I know, I know…you think Philadelphia and two things come to mind: cheesesteaks and cream cheese. We are so much more than that (and I don’t mean pretzels, water ice, or hoagies). Bae Anthony Bourdain has acknowledged that we have tons of world-class fooderies on every block, but what you might not know is that the clean eating scene has transformed at lightning speed within the last few years. It’s not LA, but if you’re interested in having a delicious healthy meal while you’re in town that leans vegan, gluten-free, paleo, or have other special needs, here are my top 15 spots to check out (in alphabetical order):
2104 Chestnut Street
This is a fast casual place with three bases: black rice, a gluten-free wrap, or spinach, upon which you can put a variety of proteins, vegetables, and sauces. The spices and salads lean toward Mediterranean flavors. They also have yummy low-glycemic and gluten-free deserts!
Light, refreshing and delicious. Cucumber tomato salad with mint. If you haven't tried this yet… you're missing out! #glutenfree #glutenfreephilly #phillyvegans #vegan #phillyfoodforreal #glutenfree215 #philadelphiafoodie #jerf #cleaneats #realfood #agnogrill #ediblephilly #purefood #glutenfreevegan #glutenfreelife #glutenfreeliving #glutenfreephiladelphia #celiac #philadelphia #gfree #healthy @glutenfreenoms
133 S. 18th Street
Located in one of the coziest corners in the city, this restaurant offers a 100% vegan spin on Latin cuisine including tacos, empanadas, salads, sandwiches, and somehow—nachos. Fun fact: they make all of their faux-meats in house! They also have great cocktails and brunch.
131 S. 13th Street
This 100% vegan restaurant is exceptionally beautiful with teal velvet curtains enshrouding the entrance. The inventive cocktails are a special treat not to mention the small plates, pastas, and entrees.
15 S. 3rd Street
There are several farm-to-table restaurants in the city but this is one of the pioneers. It is also an excellent place for group dining, as they’re able to accommodate a variety of needs with incredible vegan, gluten-free and omnivorous options—all of which are treated with the utmost care in a beautiful atmosphere.
127 S. 18th Street & 214 S. 40th Street
Fast-casual plant-based spot with burgers, salads, fries, and smoothies. One of the first of its kind in Philadelphia they have long (but fast!) lines with loyal customers in both locations. Note: not that many gluten-free options.
1937 Callowhill Street, 1425 Walnut Street & 801 Walnut Street
If you’ve never experienced this international chain then you’re in for a treat. Each store makes you feel as if you’ve been dropped off in an organic French bakery with a rustic farm table right in the center. There are lots of organic, vegan, and sustainably-farmed options.
1938 S. Chadwick Street
This is a vegan restaurant and market, which hosts communal dinners. They also offer baked goods, meals to go, and plant-based artisanal cheeses. They offer weekly home meal delivery, cooking classes, and catering for private events. Note: they are only open Tuesday-Sunday; please call to confirm.
1925 Fairmount Avenue
More than a coffee shop, they have breakfast, lunch and snack options that cater to a variety of dietary concerns—they also carry Sweet Note bagels (which are the best gluten-free bagels I’ve ever had!). On their website they post “sourcing locally since 2004!” and also post where their food comes from. They offer catering for small and large events and carry Counter Culture beans.
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1706 Locust Street
This place is a dream: they serve coffee, food, and deserts that are 100% organic, gluten-free and plant-based in an exceptionally beautiful setting. Their chef-driven menu changes weekly but in the past has included ramen, tacos, burgers (!), and mushroom bacon. Make sure to check out their brunch and fresh juices.
119 S. 21st Street &
This is a great place to pick quick nosh—sandwiches, soups, quiche, and salads—are all made using fresh, simple, clean ingredients. They serve Rival Bros. coffee and also offer fresh juice and sometimes soft-serve.
1427 South Street
This bakery specialized in sweets that are vegan, gluten-free and also free of corn, peanuts, and soy! It’s an incredible feat, but using plant-based ingredients they offer a variety of cupcakes, donuts, cookies, and muffins that are pretty tasty. Note: they have two locations in the suburbs just outside the city as well.
1821 Chestnut Street, 924 Walnut Street & 3925 Walnut Street
This rapidly-expanding national chain offers fast-casual salads and grain bowls featuring sustainably-sourced meats, vegetables and grains. They also feature seasonal specials and local suppliers.
1024 S. 9th Street
Even if you don’t make it to the bakery in the Italian Market, chances are that you will have an opportunity to try their exclusive gluten-free goods, as they’re the supplier for a number of establishments throughout the city—specifically their baguettes and pizza crust at places like Sabrina’s Café, Zavino, Miles Table, and OCF Coffee Shop. Their sourdough, challah, and pumpernickel breads are especially good. If you do stop by, call in advance for special orders and make sure to take some biscotti home!
126 S. 19th Street
The 100% vegan menu here is influenced by the owners’ travels eating street foods around the world. Brunch, happy hour, lunch, and dinner feature items like za’atar grilled corn, fried tempeh tacos, and dan dan noodles. Seriously excellent food.
1221 Locust Street
The owners , Kate Jacoby and Rich Landau, have become rock stars in plant-based cooking and beyond, so eating here is a super special treat and one that you can brag about when you go back home. The dishes here are focused on vegetables—and they really do make them shine. Everything is quite delicious but a few standouts: portabella carpaccio, cauliflower tagine, and the salt roasted gold beets.
Maori Karmael is director of Public Engagement at the Institute of Contemporary Art (@icaphiladelphia). She is also the founder/artistic director of BlackStar Film Festival (@blackstarfest). A native of Los Angeles, Maori has lived in Philadelphia for over 14 years and continues to be impressed by its ever-expanding food universe and cosmopolitan populace.