We Went on a Vegan Eating Spree in Philly, and These Were Our Favorite Dishes
Philly's vegan scene is rockin' these days. We've rounded up some of the best casual bites that are meat- and dairy-free.
There was a time in Philly, not too long ago, that going out to eat as a vegan was boring at best and frustrating at worst. I don’t care how much you like salads — no one wants to eat dressing-less greens all the time. But now the city’s in the midst of a vegan swing, and there’s no shortage of options when it comes to dining. In fact, we can prove it to you: We went out and sampled a bunch of different casual vegan options (we’re not talking Vedge small plates here) in the Philly area — and found a lot to like.
Vegan Cheese Plate at Martha
Craig LaBan over at the Inquirer is right: The vegan cheese that Kensington gastropub Martha is serving as a special right now is superb. The cashew and coconut milk concoction, which is made by Philly-based Conscious Cultures Creamery, looks like brie and tastes just as soft and creamy — none of this bland Daiya nonsense. Pair it with Forest & Main Brewing Co.‘s Way of the Swan saison; our bartender said the peppery notes complement the tang of the cheese substitute well, and we couldn’t agree more.
Chik’n & Waffles at Bourbon & Branch
Northern Liberties watering hole Bourbon & Branch has elevated itself past its status as a whiskey bar with a bunch of seriously delicious vegan options, including the vegan chik’n parm and vegan chik’n and waffles. Our waiter said folks come from all over to try the latter, and it delivered. The chik’n is tender and boasts a bit of a kick and the blueberries and blueberry maple syrup on top provide a sweet note that’s a killer contrast. I’m not a fan of jalapeños, so I skipped the candied peppers on top, but I bet those add even more spice to a dish worth going back for.
Chao Sushi at Tomo Sushi & Ramen
The fact that the primary ingredients in most sushi are fish and cream cheese makes it tough to imagine a vegan roll that lives up to the real thing. But we’ve found one: the Chao at Old City’s Tomo & Sushi & Ramen. It’s a simple mix of shiitake mushrooms, vegan creem cheese, and avocado, but the pièce de resistance is the seared vegan chao cheese on top, a fermented tofu that’s got a zing to it. I don’t think the chao really tastes like cheese, but the savory combination of that and the shiitake had us ready to order another platter ASAP.
Hummus at Dizengoff
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Q: Is there a better lunch than lapping up some silky hummus with a warm, doughy pita and some fresh cucumber salad? A: No sirree. The offerings change so much here that we’re reluctant to recommend one in particular (and make sure to ask which ones are vegan, as not all of them are), but the beet is a good bet.
Pizza at 20th Street Pizza
Mark Mebus is one of Philly’s original vegan entrepreneurs, and he just keeps iterating better versions of what it means to live a meat-free, dairy-free life. To wit: Rittenhouse’s 20th Street Pizza churns out innovative slices with thin but memorable crust and all the local seasonal vegetables. Again, the options are always rotating here, so you never know what you’re going to get. Any slice with mushrooms, though, is sure to get your taste buds dancing.
Crispy HipCity Ranch at HipCityVeg
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Your call on whether this beats the viral Popeyes chicken sandwich in a face-off — but we say it at least goes toe-to-toe with the Wendy’s version. You just can’t go wrong with the balanced flavors of chik’n, lettuce, tomato, pickle, and peppercorn ranch. But you can go even more right if you add buffalo sauce, avocado, and a side of sweet potato fries.
Milkshakes at Goldie
We know you know about the tehina milkshakes at this falafel shop already, but we couldn’t resist including them because they’re just so mouthwatering (and, spicy take, are way better than the sandwiches or fries). We could legitimately eat the mint chocolate chip shake as an entire meal.
Soft Serve at Batter & Crumbs
Ice cream is, I think, one of the most difficult things to recreate without dairy. But new Point Breeze bakery Batter & Crumbs gives a valiant effort with its coconut-based soft serve. The coconut flavor is strong and constantly reminds you that you’re not digging into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, but the texture’s right on, the rotating flavors keep you on your toes, and the cones are ENORMOUS.