VegPhilly: The Guide to Healthy Eating in the City

Yellow Juice Bar's green juice || Photo via Instagram

Yellow Juice Bar’s green juice || Photo via Instagram

When it comes to lunch during the week, I have two major problems: I’m a creature of habit, and I’m easily bored.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that those things don’t mix well, and it’s led to some shameful lunchtime catastrophes. I’ve gotten sick of my week’s worth of make-ahead lunches after two days, went to the same falafel place four days in a row, and during one especially weird stretch in February, I ate hummus and Wheat Thins at my desk for a week straight.

Of course, I’d love to spend 45 minutes scrolling through Yelp in search of the perfect healthy lunch spot, but honestly, who has time for that? No one, that’s who.

So let me present to you the answer to all of your lunch-related woes: VegPhilly. It’s been around for about a year now, but I just found it last week. And I’m obsessed.

Here’s how it works.

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The Best Thing I Ever Ate in Philly: Vegan Edition

Cheesecake at Vedge // Photo via Facebook

Cheesecake at Vedge // Photo via Facebook

*Welcome to our new occasional feature, The Best Thing I Ever Ate in Philly. We’re on a mission to find the most delicious, indulgent restaurant dishes for every kind of dieter—whether you’re gluten-free, vegan, raw and more. We’re all about occasional splurges, and that’s what this series is all about. We’ll talk to foodies to find out their favorite eats, but feel free to add yours in the comments. Bon appétit!

Once you find your favorite restaurant dish, you never, ever forget it. And upon discovering the amazing creation you’ve stumbled upon, you’re usually tempted to tell anyone and everyone who will listen, because they simply canNOT miss the trip to mouth-heaven that your new favorite dish provides. But aside from posting a “Man, the Curry Tofu Wrap at HipCityVeg is bangin’!’” Facebook status, there’s not a whole lot you can do to get the word out on your favorite Philly restaurant dishes. And this is where our new series, The Best Thing I Ever Ate in Philly, comes in.

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Foobooz After Dark: Leigh Needham and Jeff Froehler at Vegan Commissary

Foobooz After Dark (Photography by Bethani Zeller)

Before I begin my story, I’d like to first confess something:

I never believed in vegan food. It always stood as this ridiculous symbol for a movement that tried too hard and failed to prove anything to the “real food” community. It added no substance, and subtracted even more, and in the end, there was always something left to be desired. It was a cuisine full of soul-sucking impostors, phonies and shams. So I gave up on it.

But the movement shifted. Places like HipCityVeg opened—that was my first reentrance to the cuisine. A few years ago, I took a bite of their fajita wrap and lost my mind. A few more trips back, and a visit to Vedge sealed the deal. These chefs weren’t aiming to convince anymore—they were showing off. Vegan options have grown in Philly since—all the way into South Philly, even. Which, admittedly, was expected given the gentrification eruption rolling there over the past decade. Now, on the corner of 11th and Morris, Steve Laurence’s Vegan Commissary exists, and the food coming out of that kitchen is as impressive as it gets in this city’s restaurant collection.

And so it begins: a look into our late, late night dinner, put together by a vegan chef, sharing knives with a steakhouse chef, both in a tiny little restaurant/commissary kitchen in South Philadelphia.

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HipCityVeg Debuts New Birthday Cake Vegan Milkshake

HipCityVeg's birthday cake milkshake.

HipCityVeg’s birthday cake milkshake.

Everyone’s favorite fast-casual vegan lunch spot, HipCityVeg, will celebrate its second birthday on April 16th, but they’ve started the festivities early with a just-released birthday cake milkshake—with sprinkles on top, natch.

I just downed one with my lunch (evidence, left), and, yes, it’s as good as you can imagine. It’s made with vanilla cake-batter vegan ice cream. It’s hard to tell in the photo but the sprinkles have just the tiiiniest bit of sparkle, which makes it all the more fun.

Pick one up—and wish your friends at Hip a happy early birthday!—at the Center City location. (University City might get it soon, so I’ll keep you posted.) UPDATE: I’m getting word that the shake is now available in University City, so have at it! The shake is $5 and will be available until the end of April.

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To Do: Vegan Beer Dinner and Live Music at World Cafe Live

Shutterstock

Shutterstock

It’s not often I get to write about a music venue—I leave that to our pals over at Ticket—so I’m jumping at the opportunity.

Philly’s World Cafe Live is hosting its first-ever, 100-percent-meat-free meal next month, where even the beer is vegan.

The Vegan Beer Dinner, to take place on Monday, April 28th, will include four courses (menu TBA) and five beers, along with live music from jazz singer Sara Street. From the event’s website:

“All food items will be 100% vegan, and all beers will be styles made without animal product, and coming from breweries who do not use any animal products in their fining process(no isinglass, gelatin, bone char, etc).  Confirmed beers include: Southern Tier Gemini, Founders Imperial Stout and Lancaster Hop Buggy.”

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Daily News Crowns Philly’s Best Vegan Cheesesteak

blackbird-vegan-cheesesteak-yotc-940

Vance Lehmkuhl has been compiling nominations for Philadelphia’s best vegan cheesesteak for the  Philadelphia Daily News. He received over 1,000 nominations for 23 Philadelphia area vegan cheesesteaks. From those nominations, Lehmkuhl wittled his field down to three finalists; Blackbird Pizzeria, Cantina Dos Segundos and Hibiscus Juice Bar.

Cantina Dos Segundos walked away with the people’s choice award for their vegan cheesesteak burrito. The spices seemed to push that one over the top. The “professional judges,” Jonathan Bagot (veganjawn.com), Takia McClendon (Uptown Soul Food), Frank Olivieri Jr. (Pat’s Steaks) and Christina Pirello (local author) went in a different direction. When all was said and done they had crowned Blackbird Pizzeria’s vegan cheesesteak as the city’s best.

And the best vegan cheesesteak in Philly is … [Philadelphia Daily News]
Blackbird Pizzeria
 [Foobooz]
@V4Veg [Twitter]

Year of the Cheesesteak [Foobooz]

To Do: Vegan Dinner with a Steakhouse Chef (Really!)

foobooz-after-dark-email-header

I don’t have enough thumbs to put up (you know, like thumbs up?) to convey how awesome I think the upcoming Foobooz After Dark event is. So you’ll have to accept my two measly thumbs, but envision many, many more.

The event, which our friends over at Foobooz are hosting (duh), is a one-night-only vegan dinner on Saturday, March 29th, with Barclay Prime chef Jeff Froehler, who will be manning the kitchen sans animal products at Passyunk Square’s new Vegan Commissary. So yes, a steakhouse chef cooking a meat-free dinner. Seriously, y’all: The Foobooz guys tell me this food will be phenomenal.

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Foobooz After Dark: Vegan Steakhouse

foobooz-after-dark-email-header

Philadelphia has its company of vegan darlings: Vedge, HipCityVeg, Grindcore House, Miss Rachel’s Pantry, Barclay Prime, Blackbird Pizzeria, Breezy’s Cafe. We love them because they never fail to impress. Being able to coax any semblance of umami out of nothing-from-an-animal is basically a magic trick, and these crews do it day-in and day-out. They’re the mind-blowers and the mind-changers, and they’ve diversified Philly’s dining scene so that it’s accessible to anyone: vegan, vegetarian, and not.

Wait, Barclay Prime?
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POLL: Should McDonald’s Go Vegan?

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Shutterstock

Calling all vegans: Do you really want to be able to eat a McDonald’s Big Mac? Best-selling vegan author Kathy Freston has created a petition on Change.org urging McDonald’s to add a plant-based sandwich option to their menu. And she’s not the only vegan celeb who wants to be able to hit the McDonald’s drive-thru: Folks like Alicia Silverstone, Russell Simmons and Ellen Degeneres have signed the petition, along with 91,000 other people.

The petition, titled “It’s Time For A Healthy, Meatless Option (Please!)”, argues that over one third of Americans already buy meat substitutes for both health and ethical reasons. So why wouldn’t McDonald’s listen to consumers and jump on the plant-based bandwagon? Just add a veggie burger to the menu and voila: There’s a little something for everyone.

Hmmm, if only it were that easy … »

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