This past July, one of my favorite restaurants on the planet, Horizons (in Philadelphia), closed its doors. I cannot even begin to explain how sad I was to discover the news of their closing, I literally almost cried (ask my husband). But I was very pleasantly surprised to find out that the owners of Horizons, Philadelphia’s renowned and amazing chefs, Richard Landau & Kate Jacoby, were in the process of opening a brand new restaurant. The new place would also be a vegan restaurant, but would have a slightly different spin on vegan cooking then Horizons.
Following their every move on Facebook and Twitter I anxiously awaited the opening of Vedge, a vegetable restaurant! In Early November, the wait was finally over; the doors of a new, elegant and simply amazing restaurant opened at 1200 Locust Street. Occupying one of the city’s oldest historical buildings, the Tiger Building, Vedge was open and serving up some of the most amazing food you can imagine.
Now, as you know, we live in Maryland, so it was not like we could just jump in the car and ride over for dinner, as much as I wanted to. I am sure the person taking reservations thought I was nuts calling in nearly everyday waiting for them to be ready to take reservation and then making one for three weeks down the road, but it was the earliest date we could get away.
Typically when I post about a vegan dining experience I spend a ton of time raving about the food, showing pictures of what we ate, etc. This time, I want to share with you what I am calling the Vedge Edge. And what I mean by that is I want to share with you what sets Vedge apart from all the other Vegan restaurant that I have been to, including the owner’s former establishment, Horizons. I think that Kate and Rich out did themselves with this one and that is what I want to share with all of you. I will also fill you in on the amazing food, but that is not necessarily the focus of this post.
Saturday December 3, 2011: Philadelphia PA
The night had finally arrived, we were having dinner at Vedge tonight! I seriously was so excited that I could not contain myself. I sat in the car, literally squirming with excitement as we muddled thorough traffic trying to get to the restaurant. Thankfully we arrived only about 5 minutes past 7:00pm and our table was waiting for us. The first thing that I noticed as we walked up to the building was that there was a really nice sense of warmth about it everything. The beautiful dark wood and glass doors, the hand carved wood sign hanging above head and the warm feeling of home when you walked in to the lobby/bar. The place was packed, but did not feel that way. You could tell that everyone there was having a great time and enjoying the amazing new menu from the bar and kitchen.
Kate, one of the owners, was actually up front greeting customers as they came in. This is one of the things that I loved about our experience at Vedge. To me, it speaks volumes to see the owners involved and interacting with the customers. We followed the host to our table which was actually right next to the kitchen. In a typical restaurant, a seat like this can lead to a poor dining experience, but not at Vedge! The unique layout of the kitchen lends itself to that of a home kitchen. Sort of like a large island in the middle of the kitchen where the chef would be working on one side, but can still interact with the guests on the other. The main, high heat cooking is done towards the back, in a more closed off section, but the area next to our table was where a lot of the small plates and desserts were put together.
Speaking of small plates, that leads me to another thing that sets Vedge apart from you typical upscale restaurant. Kate and Rich took the idea of a normal restaurant menu (appetizer, entree, dessert) and turned it upside down. The menu at Vedge consists of several different sized menu items and can be combined and coursed however you like. There are what they call “small plates” (these are nice size “tastes” and could be ordered several at a time and shared amongst the table), then there is a selection of what they call “plates” (these are smaller portioned entree items served al a carte, with no side items), a daily “dirt list” (which is a beautiful selection of fresh, locally sourced vegetables prepared in amazing ways) and a beautiful dessert selection (Kate is an amazing pastry chef and nothing on the menu will disappoint your sweet tooth).
I am particularly fond of this menu layout and the concept or smaller portions, more choices and lower prices. See, I am a huge “sharer” when it comes to eating out. By this I mean, I typically convince whomever I am dining with to get something that is of interest to both of us so we can share, or split our meals. I find that this gives both of us the opportunity to try more items on the menu in a single visit to the restaurant. The menu and dining experience at Vedge really takes my “sharing” concept to the a whole new level! There were three of us in our dinner party and between us we were able to taste and enjoy a nice size amount of 12 menu items! And most importantly, we did so without breaking the bank!
Below is a quick run down of what we ordered (click on each dish to see a picture):
- Mixed pickles, rye points, smoked mustard
- Peel and eat lupini beans, piri piri, fried garlic
- Mixed green olives, fennel, preserved lemon
- Crispy cauliflower, kimchee crema, black vinegar
- Truffled fingerling fries
- Little leaves & herbs, rutabaga, smoked shiitake, pistachio
- Honshimeji: beach style, saffron, celery leaf, red bliss potatoes
- Gold beets, smoked tofu, avocado, capers, cucumber dill sauce, pumpernickel
- Grilled seitan, black lentils & mushrooms, creamy horseradish, kohlrabi
The Dirt List:
- Beignets: cranberry jelly, hot cider
- “Choco-Taco”: hazelnut tuile, mole ganache, burnt wood ice cream, charred pineapple salsa
I know this may seem like a ton of food for three people, but it was just the right amount. Of course it all depends on how hungry you were when you arrive at Vedge, but we of course had been saving our appetites all day!
Each and every item that we tried was absolutely amazing. You could tell by the presentation, and the incredible flavors of each dish, that they were prepared with much thought and lots of love. To me, this is yet another thing that sets Vedge apart from the other upscale restaurant (vegan or non-vegan ). We have eaten at a lot of other vegan restaurants, but have never felt the love and passion behind the meal like we did at Vedge.
Remember how I mentioned that Kate, the owner, greeted us when we came in? Well she also stopped by our table to chat with us, and brought with her what she called her “baby”: the homemade vegan cheesecake with figgy-quince jam. Not only was this one of the most delicious desserts I have ever had, but we got to talk with Kate about her inspiration for making the dessert, and how hard she has worked on perfecting the filling. Chatting with the owner of a restaurant is not something one gets to experience all too often.
Other aspects that give Vedge the “Edge” I am referring to include: the beautiful bar and lounge, the amazing drink selection at the bar, week-night happy hours, locally sourced vegetables and ingredients, the incredibly knowledgeable and friendly staff, the elegant and classy decor, and the warm, welcoming feeling you get when you walk in the door. Vedge offers an incredibly unique dining experience for vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores alike. If you are into delicious food, unbeatable atmosphere and a totally unique dining experience, then you should definitely give Vedge a try. I promise, you will not be disappointed.
As sad as I was to see Horizons close, I must say this was an amazing transition with an incredible outcome! I now have a new favorite restaurant and I can not wait to visit again! Thank you Kate and Rich for all that you’ve done to give Vedge it’s unique EDGE!