This is The Gatekeepers, in which Eater roams the city meeting the fine ladies and gentlemen that stand between you and some of your favorite impossible-to-get tables.
Kate Jacoby is the GM and co-owner of Vedge, Philly's premier vegan destination. Jacoby and partner Rich Landau have been Veggie Royalty for many years in Philly, and raised a few eyebrows when they shuttered Horizons at the top of its game. But, the gamble paid off, and Vedge has become white hot on the national scene, kicking the doors wide open with opportunities. Eater chatted up Jacoby about all the new attention, her amazing wine list, and dealing with the Vegan Police.
How long have you been working with Rich in the vegan world? Since 2001. I had a little restaurant experience before that, but not much. I was originally a hostess, then got in the kitchen, but now I spend more time in the front of the house. It's been an amazing experience.
It's Saturday night at 8:00 P.M. What's the wait for a table?Two and a half hours. It's not easy on the weekend. But, sometimes you can get lucky. There are walk-in areas at the bar and at the open kitchen. Those are always worth a shot.
Any tips for people trying to score a reservation on short notice? We keep a very close eye on our wait list. So, if you call with a time you need to get in, we will absolutely do our best to get you in when you want.
Do you have regulars at Vedge? Absolutely. We still have some carryover from people that stopped in at Willow Grove 11 years back. Some come a few times a year. Some come once or twice a week. We've seen a big influx of regulars at happy hour.
What's the weirdest request you've ever gotten from a guest? Hmmm. Oh, I had someone once ask me to pick a wine that wouldn't give them heartburn. I think that's the weirdest. Ultimately we got it down to the acidity in the wine, but that was certainly odd.
Who are VIPs at Vedge? Like most restaurants, it's our regulars, our long time customers. It's not about those who spend the most money, but people who are considerate go a long way with us. Those people who provide us with the same customer service we try to provide are the ones we recognize. It's not easy to find that.
Any celebrities come by? Colin Firth was here when he was on a shoot. Kim Cattrall from Sex and the City, but I didn't recognize her. I don't watch the show. Oh, M. Night Shyamalan is a regular, and he and his wife are the sweetest people. Of course, Pierre Robert, as he's a local.
What are the most challenging aspects of working at Vedge? People who cancel but don't call. Especially in a large party, but that's probably true with most restaurants.
Do you have issues with the Vegan Police? We did moreso with Horizons, but not as much here. I put it this way: We're veganough. We're human and make mistakes, but we really try. We serve food here the way we live at home. But, it's been quieter here than before.
The wine list at Vedge is impressive. Are you a trained sommelier or did you learn on the job? Well, I did get first level certification once I learned we were getting a license. And I love learning about wine. So, it's been my passion, and I feel we're doing pretty well. I love the eco-friendly wines, too. But, it's nice to get noticed for that.
Has the national attention changed the future of Vedge? Not really, but what has been the most impressive is the love we're getting from non-vegans, and non-vegetarians. We're positioned as a plant-based restaurant, and that is great for the "foodie types" and not just the veggies, since it's about having good product. We didn't expect that, but it's a nice bonus. Also, we felt that Horizons was getting dated, and Vedge is pretty modern, so there's a lot of tread left.
Any thoughts of expansion? We've had some people approach us about it, and maybe in the future we will have a Vedge in Los Angeles, which would be great. But, right now, we're still working out the kinks and loving our time at Vedge. The talent pool we have here is just phenomenal.
When you're not working and raising the family, what do you guys like to do? We're travelers. We just visited the Loire Valley and went to St. Bart's, which had a surprisingly great food scene. Oh, we went to London, too.
What does the immediate future hold for Vedge? We really love the happy hour, and are tweaking our cocktail program, which has gotten some attention. And the summer has provided an amazing bounty for the dirt menu. It's been wonderful.
Are you worried about winter coming, and the bounty being in shorter supply? I thought I would be, but Lancaster County has some really special produce come fall and winter, so I think it'll be fun for us to open up the menu to all of those new flavors.
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