Posted by: Antonia Ciccolo | July 18, 2010

Vegan City Spotlight: Philadelphia

I was lucky to start the vegan travel challenge in Philadelphia: it truly is a vegan-friendly city. Now that it’s been a week since my project in Philly ended, it’s time to do a city spotlight, to really give it the attention it deserves. Philly has some incredible all-vegan fine-dining and quick service restaurants in all parts of the city as well as some vegan-friendly options.

Starting in Old City Philadelphia, FARMiCiA Restaurant on 3rd Street was by far my favorite restaurant in the entire city (the best of the 40+ restaurants that I  tried in the seven months I was there!). FARMiCiA features food and beverages crafted from local, organic, and artisanal producers. The atmosphere is amazing (especially in the summer when the whole front of the restaurant is open to the street). The servers explain the restaurant concept when they hand you the menu – they tell you the local and seasonal vegetables for the evening and explain how the menu is set up. There is an entire section of the menu dedicated to vegetarian/vegan options. Here are some of the vegan options on the menu (in addition to a long list of salads that can be prepared vegan as well):

  • Capellini & Sautéed Tofu (vegan)roasted tomatoes, red chili, mint, crushed pine nuts
  • Mega Dose of Vegetables & Grains served warm & cool on one plate, vegetarian or vegan
  • Tres Tamales vegan chorizo/vegetable filling, re-fried black beans, pickled cactus salad, spicy salsa roja
  • Mushroom Risotto Croquettes truffle mashed potatoes, sugar snap peas, mushroom fricasse

I dined with a non-vegan friend who enjoyed the experience very much (and did not order one of the vegetarian or vegan entrees). I had the Mega Dose of Vegetables & Grains, which was enough food for leftovers to bring the next day for lunch. As mentioned in an earlier post, Old City Philadelphia also has Cuba Libre which has an excellent Cuban vegan option on their menu, just to spice things up.

If you choose to dine in Center City Philadelphia, there are even more vegan possibilities. For lunch, I tried the quick-service vegetarian/vegan chain Maoz Vegetarian (locations on Walnut St and South Street), which made my day. They offer a famous Maoz sandwich which is home baked pita bread (vegan), filled with crispy, handmade Falafel balls, which are made with chickpeas, a great source of protein, minerals, and vitamin B. There is also an array of salads and other toppings that can be added to the pita sandwich and the servers are trained to point out the vegan options as toppings. As mentioned in a previous post, Center City Philly also has SliCE, an excellent and quick option for vegan pizza.

For casual restaurants in Center City, I recommend Monk’s Café which is a vegan-friendly Belgium restaurant. Monk’s offers a variety of vegan salads, a vegan burger, and a spicy vegetarian polenta (which can be made vegan). Byblos Restaurant and Bar has a variety of vegan options on their menu (Mediterranean is an excellent vegan cuisine). I loved their hummus, baba ganouch, falafel, grape leaves, and Israeli salad.

Asian cuisines are always great options for vegans and I was able to try Buddakhan and Haru in Old City and Morimoto and Fuji Mountain in Center City. They all have edamame and vegetarian maki sushi options. Charles Plaza on North 10th Street in Chinatown is great for vegan Chinese food, with four meatless soups and over 30 vegetarian entrees (wow!).

I can’t wait to get back to Philadelphia because there were two restaurants that I was meaning to try for the seven months I was there, but for some reason never got around to it: Horizons (S. 7th Street) and Mi Lah Vegetarian (Rittenhouse Square). Horizons is an all-vegan modern gourmet restaurant that has gotten excellent reviews from both vegans and non-vegans all over Philadelphia. Their dishes look unbelievably creative and their desserts sound amazing. And Mi Lah Vegetarian supposedly has some very delicious and creative vegetarian/vegan options and an excellent vegan brunch.

For more information on vegetarian/vegan dining options in Philadelphia, check out this article in the VegNews Travel section on being Vegan in Philadelphia: http://www.vegnews.com/web/articles/page.do?pageId=1019&catId=4. For vegetarian/vegan restaurants and grocery stores all over Pennsylvania, go to VegPA.net http://www.vegpa.net/search_results.asp. Enjoy!

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