When it comes to vegan food, people often turn up their noses at the notion of eating something completely devoid of meat and dairy. But Philadelphia’s Blackbird Pizzeria is looking to change veganism’s misconstrued reputation by paying homage to the city’s most notable sandwich: the cheesesteak.
“I think the major misconception is that vegan food is bland or unfulfilling,” says chef and co-owner Mark Mebus. “That is really what we have kind of set out to change. We try to make things as flavorful as possible and really produce those nostalgic, comfort flavors.”
Blackbird Pizzeria’s take on the cheesesteak gets its hearty, meaty flavor from seared seitan, which is cooked down with a splattering of garlic sauce and rosemary. Once grilled, hunks of seitan are loaded into a crusty hoagie, then finished off with a hefty pouring of house-made cheese whiz and griddled onions. If you didn’t know better, you could easily mistake Blackbird’s version for one from Geno’s Steaks.
For Mebus, the inclusion of the Philly cheesesteak was obvious, even during the original conception for the restaurant. “It’s something that many people growing up in Philadelphia eat very regularly,” he explains. “It was really the No. 1 item. If we were going to do sandwiches at all, then a cheesesteak was the first one that was going to go on the menu.”
Watch the video above for a better look at just how a vegan cheesesteak gets made, then get your ass down to Blackbird and taste it for yourself.