We started our journey at the venue that earns the "most improved" award in terms of veggie food — Khyber Pass Pub (56 S. 2nd St., 215-238-5888), now a sit-down joint without live music. OK, some people would say that's a non-improvement from the legendary, loud and lively grease-pit the Khyber used to be, but the food tips the balance.
BBQ pulled pork, fried chicken, coleslaw, Italian sausage and buttered popcorn are rendered in all-vegan versions. I particularly liked the sausage, with more fennel kick than you usually get. I mentioned my plan to stick to vegan beers, and that turned the conversation into a kind of beer summit over the question of what's practical and possible in living vegan. You can see Joe Sixpack's summary on this page, but I said that with easy resources like Barnivore.com, why not go ahead and do beer we can agree is vegan?
I was drinking an Allagash White, which I knew was vegan because I used to get it at Horizons, and Joe, taking off from wheat beer and white beer and why they're likely to be vegan, recommended a Franziskaner Hefelweisse, which went with both the pulled pork and sausage sandwiches perfectly.
Another place we hit that night was Dos Segundos Cantina (931 N. 2nd St., 215-629-0500), where tasty, crispy seitan tacos were on special. While not in the Khyber's league (though owned by the same folks), Dos Segundos' menu features some seitan-based options among other veg-friendly Mexican-tinged offerings.
At l'Abbaye (637 N. 3rd St., 215-627-6711), I had their vegan wings washed down by a Troeg's Perpetual IPA. This was the only IPA I had (I usually go a little mellower). I don't know if that was a factor, but the wings were pretty much overpowered by the beer. In Joe's opinion, what they were missing was "bones," and he has a point. Such creations would benefit from something extra, texturally, to provide more resistance and contrast.
We closed the night out at the Standard Tap (901 N. 2nd St., 215-238-0630), which offered a chickpea sandwich that I was too full to try (but somehow managed to squeeze in a Victory Whirlwind Wit).
Other than the Beer Summit, I also hit Monk's Cafe (264 S. 16th St., 215-545-7005) for a veggie cheesesteak (vegan without cheese), Local 44 (4333 Spruce St., 215-222-2337) for a seitan-pastrami reuben, and South Philadelphia Tap Room (1509 Mifflin St., 215-271-7787), where I enjoyed its one-of-a-kind "vegan hoagie" along with a Kenzinger Kolsch.
That texture-rich multilayered masterpiece was the "all-around munchable" winner from my own travels. But you may have your own to add to the list. The important thing is to recognize Philly as not just a great beer town — but a great pub-food town.
V for Veg-Out: The third annual Vegan Spirituality Retreat, this year featuring Rae Sikora, will be held in Gladwyne on Saturday. 215-620-2130 or veganspirituality.com.
Vance Lehmkuhl is a cartoonist, writer, musician and 10-year vegan. "V for Veg" chronicles the growing trend of plant-based eating in and around Philadelphia. Send your veg tips to VforVeg@phillynews.com or follow him on Twitter @V4Veg.