Where We’re Eating: V Street, Tuk Tuk Real and Stock
126 S 18th Street
Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby aren’t the first restaurateurs to summon night-market memories with bare bulbs strung beneath a black ceiling. But the globetrotting vegans behind Vedge have uncorked an unusually pent-up desire for street snacks at this energetic offshoot of their stately mother ship.
But eat here and you can feel how long the pressure’s been building to yank every taco and noodle bowl into the meat-and-dairy-free realm.
Crunchy gochujang tempeh tacos bump up against fairground rounds of Hungarian fried dough smeared with sauerkraut rémoulade and smoked beets. Next up, a char-grilled hummus flatbread sharpened with za’atar pickles.
It’s a bumpy ride in the best sense, each little jolt sharpening your attention for the next. But it’s the cocktails that depart most memorably from the beaten path, most notably in the Colonel Mustard, which mixes gin with cocchi and mustard for a sunshine yellow suggestion of the best sweet pickle you ever drank.
Now that’s my kind of bazaar. –Trey Popp
Tuk Tuk Real
429 South Street
On the lime-green wall of Alex Boonphaya and Silvestre Rincon’s “Thai taqueria” is a slapdash mural depicting two men grinning like bandits as they barrel past a hapless pedestrian in a classic Bangkok auto-rickshaw. I don’t know whether the speeding duo is meant to represent the chef/ partners—who first cooked together at Boonphaya’s Circles Thai—but dinner here left me feeling like the guy eating their dust.
The sprawling Mexican menu is trimmed everywhere with Thai script, but you could order a hefty spread here and barely get a whiff of Bangkok. That doesn’t really hurt the straight-ahead mahimahi taco, but when you can’t taste any Thai basil on a pork krapow taco (garnished with a single deep-fried leaf), and the lemongrass in a carnitas sope eludes detection, you wonder what’s going on.
The aromatic lamb massaman curry piled on some killer nachos inspired hope. But that was dashed by the abundant gristle on lamb ribs and a cloying pumpkin verde curry that evoked a hippie potluck more than Circles’ solid Thai fare. –T.P.
• Not Recommended
308 East Girard Avenue
The smell of broth hits you immediately at Stock. Cilantro, lemongrass and other spices tickle your nose, and in case the name didn’t already give it away, the dampness in the air and the pots simmering on their hot plates make it clear—soup is the way to go at Stock.
The ingredients at this Fishtown spot are a clear step up in quality from those at other pho shops around Philadelphia. The thinly sliced grass-fed beef perched on top of the pho is ready for submersion in the hearty broth. The vegetarian tom som is even more flavorful— the maitake and shiitake mushroom broth joined by coconut milk, crushed peanuts and the heat of Thai chilies. On the night I was there, pieces of coconut and pineapple added to the complexity of flavor. The dish can remain vegan (with tofu) for those of you who swing that way, or can be accessorized with organic chicken.
However you go, start with the hamachi with blood orange, and if it’s the weekend, convince your dining partner to split a banh mi, because the ones here are as good as any you’ll find in the city. —Arthur Etchells