Something’s been sizzling on Philly’s food scene lately, and it isn’t just the city’s signature cheesesteak. Vegan eateries of all kinds have cropped up in recent years, earning the City of Brotherly Love the reputation of being a top-notch plant-based dining destination and drawing meat- and dairy-free diners from around the region.
But you don’t have to be a vegan to appreciate the culinary creativity and inventive flavors on display at these eight Philadelphia spots, which will satisfy diners of all stripes.
It's nearly impossible to get a table at Zahav, the modern Israeli restaurant of James Beard award-winning chef Michael Solomonov. It is much easier (and no less delicious) to grab a stuffed pita, fries and frosty tahini milkshake from Goldie, Solomonov’s popular falafel joint.
Bringing the same meticulous attention to flavor at this fast-casual spot as he has at his restaurants, Solomonov has created a short but sweet menu that has the Rittenhouse-area lunch crowd lined out the door. Get your cooked-to-order falafel in a pita or atop a salad and choose regular fries or shawarma spiced. The spot is outfitted with a few tables, but if you aren’t lucky enough to snag one, take a short walk to Rittenhouse Square where you can people-watch – and be watched sloppily eating your falafel – on a park bench.
2. Miss Rachel's Pantry
Once upon a time, when the South Philly neighborhood surrounding Miss Rachel’s Pantry was more industrial than residential, the quaint two-story building now outfitted with bistro lights was a warehouse for vending-machine candy.
Fast-forward a couple of decades and the array of options now served there couldn’t be more different: the spot is home to a vegan catering company offering a twice-weekly supper club, served Fridays and Saturdays. These five-course dinners are served around a communal farmhouse table that accommodates 22, where you’re likely to sit elbow-to-elbow with epicureans all too happy to advise where you should enjoy your next meal.
The menu changes frequently, but house specialties include cultured nut-based cheeses and handmade pasta (such as roasted garlic and creamy cashew ricotta-stuffed cappellacci in a flavorful thyme broth). Meals do not include alcohol, but diners are encouraged to bring their own beverages.
3. The Tasty
Who says chicken and waffles are just for meat-eaters? Not The Tasty, a retro-styled vegan diner serving classic breakfast dishes and comfort food all day. Perched at a corner location near south Philly’s hipster Passyunk Avenue, the mismatched tables at this small first-come, first-serve eatery fill up fast, with overflow seated on barstools at an aluminum and teal formica counter.
Go hungry and expect to find a menu short on veggies but rich in guilty-pleasure vegan foods like soysage, cheez and bacun. And if breakfast foods aren’t your thing, join the diner’s typically tattooed patrons in ordering off the cheezsteak and burger menu (available as of 10am, and even earlier on weekends).
Led by superstars of the local vegan dining scene, James-Beard nominated chefs Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby, Vedge is a self proclaimed ‘vegetable restaurant' with a months-long waitlist. A fine dining establishment that many reserve for special occasions, the quality of the food is matched by its charming setting inside a renovated brownstone, complete with working fireplaces.
Fresh produce is the star of each dish at Vedge (as opposed to some places that imitate meaty fare), and crowd favorites are the velvety rutabaga fondue and wood-roasted carrots. For dessert, don’t miss the zucchini bread pudding with sweet corn ice cream, in a tart puddle of blackberry gazpacho.
5. Dottie's Donuts
The fact that Dottie’s Donuts is vegan is almost the least interesting thing about this ingenious donutery. The daily-changing menu of flavors (both cream-filled and glazed) is so playfully inventive that the shop has a devoted fan following that transcends vegetable/meat-eating lines.
Conveniently located next door to vegan Blackbird Pizzeria in Center City, with an original West Philly location along Baltimore Avenue’s restaurant row, Dottie’s hole-in-ones have included Thai iced tea, maple bacon, matcha pistachio and stuffed s’mores donuts.
If you go during football season, keep an eye out for the proprietary greased pole donut – a sugary homage to when police officers greased the electric poles along Broad Street in a failed attempt to prevent Eagles fans from scaling them after an epic 2018 Super Bowl victory.
6. V Street
Street food around the world is dominated by endless varieties of meat on a stick, but V Street is out to show you it can be much more. A lower-key option from the James-Beard nominated gourmands at Vedge, this combination cocktail bar and restaurant a half-block away from posh Rittenhouse Square cooks up vegan street-fare inspired dishes.
Eastern Europe meets the Middle East, and hearty Korean fried tempeh tacos are served alongside Peruvian potatoes in a medley of spice blends united only by the fact that they marinate tofu, not pork. End your meal with V Street’s signature dessert, the Halo Halo: a tall sundae glass brimming with purple sweet potato ice cream, orange crushed-ice granita, coconut whipped cream and a sprinkling of pickled pineapple.
7. Charlie was a sinner
Even the herbiest of vegans would agree that the best way to drink wheatgrass is in shot form. Make that an actual alcoholic shot, and it goes down even smoother. In Philadelphia, the only place to find a spiked wheatgrass concoction is Charlie was a sinner, a swanky Gayborhood-area cocktail lounge where the elaborate cocktails and sharing dishes are all plant-based.
The beverage menu ranges from basil fennel mocktail to Leaves of Grass (a combination of gin, aromatized wine and prickly ash bark tincture), and the dishes are inspired by a range of global cuisines. Zucchini crabcake appetizers can be followed by caramelized eggplant bao buns, to be topped off by Moroccan spinach bakoula (salad) and an earthy wild mushroom risotto.
8. Blackbird Pizzeria
A few other pizzerias around town will swap vegan cheese for mozzarella, but none other can boast a strictly dairy-free roster of pies (with veggie bacon and sausage, to boot). One of Philly’s more veteran vegan establishments, Blackbird Pizzeria slings pies sprinkled with toppings from the conventional to the obscure: marinated artichokes and pumpkin seed pesto, fresh spinach and roasted beets.
Those in the know actually don’t go to Blackbird for the pizza, though, but rather the house-made seitan buffalo wings at an ascending scale of spiciness, from mild root beer BBQ to eye-watering habanero Buffalo.
Updated Sept. 2019