Traditionally, Philly is a steak-and-potatoes town. We’re known for things like cheesesteaks showered with whiz and roast pork piled high and topped with sheets of provolone. But we also have a lot of great vegetarian and vegan places as well - or at least places with more veg-friendly options than a side of steamed brussels sprouts.
So if want to go to a restaurant with lots of great vegetable dishes on the menu (whether you’re a vegetarian or not), use this guide. Some of these places have meat on the menu, while others are fully vegetarian or vegan. Either way, these 11 spots have enough good food to satisfy someone who wants great meatless food the way Cheap Trick’s front man wants you to want him (or, for that matter, needs you to need him).
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 $10 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.
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 shoyu-marinated pickles and a sesame cabbage salad.
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.
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 options 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 serving burgers and chicken wings, about half of the dishes on their menu 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.
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.
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.
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,” veggies, 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.
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.
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.