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Tasty, fun, fabulous, decadent....and vegetarian (Philly)

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So I have a fabulous friend visiting from way over in Los Angeles, who adores all things amusing, well-plated and above all, delicious. Her taste in restaurants abroad in Rome was demonstrably superb and I'd hate to not be able to show off the city of brotherly love as it deserves! Clearly we'll be making stops at Capogiro/Naked Chocolate Cafe/Horizons, but are there any other fun places for two college girls to play at being foodies (sans the hunks of meat)? This would be both in Philly itself and the Main Line, especially anywhere the R5 runs. Triple bonus points if the desserts elicit gasps and ooohs. Thanks!

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  1. I have a place I'm certain you would love, but doesn't exactly fulfill the location criteria. Blue Sage Grill in Southampton (Bucks County) has out of this world veggie food AND desserts. I highly recommend that place if you have a car at your disposal. What's Horizons?

    Also, I'd say Brunch at Sabrina's and... ah I'm racking my brain. ..maybe I'll respond with other places later!

    4 Replies
    1. re: padovana

      I also have a great vegetarian venue right over the river called Sagami.
      However, as for your request on the R5 route -- take the Paoli Local to Berwyn and Nectar for a fine Asian meal.
      The same train will lead you to the lovely BYOB Sola (not Vegetarian) in Bryn Mawr a couple of blocks from the train station. A gourmet delight.

      1. re: idia

        my daughters vegan...and picky..

        She LOVES Mad for Mex in West Philadelphia.Its a chain but food is good

        1. re: cybermome1207

          I think you mean Mad Mex. I'm suprised by your reccomendation. I find it to be sub-par Americanized Mexican.

          1. re: saturninus

            shes vegan...
            and there are choices for her that include protein/tofu

    2. Thanks to the suggestions so far- I live in Bryn Mawr, so we'll have to go to Sola! I definitely didn't just mean vegetarian-only restaurants- does anyone know if places like Marigold Kitchen, Osteria, Tinto, Tria, White Dog, Pod...just to name a few that have popped up lately...have much in the way of vegetarian options?

      16 Replies
      1. re: chocolatstiletto

        No, no, a few, no, yes, don't know. You could try calling Marigold and Osteria to see if they would do a vegetarian course, most places are nice about that if you call in advance.

        1. re: chocolatstiletto

          White Dog definitely has options: here are three that are on their website

          Kung Pao Tofu with toasted Peanuts
          bok choy, peppers, snow peas and tofu stir-fried in a spicy peanut sauce

          Pan Crisped Local Seitan with Roasted Pepper-Anise Coulis
          cumin-ginger carrots, curried lentil puree

          Vegetarian Roundup of Assorted Local Seasonal Vegetables, Pilafs, Salads, and Sides
          stir-fried, steamed, sautéed and more; served hot and room temperature on one plate

          White Dog reminds me of Moosewood, home comfort food that is made with fresh ingredients, but I am not sure I would consider it fine dining.

          They do have a seperate pastry chef, and I have on more than one occasion spent more on my desserts than I have on my other food. I enjoyed their chipotle pot du creme, and I enjoy their home made ice creams (if you eat dairy.).

          1. re: cwdonald

            I hate to be a nay-sayer on this particular post but I love the concept of White Dog and the space, but I find their food to be not worth the money. I have been on two occasions in the last two years and have ordered vegetarian items which were disappointing. On one occasion, the ric ein the kung pao tofu was hard, and it's not inexpensive either.

            1. re: saturninus

              I have to agree with you, saturnius.. I'm not a fan of White Dog. Actually, I find their brunch to be decent and nice that they ahve vegan brunch items, but like you said, not worth the money

              1. re: padovana

                Not to pick a fight, but you have to ask yourself what you want pay for a meal at a restaurant that uses local ingredients, organic when available, and pays its staff a living wage. White Dog prices are not different then Horizons and they use comparable ingredients. Good fresh ingredients are not cheap.

                1. re: cwdonald

                  Absolutely. But Horizons is 10 steps ahead of White Dog in food, plating and service.

                  1. re: cwdonald

                    I don't think the comments were alluding to the prices being unreasonable so much as being not worth the quality of the food, and that's a much more personal and subjective thing. And personally, I'm inclined to agree since the food is mostly just decent and not worth the price - for those prices, I'm going to Horizons. These days, I go to White Dog solely for the hot apple cider toddy. Still, it's a good concept for a restaurant, and the gift shop next door is adorable.

                    By the way, if I were at 20th & Market (at the right time), I'd totally go for the California garlic guy's falafel stand instead of Mama's. Unfortunately, due to the immense garlic and the quantity of food, I've had to stop making semi-weekly visits (garlic just isn't good work food).

                    1. re: cwdonald

                      No doubt, but the White Dog's food used to be fantastic, and the prices were pretty much the same then as they are now. The food, unfortunately, is not.

                  2. re: saturninus

                    you are just a negative nancy!! :)
                    kidding, kidding, i agree. i thought white dog was just decent but i'm still likely to return because i like the concept (and the adjacent gift shop).

                    just a general thought when thinking about the mex chain comments above... when recommending restaurants for vegetarians, i find often non-vegetarians get hung-up on suggesting vegetarian restaurants only - (which are certainly a treat when they are as excellent as horizons) but this really isn't necessary for food-loving vegetarians. while i've got two skinny little vegetarian friends from NYC who may scrutinize every menu i offer them and poo-pooh most for lack of vegetarian choices, i personally can dig deeper than that and find something intriguing enough at every single restaurant i've ever been to and i think most or all of the food-lovers on this board could do the same. it helps that i eat fish (lately more often than not) but it's still totally possible if you have an open mind about your food. at thai and other asian places, i often ask them to 'vegetarianize' dishes for me, and out of countless asian restaurants, zero have denied me this request. indian restaurants are always a sure bet, and etheopian places, too - both usually have entire vege/vegan sections. italian places are often willing to make substitutions or hold the prosciutto. gastropubs /american joints always have french fries, other fried morsels, grilled cheese. diners always have french toast. sushi places nearly always have avocado (my fave!) and cucumber rolls at a minimum - and if you're lucky, many many more choices as well. mexican places can always hold the meat; burritos are crazy enough concoctions sans meat already. in this awesome age you don't have to decide between being vegetarian and being a food lover. personally i would rather not eat and save my hunger for a good meal rather than eat something subpar. i dunno - maybe the OP agrees, or maybe she wants vege-only stuff. anyway, as a very long-winded disclaimer, that's how i make my recommendations, under the assumption one would rather starve than eat a plain iceberg + carrot shavings salad, or something (which almost killed me in iowa). OK. i'll get off my soapbox now. :)

                    yeah, while i've still not been to tinto (how??), i do know that you can get AWESOME vegetarian snacks at tria. you want desserts that make your spine turn to liquid? they have what i've dubbed a "dessert grilled cheese" that is so good you will cry. it's mascarpone and (someone please correct me if i'm wrong, it's been a few months) banana and caramel between bread and then put into a panini machine. so sweet, so good. there's also a pistachio cake dessert of some sort that makes me fall in love with desserts (i'm not a huge dessert person).
                    they've also got snacks and cheeses too, it's the ultimate girls' day out hangout spot.

                    we also found foodie heaven at chloe which has some decadent ravoilis and some hummus/bread to start that we just couldn't put down. it's BYO, totally a philly thing! (well, i should be fair, probably an all-of-PA thing, if i only got out more) dishes i thought were visually stunning even in the low light.

                    oh, and since i just wrote about it earlier it's fresh in my mind, if you like really intense foods you will find total happiness at modo mio. i was talking to friends recently about what i thought made their food stand out over the countless phila italian places and i was at a loss for words til just now - it's absolutely unapologetic. on a first bite you might wonder if someone accidentally dropped the entire black pepper shaker into your entree, but slowly as you chew, it all starts to make sense. portions are small and ladylike, and you can get a 4-course menu for $30. BYO and cash only.

                    1. re: rabidog

                      Haha, I am fairly certain you and this LA friends are twins separated at birth, given your description of the dessert grilled cheese concoction.

                      Tria sounds absolutely perfect, okay, so maybe I picked up a wine bar habit abroad...and I perused their menu. We're definitely going.

                      And for the record, I do agree with you- I happen to be legitimately allergic to seafood and honestly, I'm more of a flexitarian for the rest of it, and whenever people make the ubiquitous "But what do you EAT?" question I start rattling off dals and falafel and things involving beets and oh yeah, most everything thai. However most falafel stands are not exactly wowing the audience with ambiance, which is a shame.

                      ...this is going monstrously off topic. But thank you very much for your recommendations and if you should happen to come up with any more in the next month or so, please share!

                      1. re: chocolatstiletto

                        OK, since you mentioned felafel... there are two places called mama's - one at 6th + south and one at 20th + market (the latter is all-vegetarian). i do realize it's tough to have out-of-towners and NOT take them to south street (because usually when you ask them what they want to do, that's all they know to say... south street, and the liberty bell!)... so anyway, if you do wind up in that area, mama's would be a delicious, cheap place to hit... excellent platters and people-watching there... so much so you wouldn't even notice the lack of ambiance. :)

                        1. re: rabidog

                          haha, see, now this is valuable knowledge for the rest of my college career in philadelphia, forget the visitors!

                          (If you're ever in dc and need similar falafel information, I've definitely done a serious taste test of the area....)

                          1. re: chocolatstiletto

                            i'm from DC! while i only discovered felafels upon moving to philly, on return visits back home i've had some tasty stuff! my friends took me to one in adams morgan (read: drunk food) that i actually thought was pretty good. though for one reason or another i can't seem to remember its name.
                            i might take you up on the felafel advice for upcoming trips, i'll let you know! what i miss most, that we don't have (or i haven't found) here in phila is west indian, like that dive joint on georgia ave (mike and rita's, or something?)... but that's another thread altogether!

                            1. re: rabidog

                              wouldn't it be odd if in real life we knew each other? small world. d.c. does make a strong showing in the falafel category and it makes me tragically sad every time I consider the sodden lumps masquerading as food in the dining hall out here. clearly I will have to trek down from the main line and test out the competition at the trucks! Mama's versus garlic dude, I guess?

                              (also, you probably went to amsterdam falafel, which is hilarious and hipster...but there's even better toppings, kick-toucas coffee and a full menu of good stuff up columbia road at old city.)

                              seriously, thank you to everyone who's replied so far, I'm really quite excited. And hungry.

                2. re: chocolatstiletto

                  BTW, you can do vegan at Tinto and Tria - and they are both wonderful, but there won't be a large selection.

                  1. re: chocolatstiletto

                    I had an amazing vegetarian smoked paprika pasta at Marigold some years ago. At Osteria I had one of the pizzas (amazing), a pasta special with mint and fresh peas, and a side of grilled artichokes. I can't remember what I had at Tinto, but I was able to put together a filling excellent vegetarian meal. Pod has vegetarian options, but they aren't very exciting. Thank you.

                  2. Alrighty, after much discussing and gnashing of teeth about the SEPTA schedule and necessity of classes, it looks like we're doing dinner at Horizons, snacks at Capogiro and the Naked Chocolate Cafe, lunch at the PMA and Amada, and filling in the gaps with whatever's nearest to campus/museum/talks. Thanks so much for the help, I'm getting famished just looking at the websites...