Philly loves its meat. Cheesesteaks and roast pork sandwiches are pretty much the default response when someone asks us what we eat on a weekly basis. But for vegetarians, or people who like to switch things up with a plant-heavy meal, you should know you also live in a city that has some standout options. This guide includes an Ethiopian spot that’s great for group dinners, an excellent taqueria, and a BBQ place where you can eat smoked watermelon.
When you walk into Hardena, a small corner shop near East Passyunk, you’ll see that there are a lot of choices. For your meat-eating friends, there’s beef rendang and a goat stew to top their rice plate. But for vegetarians, there’s even better stuff like tempeh and vegetables in a sweet soy sauce, and some of the best collard greens we’ve ever had. Plus, if you don’t want to take it to go, there are a few tables where you can hang out and BYOB.
If you’ve lived in Philly for longer than 10 minutes, you already know about Vedge and how great it is. You probably also know that it’s vegan, and every dish here is centered around vegetables. That makes it the perfect place to go whether you haven’t eaten meat since you saw Food Inc. or just want something other than a double cheeseburger. All of the food here is excellent, but the mushroom carpaccio, seared maitake mushroom, and wood-roasted carrot are some of our favorites.
Sure, most of the bowls of ramen on Neighborhood Ramen’s short menu have a chicken or pork stock base, but they also happen to have our favorite vegetarian ramen in Philadelphia. The Yasai has a vegetable dashi broth with roasted mushrooms, bamboo shoots, shiso oil, and a soy egg, and it’s our go-to meal whenever we’re under the weather. There are a couple of vegetarian sides that are excellent as well, like spicy spicy pickles and a sesame cabbage salad.
Primary Plant Based
Primary Plant Based makes some of the best vegan food in Philly. Unlike other plant-based spots in the city that settle for serving fake meat burgers you can find in the frozen aisle of the supermarket, this Fishtown BYOB consistently dishes out things like carnitas medianoche made out of jackfruit, kimchi pancakes with chia seed caviar and kimchi sashimi, and comforting bowls of masa ball soup. The fact that they do it all in a space that works for both a nice night out or a cozy solo meal makes it even more impressive.
LUHV Vegan Deli
Walking through Reading Terminal Market involves a lot of zig-zagging, but that’s because it’s somewhere that tourists and locals alike come for a delicious meal, and this includes a delicious plant-based meal from LUHV Vegan Deli. They have everything from breakfast sandwiches packed with smoky seitan, tofu egg puree, and melty american “cheese” to staples like reubens and corned beef that will make you wonder why everything isn’t made out of seitan. Plus, since it’s a deli, you can also order vegan cheese, meat, and “tuna” and “chicken” salads by the pound. Stop by for a quick sandwich or soup, park up on a stool across from the shop, and dive into a hoagie that’s worth braving the crowds.
Unit Su Vege
Unit Su Vege is a Chinese restaurant that serves exclusively vegetarian and vegan dishes. One of our favorites on their menu is the “shrimp” dumplings, which have a similar taste to that of imitation crab. The soft and chewy dumplings have a nice hint of crispness from the ginger and a nutty flavor from the bamboo shoots, and pretty much anything here works great when you're feeling lazy and want an excellent takeout meal.
Abyssinia, an Ethiopian spot right around the corner from Penn’s campus, has a lot of different vegetarian dishes. Your best bet, though, is the Vegetarian Combination, which includes six of their most popular vegetarian dishes—like split lentils in berbere sauce and spicy, sauteed collard greens—all served on top of spongy injera bread. You can probably split one plate between two or three people because the servings are so big, or just get one for yourself and bring home the leftovers.
Charlie Was A Sinner
You can bring your non-vegetarian friends to Charlie Was A Sinner, and they probably won’t even notice that it’s an entirely vegan bar. On top of cocktails, with ingredients like wheatgrass and dehydrated beet, they also have small plates like eggplant bao buns and a fake ricotta that tastes like the real thing. It’s small and dark inside, so use it for a first date with someone who likes vegetables a lot or post-work drinks and snacks with a coworker who’s tired of eating pizza for a week straight.
For one of the best grab-and-go lunch spots in the area, stop by Pom Pom. They have things like salads mixed with charred cauliflower, salty capers, and tahini sauce, along with their version of the cheesesteak’s distant cousin: the chopped cheese. It’s a great place to go when the wait for Suraya and Cheu nearby is too long and you just want to get a burger and some za’atar fries and head home.
When you’re looking for a place to have a big group dinner before hitting the bars, one of your best options is Cantina Dos Segundos. In addition to all of the meat-and-cheese-filled options on the menu, they also have a surprising amount of vegan and vegetarian dishes as well—like a vegetable quesadilla and seitan tacos. Add in a couple of margarita pitchers and you’re primed for a great night.
Sky Cafe has the best chicken skewers in Philadelphia. But this is a vegetarian guide, so instead, we’ll tell you about their excellent non-meat options. There are lots of noodle and rice bowls on the menu, and you can top them with things like veggie curry, marinated shredded coconut, or curry jackfruit. And the Indonesian salads they have, like the gado gado with steamed vegetables, fried tempeh, peanuts, and a sweet vinaigrette, are great for when you want something on the lighter side.
Memphis Taproom looks like your average dive bar. It’s got lots of beers on tap, a small outdoor patio, and at least three old dudes who hang out there all day. But what makes it unique is that, instead of filling their menu with burgers and chicken wings, about half of their dishes are vegetarian or vegan. There’s vegan chicken-fried cauliflower, an excellent roasted mushroom gyro, and a fried green tomato po’boy that’ll make you want to come back every weekend.
We suggest having a Thanksgiving-morning-light breakfast before coming to this BBQ restaurant in Midtown Village. You’ll want to be hungry enough for favorites like the Texas Reuben that stacks brisket, swiss cheese, and sauerkraut, and then gets topped with a house-made russian dressing. Plus, the extensive vegan menu features things like corn ribs, smoked watermelon, and plant-based mac and cheese, while most single servings come in under $20.
Goldie is the fast-casual falafel shop from the people behind Zahav, and it’s a good go-to for an early weeknight dinner or quick lunch. All of the options on their short menu, which has falafel, fries, and tehina shakes, are vegan. Everything’s great, but the best thing here is the falafel. It’s flavorful and crispy, and you can get it on a platter or in a sandwich with a few different sauces. If you’re still hungry when you’re finished, their tehina milkshakes are so good that you’ll wonder why they even make milk-based ones anymore.
Don’t be dissuaded by its corny name—this fast-casual spot in Rittenhouse actually has very solid vegan food. The best thing here is the chipotle fajita wrap, which comes with blackened plant-based “chick’n,” vegetables, pico de gallo, avocado, and chipotle crema. And if you want something on the lighter side, their udon noodle salad with spicy glazed chick’n is excellent as well.
Front Street Cafe
At Front Street Cafe, an all-day spot in Fishtown with a big outdoor patio, they put little icons next to every menu item showing if there’s dairy, meat, or gluten in each one. It saves both time and probably a few friendships. And all of their menus, from the weekend brunch to weeknight dinner, have a ton of vegetarian and vegan options, from cashew cheese mozzarella sticks to vegetable gnocchi.
Bar Bombon, a vegan Puerto Rican place in Rittenhouse, is owned by the same people as HipCityVeg. But instead of being mostly a takeout spot, Bombon is where you want to go for a long lunch or an after-work Happy Hour. Everything is solid, from the blackened fajita tacos to a tempeh Cubano.
All the Way Live
When going on a hike at Wissahickon Valley Park, knowing about a healthy option nearby is always a plus. At All The Way Live, there’s plenty of fresh, raw, and tasty vegan dishes and juices. One of our favorites, and a necessity in cold weather, is their hearty chickpea chili. This delicious blend of tender chickpeas with onions and peppers will probably do more to save you from the cold than any North Face jacket could.