Image via Smile of the Beyond
Smile of the Beyond is one of NYC’s best kept culinary secrets. Tucked away deep in eastern Queens, this vegan-friendly eatery has been serving local residents for a whopping 42 years. It has remained largely “untapped” due to its less accessible locale in Briarwood. Yet where else in the city can you be served in a deliberately peaceful atmosphere by the disciples of a legendary spiritual teacher? The answer is nowhere, in NYC at least. We’ll give you scoop on this unique eating spot as well as its unique staff, who also offer a free intro meditation course with your meal.
Smile of the Beyond is a restaurant on 86-14 Parsons Boulevard that also doubles a meditation center. It was created in 1972 by the students of an Indian spiritual master named Sri Chinmoy, who moved to Queens from India in 1964. Chinmoy lived only a half mile away from the restaurant all the way up until his death in 2007. The food itself is moderately priced and can best be described as a kind of Eastern spiritual spin-off of the classic American luncheonette.
The most notable feature of their menu is obviously their variety of vegetarian and vegan friendly selections. On their breakfast menu alone, Smile of the Beyond offers tofu scramble along with omelets consisting of Gouda cheese and chunks of tofu sausage. For lunch, you can fill up on a Turkey Avacado Wrap (soy turkey that is) as well as a steak burger consisting of soy fripat.
There are also loads of tasty beverages including Smile’s Custom Aribica Coffee. The best part about the food at Smile of the Beyond too are the prices, which are closer to a luncheonette than any other vegan-friendly cuisine you would be able to find in NYC. Their special blend of Aribica Coffee alone is only $2 and includes unlimited refills.
As opposed to nearly every other restaurant in the city, you can expect the servers at Smile of the Beyond to be especially patient while taking your order, which is no surprise considering that your server also happens to be a student of eastern spiritualism. The free introductory meditation course they offer is intrinsically tied to their association with Sri Chinmoy, whose spiritual exploits had stretched much further in his lifetime than a small vegan eatery in Queens.
Sri Chinmoy is a fascinating spiritual master who has left an indelible mark on Eastern spiritualism in America. He chose to move the U.S. after following a “message from within” and had a total of 7,000 disciples during his lifetime. He advised Olympic Gold-medalist Carl Lewis to meditate and also focused on the link between physical health and spiritual wellness. His followers’ dedication to exercise was even parodied in the title of an article about the group in Outside magazine called “Bless You, Sir, May I Jog Another?”
Sri Chinmoy also composed thousands of poems and musical compositions and, in addition to Smile of the Beyond, inspired many of his followers to open similar vegan luncheonettes around the country. In the New York Times, Mark Oppenheimer visits the Chinmoy-associated Silence-Heart-Nest in Seattle and talks to Pradhan Balter, an ex-chiropractor who was inspired by Chinmoy to open Victory’s Banner in Chicago.
If you plan on visiting Smile of the Beyond though, make sure to come extra early. The luncheonette caters to brunch and is only open until 3:00 pm. But no matter what time you choose to enjoy the food of Smile of the Beyond, it is best to remember the words of Chinmoy himself when he wrote “I love the present moment, Now, More than I love Anything.”
To talk tofu and transcendentalism, contact the author @DouglasCapraro