One of the coolest things about the Philly Gayborhood is the fact that it is infused with so many other “straight” businesses, so to speak. Sure, we have a ton of gay bars, but there are also great eateries that cater to anyone who wants a fantastic cocktail and a delicious bite to eat. We rounded up our picks of five great places in the Gayborhood to grab happy hour that aren’t gay bars, but given their proximity in the ‘hood, you’ll be joined by plenty of great company as you wash down some tasty nibbles with a cocktail or two.
Vedge fans can get a more casual, globe-trotting taste of Rich Landau’s culinary magic at this affordable Rittenhouse Square ode to international street foods, which just happens to also be vegan. From Hungarian fritters to Latin-inspired carrot “asado,” borders melt away on these small plates, thanks to Landau’s inventive vision and uniquely wide-ranging command of bold ethnic flavors. The long and minimalist three-room space is an intimate and cozy haven to graze, watch chefs work the grill at the back kitchen counter, or sip an excellent cocktail at the airy front bar while 19th Street strolls by.
Three Bells – Excellent
The very first time I sat down at Rich Landau‘s bar, I wanted to know when the place was going to be open for lunch. So much more casual and approachable than Vedge, it just seemed like the kind of place that would be perfect for a long lunch, a couple cocktails, and a few little fried (vegan) snacks from the kitchen. I asked Landau if there were plans for lunch. He said yeah, but not, you know, soon (because the place had pretty much just opened). But starting on Thursday of this week, my wish will come true and V Street will begin serving lunch from 11:30-2pm, Monday through Friday.
And, of course, we have a menu.
Three months. That’s about how long it takes us to eat at every important restaurant in the city. And then eat there again. And, sometimes, again.
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Times of London restaurant critic Giles Coren was in Philadelphia this spring filming his TV show Million Dollar Critic for Canada’s WNetwork. The show visited five Philadelphia restaurants in order for Coren to bestow one of them with his million dollar recommendation (because the review could be worth more than a million dollars in business).
Kanella is the sort of place I wish I could review every week: a buzzing local taverna on a lively city corner, people of all ages and ethnicities sitting at outside tables, simply decorated inside, full of laughter, friends and family, and charming staff serving a cuisine rooted deeply in a foreign culture rather than just ripping it off, with a deadly serious chef at the helm.
A few months ago, when we asked a bunch of local vegans to dish on the most drool-worthy vegan foods they’d ever had in Philly, a big chunk of them named concoctions made by the well-known vegan chef Rich Landau. Listing off everything from the grilled seitan and vegan cheesecake at Vedge to the barbecue seitan “wings” at the now closed Horizons, these Philly folks made it clear that Landau is quite the vegan-cooking mastermind. So, it’s surprising to hear that the chef actually shies away from the word “vegan” when it comes to describing the food at his Rittenhouse restaurant, Vedge.
Today, OpenTable revealed its Top 100 restaurants “fit for foodies” in America. The list was determined by OpenTable’s analysis of more than five million reviews of more than 20,000 restaurants across the country. The list includes twelve restaurants from Philadelphia, the second most restaurants from one city, only Portland, Oregon had more.
The list includes a high concentration of restaurants from California, Oregon and Pennsylvania but not as many from traditional restaurant cities like Chicago (five restaurants), Los Angeles (five), New York (four) and San Francisco (one).
Consider the radish…
When I reviewed Vedge two-and-a-half years ago, that was my opening line. Sometimes I wonder how many people stopped reading after the third word. But I don’t regret it. Plenty of things on Rich Landau’s menu sounded more appetizing, but the black slate bearing his “fancy radishes” was a dish that changed my whole way of thinking—not only about that lowly stepchild of the brassicas, but about vegan cooking altogether.
Five varieties came five ways, from roasted to half-roasted to raw, with an artful precision and a cup of smoked tamari soy sauce that boldly begged comparison with top-shelf sashimi. It was a definitive dish: the last word on an ingredient nobody else was really even offering a first word about. So if anything was bound to stay on Vedge’s menu, it was the radishes. As an emblem of Landau and Kate Jacoby’s galvanizing approach to vegetables, it was too perfect to replace.
Yet not too perfect to improve upon, as I discovered on a recent, belated return to a restaurant that I’ve spent the last two years sending people to.
First off, let me say this: I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to portraying Philly as a mecca for twig-and-berry eaters.
Like just about every other food writer out there, I was won over the very first time I stepped into Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby’s Vedge in Midtown Village. After years of sharkishly eating my way through several major American cities as an itinerant restaurant critic, I’d formed some pretty strong opinions about the depth and limits of vegan cuisine, and all of them were burned away the minute I tasted Vedge’s sweet potato pâté.
This, I thought, is what every vegan restaurant in America should be aiming for. This is a cuisine to be proud of.
Immediately I began telling people about it. Loudly and repeatedly. I brought people to Vedge specifically so I could share the weird sideways joy of finding a groundbreaking and totally unexpected version of something you were pretty sure you were going to hate going in.
And it wasn’t just Vedge. It was the bloody beet steak at the Farm and Fisherman. It was the daily lines outside HipCityVeg, and the vegetarian prix fixe at Le Bec-Fin (which, as things turned out, didn’t go so well), and the sudden explosion of plants on so many menus around town. It was the fact that here, of all places, genius vegetable cookery had become the direct heir of the farm-to-table movement, offering the city’s best chefs a whole new range of flavors and textures to play with. After all, if the people of the city appeared willing to eat turnips and roasted brussels sprouts, someone had to charge them for it.
Last night it snowed. Today the wind howled and you had to wonder if this winter would ever just give up. But Twitter is abuzz with photos and tweets that proved spring is indeed here. Local chefs are tweeting up a storm of the ramps they’ve foraged and already gotten onto their menus.