulness of fresh juice without the grass clippings taste (unless you want that taste. In which case you should order a straight up wheatgrass shot. SIDE NOTE: I like taking a lemon and cayenne “shooter” after a wheatgrass shot to chase the bitterness. Try it. It’s fun!). You can also create your own juices, with the ingredients they offer. Even if you pick the most unusual combos they somehow make it taste awesome.

Lil' Buddha Tea - Albany, NYLil' Buddha Tea - Albany, NY

I love their wraps too. One of the first times I had the pleasure of noshing on a Lil’ Buddha wrap I was just coming off of my first-ever juice cleanse (six days!). I could only finish a quarter of the whole wrap because the stom wasn’t used to whole foods and presumably had shrunk a little or something. Regardless, the wrap was amazing and … okay… now I’m salivating.

Here, look at this photo while I mop up my drool. Gross.

Lil' Buddha Tea - Albany, NYBAM!
Lil' Buddha Tea - Albany, NY

Just before leaving Lil’ Buddha one day, I noticed the bicycle used to deliver vegan baked goods throughout the city. Which brings me to…

Lil' Buddha - Albany, NY

X’s to O’s Vegan Bakery

97 4th St.
Troy, NY 12180

Founder, Sarah Preston has been a long-time vegan activist within Upstate NY. So, in the summer of 2009, when she announced that she’d opened an all-vegan bakery in the heart of Troy you can imagine the excitement it created with all us fanatically, sweet-toothie driven vegans.

We’z be chillin.’

X's to O's Vegan Bakery - Troy, NY

Arguably the very first 100% vegan establishment to open in the Capital Region, X’s to O’s Vegan Bakery has since evolved into much more than just a bakery. They serve brunch every other Saturday, have a small cooler with to-go sandwiches and snacks, and other packaged vegan goodies, and they keep healthy living, animal rights, and plant-based literature throughout the shop that you can read over, and take with you, while noshing on their treats.

X's to O's Vegan Bakery - Troy, NYX's to O's Vegan Bakery - Troy, NY X's to O's Vegan Bakery - Troy, NYX's to O's Vegan Bakery - Troy, NY X's to O's Vegan Bakery - Troy, NY

More cool stuff about X’s to O’s Vegan Bakery: “We bake in small loving batches. Full cakes are made upon request and we donate any leftover items to local shelters. We offer green discounts for bringing your own container or mug, reward cards, and day-old discounts or freebies. We believe smaller is better. We offer a smaller selection so we don’t have to throw items away. Most bakeries throw away the majority of their stock DAILY (5% of food waste in the US would feed 4 million people). Smaller is more sustainable and fresh. We also keep a small stock because we make EVERYTHING from scratch and that takes more time and love. [Also], many of our local wholesale orders are delivered by bicycle or public transportation through Capital Carfree Compost & Cargo.”

X's to O's Vegan Bakery - Troy, NYX's to O's Vegan Bakery - Troy, NYX's to O's Vegan Bakery - Troy, NY X's to O's Vegan Bakery - Troy, NY X's to O's Vegan Bakery - Troy, NY

Does the following pic look familiar? You might have seen a tinier version of it at the close of any guest posts I’ve written – or at the end of some more personal posts I’ve written for you before. Yep, it was taken at X’s to O’s, about a month before I embarked on the road trip (nearly two years ago!) D’awwww, memories! :)

X's to O's Vegan Bakery - Troy, NY

If you find yourself in Upstate sometime there are few other vegan-friendly places worth checking out. Yeah, I know I said I’d write about just 2 places, but hey, I’ve never been very good at math.

Bomber’s Burrito Bar (just down the street from Lil’ Buddha) has some excellent vegan burritos and appetizers. There is a Loving Hut in Delmar, NY. New World Bistro and My Linh (Vietnamese) each have a few vegan numbers; plus you can pick up some classically greasy pizza from Little Anthony’s (all three are located in Albany).

That about does it for this piece.

Eat well and travel often, my friends!



  1. As soon as I saw the title of this post, I thought “OMG, is Bomber’s Burrito Bar on here?!” You read my mind, girl. I’m not from upstate–or even NY in general–but have been living around NYC about five years now, and a handful of friends went to college up there. Have heard amazing things about the burritos and the giant birthday margaritas.

    Also, the size of those vegan cookies in front of you? Oh. Em. GEE.

    • Kristin

      Haha.. great to hear from you, Claire! Love your site, btw. … I know, right?! Dang, those cookehz! ;)

    • D LaDuke

      Bombers is awesome also Strong Hearts in Syracuse does a Fri nite vegan pizza that is awesome

  2. ted

    loving cafe isn’t like a loving hut at all. tons of raw food, everything made from scratch — right down to the pickles they serve on the side. best vegan in the cap district, IMO.

    if x’s to o’s didn’t use sugar that was so granulated the frosting crunched, i would love them. but i can’t get past that crunchy frosting thing. their cookies and blondies and such are great, though.

    and as for upstate, well, seeing as i grew up in the capital district, those of us who live(d) there only consider lake george and above “upstate.” funny how it means something different depending on where you live.

    • Kristin

      Hi Ted,

      Thanks so much for your note. I actually haven’t visited the Loving Hut/Cafe in Delmar yet, I’ve only heard about it through the vegan network in the area (primarily, my parents). But I have heard the rumors that it’s got quite a neat selection! Guess I’ll have to go check it out now! :)

      Haha, I hear ya! I have an aunt and cousins who live in Long Island so I grew up hearing them call the Albany/Troy area, “upstate” and so I guess it stuck with me. :) But technically almost any part of NY could be considered upstate, if you live anywhere that’s southern-ish. Eh, dunno. Haha :)

  3. Wow! Your photos are making my little vegan mouth drool! I am afraid that these lovely places are a bit far from NYC where I will be visiting in next month. I will however put them on my list of vegan eateries to visit in the future! Thanks for sharing.

    • Kristin

      Thanks, Kayle! We’ll have to make a special trip and go visit my parents and stuff, sometime. :)

  4. Erin

    Thanks for this! I used to live in Rensselaer County and still have friends in the area, so I’m definitely checking these two places out! By the way, I’m from Westchester and our definition of “upstate” is anything north of Duchess County. :P I agree that counties in western NY definitely do not count!

    • Kristin

      Haha.. thanks so much, Erin! You’ll have to let me know what you think of these places when you visit. :) xo

  5. xrodolfox

    I *love* X’s to O’s. So good.
    I grew up in Troy, and when I come back to visit the area, that’s the first and last stop on our trip. The kids love it. My partner and I love it. I wish this was open when I was a kid in Troy so I could’ve filled up on their good food when I was just figuring out my way in the world.

    On that note: Little Anthony’s is AMAZING. I celebrated my birthday there on that same visit to the Capitol District, and it was well worth it. That was some of the best food I’ve ever ever had. We went all out and got vegan stromboli, pizza, pasta, deserts and more. That was the best birthday meal I’ve had since I went vegan over half my life ago.

    I am so impressed by the great vegan food in upstate NY. Often, I wish I was back there just so I could eat at those two wonderful places.

    • Kristin

      Aww, what a lovely comment! :) Where are you now? Is there much in the way of vegan food nearby?

  6. Sounds like you had a great visit to Cap Region vegan/friendly restaurants! You can add ours to that list – we serve Vegans/Vegetarians and Carnivores Breakfast, Lunches, Loaves & Baked Goods with the freshest, cleanest, local ingredients around!

  7. Jeff S

    I hafta drive to Lowville (1 hour straight-up north from Utica) in September. I’m sure that would meet anybody’s version of ‘upstate’ ;) Anyhow I hope I can get my friends to stop in Troy other than the brewpub so I can get me some X or O goodness. Oh and I’m glad to see you food-writing-up-ness again. :) x’s and o’s – Jeff

    • Kristin

      Haha.. good luck with your stop in Troy, Jeff! I’m all for sugar comas!! And thank you.. I’m glad to be back. :)

  8. Thank you for writing this post! I live in Troy, so of course I know about X’s to O’s, but I had no idea that Lil Buddha was anything more than a tea shop. I’ll definitely have to stop in the next time I’m over on Lark St!

    • Kristin

      Hi Crystal,

      Awesome! Yes, you’ll have to try one of Lil’ Buddha’s juices. So good!! :) Enjoy!! xo

  9. Peggy Wilkins

    Living in the Lower Hudson Valley, “Upstate” is anything above the Tappan Zee Bridge

  10. Thank you so much for all of your reviews!! When we get back to Canada,from travelling, we are planning on doing a huge road trip across America. We have written down a lot of places and your blog will guide us to even more. Thank you!!!

    • Kristin

      Thanks for the kind note, guys!! I’m looking forward to seeing your travels come together! :) xo

  11. Kristina

    I am so happy that i stumbled across this! I live in upstate New York about 30-45 minutes from albany but travel there quite often. I recently just discovered lil’ buddha and loved it! The smoothies are wonderful. I am so excited to try the other places as well. Thanks!

    • Kristin

      Thanks, Kristina! Yes!!! I’m from just outside of Troy.. we’re neighbors (or, were at one point perhaps). :) My family still live nearby. :) xo

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