Bar Bombón (and HipCityVeg, and Charlie was a sinner) owner Nicole Marquis has played a large role in defining Philadelphia as the vegan capital of the country. Her fast-casual success, HipCityVeg, is going into its third expansion on ever-bustling Broad and Sansom Streets, and Charlie was a sinner has kept up some solid numbers given its insanely-close locale to one of America's essential restaurants, Vedge. And her Latin American roots inspired her to bring about Bar Bambón, the swanky vegan restaurant and bar on super-hot 18th Street. Unfortunately, chef turnaround posed to be an issue for Marquis, creating some LaBan-noted inconsistencies from behind the line.
Allen's arrival, by my third meal, has shown a philosophical step in the right direction with the kind of more involved techniques, seasonal awareness, and creativity that can elevate above the simple piles of wilted kale and squash that characterized an early-visit "vegetal" taco. But these initial efforts, too, are works in progress. At my fourth visit, the fried broccoli wrapped inside blue tortillas tasted limp and burned, and the addition of pickled purple potatoes, though clever, overwhelmed the whole taco with tang. Assertive sourness from a mango mustard also overshadowed a new Brussels sprout taco busy with curried tempeh and smoked onions. But it was the dense, undercooked crunch of those sprouts that made it a chore to finish.
Down south, Chaat and Chai hosted Adam Erace over at Courier Post, who really seemed to enjoy his time at the super-colorful Indian restaurant on Snyder Avenue. Save for some minor improvements, Chaat and Chai looks to be the welcome addition to South Philly it was poised to be.
Thomas and Snyder Felton's menu is another way in which Chat and Chai differs from the majority of local Indian restaurants. It's small, to start, with a focus on snacks like chicken tikka chaat ($10), chunks of fragrant garam masala-spiced bird, soft cubes of sweet potato and crunchy green apple dressed with crunchy chickpea sticks, herbal mint chutney, tangy tamarind-date chutney and chaat masala, "a spicy, tangy, salty spice blend." The beet salad ($9) wasn't so much Indian as Indian-inspired, with crumbles of house-made paneer standing in for the blue or goat cheeses you might normally find. Tart pomegranate vinaigrette balanced the beets' sweetness.
Way north in Fishtown, Jason Sheehan stood in the cold for cheffy tacos at Peter McAndrews's first venture away from Italian food, Heffe. Overall, Sheehan enjoyed his no-boundaries tacos, though some menu items he felt were a little over-the-top. Sheehan concluded that the taco shack, more than others he's reviewed, is more "come if you're in the neighborhood" than anything else:
Here's the thing, though—and I know this is gonna sound weird, but hear me out. My problem with Heffe isn't the occasional missteps; it's that there's only one of it. Because while I might be tempted to drive across town for another brace of Almost Pastor tacos or walk a few blocks for a Bellicimo, there's not much else on the menu at Heffe that's worth considering unless Heffe is right there.