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Chef Recs: Philly's Best Vegetarian & Vegan Dishes

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Last week on Eater, we talked about almost nothing but meat for five days straight. And we've got to admit, after all was said and done, we were left with a serious craving for some leafy greens. So this week, we've been asking some of our favorite Philly chefs where to find the city's best meat-free dishes.

We gave them plenty of leeway (the only requirements were that the items be meatless, available in Philly, and awesome) — and many of the chefs we tapped are well-documented admirers of meat, so the recommendations below hold universal appeal.

Below, you'll find picks from Scott Schroeder (American Sardine Bar/South Philly Tap Room), Chris Kearse (Will), Mark Regan (South Philly Tap Room), Joe Cicala (Le Virtu), Jennifer Zavala (Cherry Bomb Bus), Justin Swain (Rex 1516), and Rich Landau (Vedge).


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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Cheu Noodle Bar

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Scott Schroeder loves the vegan fresh tofu with fava beans and a drizzle of good olive oil, and adds that it's also gluten-free. Cheu also got the nod from Rich Landau, who loves the vegan noodle options (try the cold sesame noodles with tahina and cucumbers), and notes that many great dishes here are already vegetarian while several others can easily be requested meat-free.

Sancho Pistola's

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Chef Chris Kearse (of Will) says the plantains here, which you can get as a side and are served with chipotle honey and crema, are "crazy." (Sancho's has many other good veggie options, too, like tacos filled with falafel or Brussels sprouts,so you shouldn't have trouble finding something to have the plantains on the side of.)
While the entire menu here is packed with innovative and elevated vegan choices, it's one of the simplest of all that's become one of their signature items, and a favorite of Chris Kearse: the crispy fingerling fries with creamy worcestershire. (And on a personal note, we have to add: do not leave here without trying several desserts, either.) [Photo: Michael Spain Smith]

Chickie's Italian Deli

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SPTR's Mark Regan says the famous veggie hoagie at Chickie's, with eggplant, broccoli rabe, roasted red peppers, and sharp provolone, is his favorite sandwich in the city.

Hardena Waroeng Surabaya Restaurant

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Mark Regan cites this Indonesian spot as his favorite restaurant in Philly, and the collard greens are his go-to.
Jennifer Zavala, chef-owner of the Cherry Bomb Bus, recommends the whole roasted maitake mushroom with ricotta, Madeira, and herbs from Chris Kearse's refined French BYOB.

Interstate Drafthouse

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Jennifer Zavala used to work here, but even though she's not the one making them anymore, she still thinks the vegetarian wings are the best around. The bar's ancho-honey wings come in chicken or seitan varieties — in fact, the whole menu is particularly well-suited to mixed-diet groups. Where else can you get seitan or gator on your nachos? (NB: Wings are just $5 on Mondays.)

Cacia's Bakery

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"I'm a sucker for a tomato pie," says Joe Cicala (of Le Virtu and upcoming Brigantessa), and singled out Cacia's as a favorite version.

Mi Lah Vegetarian

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Rex 1516's Justin Swain loves the banh mi on the daytime menus at this all-vegetarian Center City spot. Listed as a Vietnamese hoagie here, it features marinated tofu, chili vegenaise, carrots, cucumber, and cilantro. "I don't eat much when it comes to vegetarian fare but I crave this sandwich all the time," says Swain.

Blackbird Pizzeria

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It's not too surprising that we got the most detailed list of recs from Vedge chef-owner Rich Landau. It is, however, a little surprising which menu item made the list from this vegan pizza place: the Cubano. In his estimation, it's the "best vegan sandwich in the city, hands down." It's got the pickles and mustard in place, but swaps in smoked tofu, seitan pepperoni, seitan bacon, and daiya cheese for the usual roast pork, ham, and Swiss.

Nomad Pizza

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Landau gives especially high praise to the simple marinara pizza at Nomad, saying that it's the first vegan pizza he's had that's so good as-is, cheese would just get in the way. (He likes the version here just as well as the one at Nomad Roman at 13th and Locust, so give both a shot and see which crust you prefer.)

Volvér

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Tasting menu-only Volver probably isn't at the front of most people's minds for vegetarian options, but with a little advance notice, they'll tailor your meal to any dietary requests you can throw at them. Landau names the full-on veggie version of the tasting menu here as the "best blowout," perfect for a major splurge.

a.kitchen

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Rounding out Landau's recs are a specific nod to his favorite small plate: the smoked beets with lavash crisps on A.Kitchen's menu, which got a major makeover this spring from chef Eli Kulp. (And unlike the famous beets at Kulp's High Street on Market, which are roasted in dry-aged beef fat, the ones at A.Kitchen are veggie-friendly.)

Cheu Noodle Bar

Scott Schroeder loves the vegan fresh tofu with fava beans and a drizzle of good olive oil, and adds that it's also gluten-free. Cheu also got the nod from Rich Landau, who loves the vegan noodle options (try the cold sesame noodles with tahina and cucumbers), and notes that many great dishes here are already vegetarian while several others can easily be requested meat-free.

Sancho Pistola's

Chef Chris Kearse (of Will) says the plantains here, which you can get as a side and are served with chipotle honey and crema, are "crazy." (Sancho's has many other good veggie options, too, like tacos filled with falafel or Brussels sprouts,so you shouldn't have trouble finding something to have the plantains on the side of.)

Vedge

While the entire menu here is packed with innovative and elevated vegan choices, it's one of the simplest of all that's become one of their signature items, and a favorite of Chris Kearse: the crispy fingerling fries with creamy worcestershire. (And on a personal note, we have to add: do not leave here without trying several desserts, either.) [Photo: Michael Spain Smith]

Chickie's Italian Deli

SPTR's Mark Regan says the famous veggie hoagie at Chickie's, with eggplant, broccoli rabe, roasted red peppers, and sharp provolone, is his favorite sandwich in the city.

Hardena Waroeng Surabaya Restaurant

Mark Regan cites this Indonesian spot as his favorite restaurant in Philly, and the collard greens are his go-to.

Will

Jennifer Zavala, chef-owner of the Cherry Bomb Bus, recommends the whole roasted maitake mushroom with ricotta, Madeira, and herbs from Chris Kearse's refined French BYOB.

Interstate Drafthouse

Jennifer Zavala used to work here, but even though she's not the one making them anymore, she still thinks the vegetarian wings are the best around. The bar's ancho-honey wings come in chicken or seitan varieties — in fact, the whole menu is particularly well-suited to mixed-diet groups. Where else can you get seitan or gator on your nachos? (NB: Wings are just $5 on Mondays.)

Cacia's Bakery

"I'm a sucker for a tomato pie," says Joe Cicala (of Le Virtu and upcoming Brigantessa), and singled out Cacia's as a favorite version.

Mi Lah Vegetarian

Rex 1516's Justin Swain loves the banh mi on the daytime menus at this all-vegetarian Center City spot. Listed as a Vietnamese hoagie here, it features marinated tofu, chili vegenaise, carrots, cucumber, and cilantro. "I don't eat much when it comes to vegetarian fare but I crave this sandwich all the time," says Swain.

Blackbird Pizzeria

It's not too surprising that we got the most detailed list of recs from Vedge chef-owner Rich Landau. It is, however, a little surprising which menu item made the list from this vegan pizza place: the Cubano. In his estimation, it's the "best vegan sandwich in the city, hands down." It's got the pickles and mustard in place, but swaps in smoked tofu, seitan pepperoni, seitan bacon, and daiya cheese for the usual roast pork, ham, and Swiss.

Nomad Pizza

Landau gives especially high praise to the simple marinara pizza at Nomad, saying that it's the first vegan pizza he's had that's so good as-is, cheese would just get in the way. (He likes the version here just as well as the one at Nomad Roman at 13th and Locust, so give both a shot and see which crust you prefer.)

Volvér

Tasting menu-only Volver probably isn't at the front of most people's minds for vegetarian options, but with a little advance notice, they'll tailor your meal to any dietary requests you can throw at them. Landau names the full-on veggie version of the tasting menu here as the "best blowout," perfect for a major splurge.

a.kitchen

Rounding out Landau's recs are a specific nod to his favorite small plate: the smoked beets with lavash crisps on A.Kitchen's menu, which got a major makeover this spring from chef Eli Kulp. (And unlike the famous beets at Kulp's High Street on Market, which are roasted in dry-aged beef fat, the ones at A.Kitchen are veggie-friendly.)

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