September 19, 2017
The vegan food scene in Philly is booming.
From Goldie, drawing lines out the door since its opening in April, to Whiz Kid, the highly anticipated fast-casual spot from the founders of Vedge, to Dottie’s Donuts, debuting its second location just over a week ago, new dairy-free, meat-free spots are continuously emerging. And so are a ton of tasty eats, many of which are garnering not only a vegan fan club but an omnivore one, too.
All across the city, find veganized items like cheesesteaks, buffalo wings and korean-style tacos that are doubtful to leave you asking, “Where’s the meat?”
We’ve rounded up a few of the top savory dishes to try, along with a selection of sweet treats so decadent, you’d never guess they’re vegan.
While not a meat-free establishment, Triangle Tavern’s menu is loaded with items like vegan meatballs, vegan roast beef sandwiches and other Italian-inspired, elevated bar food dishes. Yet, it’s the seitan wings that continuously draw patrons citywide to the South Philly institution (dating back to 1933). Covered in a copious amount of spicy buffalo sauce, the thick and salty wings come served with a classic side of celery and vegan ranch. Enjoy as an ultimate late-night, gameday or beer-paired snack.
Undoubtedly known as one of the top spots to grab a slice of pizza among the vegan community, Blackbird Pizzeria also offers a solid sandwich menu. It’s here where you might arguably find items more likely to woo the meat-eaters in the crowd than anything else, especially when it comes to the eatery’s cubano. The traditional cubano combo of ham, cheese, mustard and pickles gets swapped for a flavor-heavy layering of smoked tofu, seitan pepperoni and bacon, pickles, a grain mustard aioli, smoked shallots and a melted vegan cheese. Get the meaty (although entirely meat-free) sandwich with a side of “cheese” fries for an indulgence worth making.
For a quick vegan lunch on-the-run, head to HipCityVeg, where you can skip the step of browsing the menu and go straight for the HipCity Ranch. The battered chick’n sandwich not only looks like the chicken counterpart you’d find at a typical fast food joint, but it tastes astoundingly similar to the real deal, too. The patty is piled onto a whole wheat bun with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and peppercorn ranch. Keep it as is or add a little spice by ordering it buffalo-style.
Goldie, the all-vegan falafel shop of esteemed duo Michael Solomonov and Steve Cook, is known to attract a lunchtime crowd that often spills down the sidewalks outside of its Sansom Street location. One of the most notable items on the menu is the tehina milkshake, extra creamy and thick with subtle hints of nuttiness from the sesame seed paste that’s added to its soy-almond base. The milkshakes come in a variety of flavors, including the must-try Turkish Coffee, topped with a hazelnut halva, the perfect crunchy complement to the rich, mocha-flavored shake.
Vedge owners Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby have longtime been at the forefront of Philly’s vegan scene, elevating the cuisine to a fine dining level that’s reaped them awards from across the country. At Vedge, the menu ranges from caper-topped portobello carpaccio to meticulously crafted wood fired carrots, but it’s the comforting, almost homey rutabaga fondue that simply can’t be passed up. The creamy, “cheesy” sauce is so addicting you could eat it with a spoon -- although its pairing of a soft pretzel is a match made in food heaven and certainly the best way to sop it all up.
At V-Street, Landau and Jacoby of Vedge (see above) create creative, vegan street-food-style dishes inspired from countries around the world. Since the restaurant’s opening, the Korean fried tempeh tacos have remained a staple on the menu, and for good reason. Strips of crispy-on-the-outside and tender-on-the-inside tempeh get wrapped in warm corn tortillas and topped with a creamy sriracha thousand island dressing, known to drip down your hand with every bite. Radish kimchee seals the deal adding an extra crunch on top along with a handful of chopped tomatoes. Pair it with one of V-Street’s specialty cocktails and you can’t go wrong.
Wiz Kid is husband-and-wife-team Landau and Jacoby’s newest concept. The fast-casual restaurant whips up one killer cheesesteak, playing off of a pairing of chewy seitan and mushrooms to create the sandwich’s hearty base. The combo gets topped with fried onions and pickled peppers along with a rich and creamy rutabaga “wiz.” If you want classic Philly in vegan form, this is it.
When asked for appetizer suggestions, the waitstaff at Fishtown’s trendy Front Street Cafe don’t hesitate to dive into details about the restaurant’s most popular first course, the buffalo cauliflower. The perfectly crisped bites are given a mildly spicy and salty buffalo coating and are served over a vegan cucumber-dill dressing that tastes nearly identical to ranch. While the portion size is sizable, if there’s more than three in your party, don’t blink on ordering more than one for the table.
Serving up vegan donuts in West Philly and now in a new Queen Village locale, Dottie’s Donuts provide the perfect dairy-free compliment to a morning cup of coffee. With flavors like chocolate peanut butter oreo and rosewater pistachio, it’s hard to choose what to order. Yet, don’t sleep on the apple fritter. The non-donut option is perfectly crispy on the outside with a fluffy interior and sweet outer glaze -- all of which make the treat a quick-to-sell-out menu item.
Creative cocktails meet vegan-style small plates at Midtown Village’s Charlie was a sinner. While the menu lends itself to trying a handful of items, don’t skip out on the gnocchi. The pillowy, bite-sized packages of potato goodness come lightly lathered with a smoked tomato butter and served with a mix of peas and sweet onion. Ask your server for the best drink pairing.