You know how it’s confusing when you’re speaking with someone from Pennsylvania and at some point in the conversation you realize that when they mention “the city” they are actually referring to Philly? Well, as a New York native I also find it egregiously irritating. So, for that irrational reason alone I have managed to avoid Philadelphia for most of my life.
And then I got over my NY elitism for a minute and I went. Let’s be clear, I went for the food. Yes, I drove past the Rocky statue, peeked at the Liberty bell from the outside (I wasn’t waiting on line in the heat) and zipped through the visitor’s center (to use the restroom), but I wasn’t there for Philadelphia culture; I went for the food. And, like any patriotic American I can proudly say that I crammed in as much as I possibly could in one trip.
Govinda’s Gourmet To-Go: made-to-order sandwiches and wraps to-go and a VERY impressive assortment of Vegan Treats. My “Philly Chicken Cheesesteak” was both hearty and tasty (delicious sauce), albeit extremely messy (most of it wound up detouring into my lap). The quantity and array of Vegan Treats that I consumed was disturbing, but unavoidable; I love me some Vegan Treats. Peanut Butter Cheesecake, Cowboy Cookie: known yums that I have snarfed up countless times before…but the stellar winner? A slice of what seemed to be the vegan cake version of a hostess cupcake, only 1000 times better than you can imagine. Layers of devil’s food cake and marshmallow crème coated in a chocolate shell; you just might outplace Death by Chocolate as my numero uno!
Philadelphia’s Magic Garden: Ok, so this isn’t vegan. Well hey, it’s not really non-vegan either. Whatever your palate craves, this extraordinary garden of mosaic art is a must-see. Surprisingly, it seems like it is a hidden gem of the city- despite being quite eye-catching and not exactly hidden on South Street (basically across from Whole Foods). Enjoy waltzing through the indoor/outdoor/underground nooks and crannies of this magical mosaic garden and take the time to read the history innocuously posted outside.
Capogiro: serves mostly gelato and a few sorbets; ask which sorbets are vegan. My blueberry was good, but could have used sprinkles; they don’t have ‘em and do not seem to appreciate being asked. Heck, they didn’t seem to appreciate much of anything considering the ladies were all at the ready for order-taking but not one cracked a smile. If Lula’s has taught me anything it’s that ice cream without a smile is not worth it. So there, cranky Capogiro girls; Lula’s has smiles galore AND sprinkles (not to mention mighty fine ice cream). Plus, I found Capogiro’s prices to be a bit much for what it was: ho-hum.
Duross & Langel: homemade vegan & vegetarian soaps; be diligent about asking which are which. This shop is pretty and smells delicious, but I was a little affronted when I asked if my selections were all vegan and the person helping me shrugged and said, “Most of our stuff is vegan”. Um, I don’t bandy the word vegan about haphazardly; I usually assume that the implication of the word is pretty serious. Not so much here! So, I pressed for confirmation. Another gal came over, perused my bounty and confirmed, “Nope, none of these contain goat’s milk”. Goat’s Milk? That’s not an ingredient that I’d consider on the vegan fence like refined white sugar. Hopefully this apathy was an exception, not the rule. *UPDATE* D & L have confirmed via email that "absolutely every ingredient in our soaps is VEGAN with the exception of the goat's milk bars." and I have learned that their soaps don't lather generously or last very long.
Horizons: Self-described: “New Vegan Cuisine”. Um, how about inventive, spectacular, and decadent? Each sip/bite of the 2 cocktails, 4 appetizers, 3 entrees and 3 desserts I sampled was exquisite. One visit is sure to hook vegans and carnivores alike. While the décor wasn’t as slick as Candle 79, the service and food blew it out of the water…BLEW IT OUT OF THE WATER. Go here for a date, to impress carnies, or to simply indulge. Mostly, just go here: soon and often.
Overall, I was impressed with what I found in Philly as a newbie and it seems that there are plenty of additional veg options to be had, so I will return. But, for the record, it’s no substitute for THE city: my NY.