PHOTO: Vedge, a "vegetable restaurant" housed in a historic building in Center City PhiladelphiaPHOTOGRAPHY: Michael Spain-Smith The home of cheesesteaks and Kevin Bacon also happens to be a Mecca of phenomenal vegetarian and vegan restaurants and cafés. These tasty destinations will whet your appetite for a visit to the City of Brotherly Love. Vedge Husband-and-wife duo executive chef Rich Landau and pastry chef Kate Jacoby (of the much-celebrated but now-closed Horizons vegan eatery) have just opened the doors to their latest culinary adventure, Vedge, a "vegetable restaurant" housed in a historic building in Center City Philly. "Our goal has always been to reach out to the meat-and-potatoes people. By defining ourselves as a vegetable restaurant, instead of a vegan restaurant, we've been able to break down those barriers," says Landau. You'll enjoy Vedge's sophisticated menu amongst a cross section of Philadelphians' from hipsters to baby boomers to young professionals. Menu highlights include portabella carpaccio served with salsa rustica, arugula crema, olive oil, and crostini and grilled seitan served with black lentils and mushrooms, creamy horseradish, and kohlrabi. Sweet Freedom Bakery Heather Esposito is a gluten-sensitive, prediabetic, lactose-intolerant gal with a serious sweet tooth. That's why she opened Sweet Freedom Bakery with Allison Lubert in January 2010. This bakery has you covered, whether you're vegan, kosher, or need to avoid soy, corn, peanuts, or refined sugar. Their Hostess-style cupcakes are a big hit, in addition to a variety of cookies, cakes (made-to-order), brownies, cinnamon buns, and donuts. Their mission is simple, says Esposito: "to provide health-supportive baked goods that anyone can enjoy." Blackbird Pizzeria Ryan Moylan and Mark Mebus moved from New York City to open Blackbird Pizzeria in September 2011. This casual, eco-conscious pizzeria and sandwich shop also offers fresh soups, side dishes, and natural soda from a fountain. You'll find young and old, kosher, vegan, and omnivores alike, enjoying a slice while admiring local artwork on the walls. Blackbird caters "to a crowd that's interested in environmentalism. We use compostable serving ware and we're moving towards composting all leftover food," Mebus says. One of the most popular pizzas is the Haymaker, featuring vegan garlic butter sauce, daiya cheese, locally made seitan sausage, red onions, and fresh oregano. And of course you can't leave Philly without enjoying Blackbird's vegan cheesesteak, made with seitan or "wheat meat." Grindcore House Grindcore House is known for rich, strong coffee and kind, approachable baristas. Not to mention, the menu is 100 percent vegan. Nondairy milks, cold-pressed iced coffee, bagels with cream cheese, killer baked goods, and tasty sandwiches make this a no-brainer stop for a caffeine kick and a sweet or savory snack. Whether you need to pick up some joe before work, camp out for the day with your laptop, or hang out with the paper on a lazy Sunday, Grindcore is the place to be. Mama's Vegetarian Most likely, the first thing you'll hear if you mention Mama's Vegetarian to one of its many loyal customers is, "Falafel!" Fifteen-year taxi driver veteran, Haviv David, and his two sons, Shauli and Matan, opened the restaurant in February 2005. The casual and friendly atmosphere, coupled with reasonable prices, make Mama's a neighborhood darling. In addition to the David's famous falafel, regulars rave about their homemade soups and eggplant sandwich. Plus, it's kosher! Corinne Bowen is a freelance journalist and copywriter living in Baltimore with her husband and daughter. She blogs about her adventures in writing, veggies, marriage, and motherhood at CorinneBowen.com.
Vegging Out: Seattle, Washington
A perennial favorite on the most vegetarian-friendly city lists, Seattle is a great place to be veg. The beautiful northwestern city has an annual VegFest that gives attendees the opportunity to watch cooking demonstrations, nibble food samples, and celebrate vegetarianism with like-minded folks. Whether you're a local or just visiting, here are five don't-miss picks for dining out in Seattle.