Being Vegan (or Vegetarian) in…Philadelphia
Our local guide Stephanie lets you in on some of Philly’s most surprising vegan cuisine options for those of the veggie persuasion as well the budding urban adventurist.
Whether you’re enjoying takeout, making a meal at your Airbnb, eating on the fly, or dining out, there are plenty of options for the plant-based eater in Philly.
Lunch (or Dinner) To-Go
When you hear about Philadelphia, you naturally think of the famous cheesesteak. Simply put, this Philly favorite comprises three simple ingredients: bread, cheese, and steak. For the meatless masses, we don’t necessarily have to miss out on this delicious local staple. A favorite place of mine offering vegan cheesesteaks, Campo’s lets you choose from a few different options for your meat substitute, including seitan and soy-based. The shop’s newest addition is the Impossible Burger, so delicious it’s difficult to pause for a breath at lunchtime (May or may not be a personal experience…). While you, too, are inhaling your burger, you can enjoy the historic setting of Campo’s, a family-owned business that’s been around since 1947. Stop by and get your cheesesteak to go, chat with the family while they hustle in a tiny assembly line behind the counter, and chow down in the historic courtyard of Christ Church just across the street.
Thanks to AirBnB, travellers can take advantage of a kitchen abroad, a money-saver and a chance to try your hand at a local meal in the comfort of your accommodations. Philly has some excellent vegan-friendly grocery stores, including Riverwards Produce. The current location in Fishtown, a repurposed firehouse, now sells fresh produce and a variety of vegan delights. Philadelphia is within reach of local produce, from its own state of Pennsylvania as well as neighboring New Jersey, and Riverwards Produce has brought sustainable food to locals and visitors alike in this increasingly hip(ster) neighborhood.
Bonus: See my favorite recipe at the bottom of the page!
Food On The Fly
I meet quite a few people who like to pack their days full to experience as much as they can in Philadelphia (there’s so much!). Among my top picks for a quick-and-easy spot: Avenue Cup, located close to the century-old Italian Market in Queen Village. This family-owned vegan cafe was established in 2007 and offers a rotating array of vegan, vegetarian, and even gluten-free baked goods, salads, breads, and other really unique lunch options. They also focus on using only the best ingredients, including coffee beans from Philly Fair Trade Roasters and making all syrups in-house. Upon one of my morning visits here, I ordered the vegan eggplant bacon, a stand-alone recommendation or even to top off your Italian Market tour with our local guides (maybe me!). In choosing this place as a destination, you know for certain that you are eating local, as all of Avenue Cup’s products and most of its spices come from the Italian Market!
One of my favorite things about living in Philly is the ability to find intimate restaurants that focus on quality local ingredients and which can accommodate many different dietary restrictions. At Stockyard Sandwich Co., featured on our Food Sustainability tour, co-owners / chefs Will and Mike pride themselves on their ability to reduce waste by using as much of the animal as possible (“off cuts”) and also their use of in-season vegetables on the menu. This particular intimate setting offers a communal table to meet new people and an opportunity to peer into the kitchen while your meal is being made. My personal recommendation: fried potatoes! While I can devour anything potato, these are especially tasty, with a very satisfying crunch.
Surprised by the incredible options above? Let me hit you with some honorable mentions: Triangle Tavern is a local haunt known for its vegan options including the Seitan wings, which shocked my die-hard meat-eater dad with their incredibly poultry-like flavor and texture. Goldie’s is another top honorable recommendation with their “accidental” vegan menu items, including their mouth-watering tahini shake. Last up on the honorable to-go list is Charlie Was A Sinner, with thir incredible “ricotta” cheese plate.
Come visit us, take a tour, and be delightfully and deliciously surprised about everything that Vegan Philly has to offer!
Steph’s Favorite Vegan Recipe
- 2 acorn squash
- 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 bunch of kale, back rib removed and coarsely chopped
- ¾ cup cooked rice or grain-free cauliflower rice
- 3-4 tablespoons of fresh herbs; basil, oregano, thyme
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Split the acorn squash in half from stem to bottom and scoop out all the seeds. *Save the seeds to bake with spices for a delicious snack another day!
- Take a fork and poke a few holes in the skin of the squash.
- In a rectangular baking dish, place the squash cut-side down submersed in ¼-inch of water
- Bake until soft, about 30 minutes.
- Boil rice
- While the squash is in the oven and rice is boiling, add coconut oil to a large skillet over medium heat.
- In this skillet, saute the shallots and garlic for 1-2 minutes, then add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Allow the moisture to run off from the mushrooms until they are dry and golden.
- Add the kale and stir, place a lid on top of the pan, and allow the kale to steam
- Finally, remove the lid from the pan to add rice and fresh herbs and combine.
- Once the squash is removed from the oven, season with oil, salt, and pepper, and fill with the rice-veggie mixture.