Philadelphia has a chance to become the next great vegan city. We already have Vedge, my favorite restaurant in the country. There is also Black Bird Pizza, Sweet Freedom Bakery, several Asian restaurants, and now HipCityVeg. Nicole Marquis, the former general manager of Horizons, has opened a fast food joint. Nicole and her head chef, Lauren Hooks, have designed a menu that will satisfy vegans as well as carnivores.
The restaurant opened on April 16 and was really busy with a line out the door to order, and a line on the sidewall for pick up. It was pretty chaotic in the restaurant as customers were taking other customers orders. When I came back on Wednesday, they had started taking people’s names to cut down on the confusion. By Friday, the orders were coming out quickly and everything was running smoothly.
My first meal was the Ziggy Burger with smoked tempeh and special sauce and it was a really hardy burger with lots of flavor. The side of sweet potato fries with cilantro-black bean dip sounded like an odd combination, but it was delicious. I also bought the Nuggets with Fries, which are more like chicken fingers. My daughter ate the whole thing and even enjoyed the sweet potato fries. For dinner, I had the Buffalo Bella with a Portobello mushroom cap, celery slaw, tomato with buffalo sauce. Buffalo wings are one of the things that I miss as a vegan. It is hard for a restaurant to replicate a vegan version of this sauce and flavor combination. The celery slaw is filled with flavor and needs to be made into a side dish. The buffalo flavor disappears into the earthy flavor of the Portobello and I wish it had more sauce on it to really give it a kick.
“The Crispy Hip City Ranch sandwich features battered chick’n, lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles and peppercorn ranch dressing. Jim brought it home for me and I saved it for lunch the next day. Good thing I did—I was crazy busy working at home and didn’t have much time to stop and eat. It tasted so much like real chicken that I had to look at it twice to convince myself it wasn’t real! The flavor was rich and developed, somewhat surprising for a fast-food sandwich. I would have preferred it without pickles, but those are easy enough to remove. It was so yummy!”
The Asian Salad is a nice blend of ginger, rice vinegar, and soy sauce over a spring mix, carrots, and sprouts. The Fajita Wrap is spicy. The blackened chick’n with onions, peppers, pico de gallo, avocado, chipotle crema wrapped in a tortilla was tasty. I also had the sautéed kale, which was wonderful and very filling. I ate about half of it and took the rest home. I really liked the Jerk Caesar Salad. It has jerk chick’n with romaine lettuce, jicama, and crispy plantain chips with creamy island spiced dressing. The spice of the jerk chick’n is softened by the romaine lettuce and dressing.
Before being vegan, if I saw a drink with leafy greens in it there is no way I would have tried it. By becoming vegan, I have had to open up my palette and try foods that I would never have tried before. The movie “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead” has made me aware of the benefits of adding leafy greens into my smoothies. Hip City Veg’s The Groothie with organic apples, leafy greens, bananas, and seasonal fruit is almost a meal by itself. It adds a nice blend of sweetness and flavor to your day. The Green Lemonade is made with fresh squeezed lemons and kale juice that is lightly sweetened with raw organic agave nectar. This is a great drink for a hot day.
My favorite items from the menu so far are the Philly Steak and The Five Dollar Chocolate Shake. The Philly Steak is made with mushrooms, grilled onions, and ketchup on a long roll, which is a full meal by itself. The chocolate shake is delightful and tastes like chocolate pudding.
HipCityVeg is a great addition to Philadelphia vegan food choices. It is nice to have a fully vegan restaurant in Center City. I can’t wait to try more dishes.
127 S. 18th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.