This Deli Is Making Vegan Takes on NYC Classics
Washington Square West
If you made a shortlist for best vegetarian restaurants in the country, Vedge would certainly be included and would more than likely take top honors. The vegan food from chef Rich Landau and pastry chef Allison Ford is the 1975 Philadelphia Flyers of vegan eats. It’s that good. Like, good enough to make you never think about eating another piece of meat again. Which would only be possible if money grew on trees, as Vedge is a little bit pricey for everyday dining. Then again, if money did grow on trees, it would probably wind up on the menu at Vedge, and it would be transformative.
When you're the city's only all-vegan pizzeria, the bar -- for better or worse -- is set pretty low. And yet, the folks at Blackbird Pizza have upped the vegan pizza game to a point where we’re not sure if it’s really worth anyone else trying. Aside from having multiple pizza options, Blackbird is also serving takeout staples like chicken parm and wings (!) -- like, real takeout food, only vegetarian. These guys are onto something.
While the menu is a bit small at Mama’s, the kosher Middle Eastern restaurant just off the square, it does everything almost to perfection. Here, you can’t go wrong with anything involving the falafel -- in a platter, pita, straight to the mouth. Yep, the falafel is prettay, prettay good (*Larry David voice*).
Meet Bar Bombón, the newest addition to chef Nicole Marquis’ growing vegan empire (she’s also the brains behind HipCityVeg and Charlie was a sinner.), focusing on Latin-themed dishes. Though everything from the smoked prickly pear margaritas down to the two kinds of house guacamole are all sorts of delicious, the tacos are the real standout. Served on fresh tortillas, their traditional meat fillings have been replaced with vegan alternatives made with non-GMO soy or ancient grains. Top choices include the buffalo cauliflower, pescado (mock fish), and Albondigas, featuring house-made (mock) meatballs, broccoli rabe, banana peppers, and pimento cheese.
V Street, Vedge’s less-expensive sister restaurant/bar in Rittenhouse Square, has been immensely popular since opening in October 2014. At the more casual V Street, you'll share small plates from the ethnic, street food-inspired menu. Happy hour is always packed, but thankfully, the restaurant now takes reservations.
Not technically a restaurant (it’s a food cart), but we would be remiss not to include Kung Fu Hoagies on a list of the best vegetarian food in the city. After all, long lines generally mean that it's doing something right. Top choices at KFH include the bánh mì bì chay -- a take on the traditional bánh mì with mock pork made from tofu, yams, and mung bean noodles -- or the veggie-heavy spicy ramen.
Avenue of the Arts
Given that ordering a chicken cheesesteak is pretty taboo around these parts, a mock chicken cheesesteak has to be blasphemy, right? Except at Govinda's, the tiny to-go shop on the corner of Broad and South, the imitation chicken cheesesteak is probably better than what you’ll get at half the “authentic” spots around the city serving meat-filled grease bombs. Of course, you could also order one of the many other delicious vegetarian options on the menu, but that cheesesteak is not to be slept on.
Rittenhouse Square/University City
The reality of life is that the busier you are, the harder it is to find something healthy to eat -- a fact that has made Ronald McDonald filthy f*cking rich. But the folks at HipCityVeg might be onto something, offering a full menu of healthy vegetarian fare in the same amount of time it would take you to murder a Big Mac. Some of the most popular items on the menu include the crispy HipCity ranch sandwich, spicy udon noodles, and a berth of Groothies, which incidentally, sound like something made by Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy.
Chinatown’s only kosher vegetarian restaurant is the place to get your fix of mock-meat Chinese staples like kung pao “chicken,” moo shu “pork,” and steamed buns. Many of the dishes are vegan AND gluten-free, making New Harmony possibly the best restaurant in town for anyone with a dietary restriction. Oh, and it’s BYO -- isn’t Philly the best?
Expanded hours now mean that you can stop by 1429 Wolf Street every day for a rotating selection of take-away soups, salads, baked goods, sandwiches, and other vegan goodies. Follow the Commissary's Twitter to stay up-to-date on the latest options, or you could just stop by around lunchtime to see what’s cooking. It’s probably the easiest option on the list for those people that are, 1) too lazy to cook, and 2) can’t tell the difference between a sweet potato and a yam...
And you actually thought we’d make it through here and not mention Miss Rachel’s Pantry? No way. While we’re pretty bummed that the meal delivery program is no more, there are still plenty of options to get your Pantry fix. Weekdays, try out the market cafe, which is open all day for breakfast (until 3pm) and lunch. On the weekends, there’s the criminally underrated Saturday BYOB dinners. For $60, you can join 11 other people for an incredible six-course vegetarian meal, which is one of the best deals in town, vegetarian or not.
We’ve already told you how beautiful the interior of Charlie was a sinner. is, and while the Midtown Village bar is a great place to grab a drink (especially if you're sipping the ever-changing Charlie’s punch) the food is also quite good. At Charlie, it’s best to go with some friends so you can share the small-plates like the bucatini with (meatless) meatballs, smoked cauliflower, and ricotta made from organic local tofu from Allentown, PA. Prices are pretty reasonable, especially if you're able to snag a table or spot at the bar during the Monday to Friday happy hour.
The unassuming Su XIng House, sandwiched on the section of Sansom St between 15th and 16th, is a vegetarian oasis in the midst of meat central: restaurants Ocean Prime and 500° to the east, meat factory Ladder 15 to the west. It’s a favorite of the pro-veggie crowd thanks to the cheap prices, fresh ingredients, and some of the best tofu at any Chinese restaurant in the city.
1. Vedge1221 Locust St, Philadelphia
2. Blackbird Pizzeria507 S 6th St, Philadelphia
3. Mama's Vegetarian18 S 20th St, Philadelphia
4. Bar Bombón133 S 18th St, Philadelphia
5. V Street126 S 19th St, Philadelphia
6. Kung Fu Hoagies600 S 43rd St, Philadelphia
7. Govinda's Gourmet Vegetarian1408 South St, Philadelphia
8. HipCityVeg127 S 18th St, Philadelphia
9. New Harmony Vegetarian135 N 9th St, Philadelphia
10. Vegan Commissary1429 Wolf St, Philadelphia
11. Miss Rachel's Pantry1732 W Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia
12. Charlie was a sinner.131 S 13th St, Philadelphia
13. Su Xing House1508 Sansom St, Philadelphia
A laser focus is put on seasonal vegetables at Vedge, and the refined, entirely meat-free menu is creative enough to attract even the most ardent of meat-eaters, if the wait for a table is any indicator. When chefs Richard Landau and Kate Jacoby opened their restaurant in this historic building on Locust St in 2011, the city hadn't seen anything like it: a changing vegetarian menu served in a fine dining setting with a hyper-contemporary sensibility. Anywhere from three to five of the sharing plates can make a meal, from salt-baked beets with cured tofu that's topped with whipped cucumber to seared maitake mushroom with celery root fritters. Desserts like a Meyer Lemon Cheesecake with blood orange gel and bergamot dust are impossibly light while cocktails mixed with housemade syrups make use of healthful juices like grapefruit and lemongrass. In short: skip the veggie burger and make a reservation at Vedge.
Blackbird is Philly's singular 100% vegan pizzeria, but with a spot this tasty, who needs a hundred options to choose from? The pies here are unbelievably scrumptious -- we're talking seitan sausage and garlic butter & tofu pizza. It's also whipping up sandwiches like a tofu cubano that might make a carnivore reconsider his meat-eating ways, plus takeout staples like chicken parm and wings (yes, real takeout options!), but in vegetarian form. Need we say more?
Don't let the word "vegetarian" in the name fool you -- Mama's is serving up some pretty kick-ass eats. The menu is on the smaller side here, but this kosher Middle Eastern restaurant just off the square means business with its dishes, like its latkes platter and eggplant sandwich. You'd also be smart to try basically anything involving the falafel: sandwiches, platters, soups. Be sure to top it all off with the baklava.
Latin American dishes gets a vegan twist at Bar Bombon, which is helmed by the same team behind health food havens HipCityVeg and Charlie Was a Sinner. The plant-based dishes are so deliciously disguised here that even a meat eater can happily indulge. Tacos are filled with seitan or buffalo cauliflower, while empanadas are stuffed with a medley of mushrooms, leeks, currants, and pickled plantains. If you're on the go, stop by the take-out window for the same good food and Stumptown Coffee.
V Street is the smaller, more casual sister restaurant to Washington Square West's Vedge. Also a vegan joint, Vedge serves street food style eats inspired by vendors all over the world. Be sure to try the 5 O’Clock Szechuan Soft Pretzels, a riff on the classic Asian steamed buns. The pretzels are made with a Szechuan peppercorn laced dough and and served with a side of spicy ginger mustard. While they may not look like your traditional pretzel, these things are a hot commodity, regularly selling out shortly after they are baked at 5:00 - all the more reason to leave work a few minutes (or hours!) early.
Don't expect your classic meat-heavy Philly hoagie here. This popular food truck is whipping up some must-try vegetarian and vegan eats, like tofu meatball subs and noodles. All you have to do is look for the red umbrella -- and the long lunchtime lines -- when you're in the area. Some other top choices at KFH? Consider going for the bánh mì bì chay (a twist on the traditional bánh mì with mock pork made from tofu, yams, and mung bean noodles) or the spicy ramen.
Are you even a real Philadelphian if you don't eat cheesesteaks? Are you even a tourist if you didn't get one on during your visit? These are obviously pressing questions, especially for vegetarians. But with Govinda's, even the meat-free among us can chow down on an absolutely scrumptious, faux chicken cheesesteak at this laid-back, counter-service spot. It may be imitation chicken, but it gives the city's meat-laden grease bombs a run for their money. Some other go-to's at this tiny shop are the pepper steak and desserts like vegan peanut butter chocolate cheesecake.
HipCityVeg is a fresher, cleaner way to get your fast-food fix in Philly. In the time it might take you to polish off a monstrous Big Mac, you can eat a legitimately tasty (and probably a-hundred-times better-for-you) veggie burger (the Ziggy) or sandwich (HipCity ranch). You should also treat yo' self to the green lemonade and side of sweet potato fries, because really, you can't have fast food without fries, even when you're looking out for that thing called "your health."
This Chinatown spot is kosher, vegetarian, and BYOB -- because Philly is just the best sometimes. New Harmony has ultra-tasty and classic menu items (with a veggie twist), like General Tso's except with tofu, kung pao “chicken,” moo shu “pork,” and steamed buns, plus fried bananas that are a must for dessert. A lot of the dishes here are vegan and gluten-free, too, making it a top choice in the city for anybody with a dietary restriction.
This cozy vegan spot in South Philly is serving up fresh brunch and cafe fare, plus some seriously scrumptious baked goods. You'll find a rotating selection of take-away soups, salads, sandwiches, and other vegan goodies on the chalkboard menu. Consider following the Commissary on Twitter to keep up with latest offerings, or take your chances and stop in at lunchtime to see what the team is whipping up. We're confident you'll like what you see.
If you're picturing Miss Rachel's Pantry to be a cute and cozy kitchen-style spot, you're right on the money. If you're not picturing that, well, now you know. This bright and adorable vegan restaurant has one large farmhouse table for diners to gather around -- either on Saturday evenings for a reservation-only six-course dinner (they also do private parties!), which is one of the best deals in the city whether you're vegan or not, or during the day Tuesday through Sunday for a more casual feel as you nosh on its cafe offerings. You'll find tasty deli items on the menu, like sandwiches and mac n cheese, plus some scrumptious pastries.
Charlie certainly was a sinner, and a glutenous one at that. Despite a mostly vegan menu, Charlie's knocks it out of the park with decadent small plates and seemingly whimsical cocktails that hit you fast. Dark wood-paneled walls and plush velvet booths create a warm, intimate interior that's perfect for a date night. Take a seat at one of the candlelit tables and indulge in the always mysterious Charlie's Punch.
Nestled into the section of Sansom St between 15th and 16th, this casual, unassuming Chinese spot is serving up some incredible vegetarian dishes among what is otherwise meat city: carnivores flock to its neighbors, Ocean Prime, 500°, and Ladder 15. A paradise for vegetarians, Su Xing House has what could easily be the best tofu at any Chinese restaurant in Philly, plus cheap prices, and it's BYOB. No wonder it's a fan favorite.