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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.

1. Cheu Noodle Bar

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255 S 10th St
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(267) 639-4136
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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.

2. Sancho Pistola's

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19 W Girard Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19123
(267) 324-3530
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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.)

3. Vedge

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1221 Locust St
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 320-7500
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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]

4. Chickie's Italian Deli

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1014 Federal St
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 462-8040
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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.

5. Hardena Waroeng Surabaya Restaurant

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1754 S Hicks St
Philadelphia, PA 19145
(215) 271-9442
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Mark Regan cites this Indonesian spot as his favorite restaurant in Philly, and the collard greens are his go-to.

6. Will

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1911 Passyunk Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19147
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.

7. Interstate Drafthouse

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1235 E Palmer St
Philadelphia, PA 19125
(267) 455-0045
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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.)

8. Cacia's Bakery

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1526 W Ritner St
Philadelphia, PA 19145
(215) 334-1340
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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.

9. Mi Lah Vegetarian

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218 S 16th St
Philadelphia, PA 19102
(215) 732-8888
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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.

10. Blackbird Pizzeria

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507 S 6th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 625-6660
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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.

11. Nomad Pizza

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611 S 7th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 238-0900
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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.)

12. Volvér

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300 S Broad St
Philadelphia, PA 19102
(215) 670-2303
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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.

13. a.kitchen

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135 S 18th St
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 825-7030
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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.)

1. Cheu Noodle Bar

255 S 10th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107
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.
255 S 10th St
Philadelphia, PA 19107

2. Sancho Pistola's

19 W Girard Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19123
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.)
19 W Girard Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19123

3. Vedge

1221 Locust St, Philadelphia, PA 19107
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]
1221 Locust St
Philadelphia, PA 19107

4. Chickie's Italian Deli

1014 Federal St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
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.
1014 Federal St
Philadelphia, PA 19147

5. Hardena Waroeng Surabaya Restaurant

1754 S Hicks St, Philadelphia, PA 19145
Mark Regan cites this Indonesian spot as his favorite restaurant in Philly, and the collard greens are his go-to.
1754 S Hicks St
Philadelphia, PA 19145

6. Will

1911 Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19147
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.
1911 Passyunk Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19147

7. Interstate Drafthouse

1235 E Palmer St, Philadelphia, PA 19125
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.)
1235 E Palmer St
Philadelphia, PA 19125

8. Cacia's Bakery

1526 W Ritner St, Philadelphia, PA 19145
"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.
1526 W Ritner St
Philadelphia, PA 19145

9. Mi Lah Vegetarian

218 S 16th St, Philadelphia, PA 19102
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.
218 S 16th St
Philadelphia, PA 19102

10. Blackbird Pizzeria

507 S 6th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
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.
507 S 6th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147

11. Nomad Pizza

611 S 7th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
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.)
611 S 7th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147

12. Volvér

300 S Broad St, Philadelphia, PA 19102
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.
300 S Broad St
Philadelphia, PA 19102

13. a.kitchen

135 S 18th St, Philadelphia, PA 19103
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.)
135 S 18th St
Philadelphia, PA 19103

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