Guiltless Fast Food at HipCityVeg
Today, Luncher Molly is going veg at Philly’s newest hot spot for meatless meals.
I’d been hearing about the new HipCityVeg for quite some time; owner Nicole Marquis was the manager at the former Horizons, which I loved, and her new fast-casual restaurant at 18th and Sansom is just a few blocks from my studio. I spent quite a few years on the vegan train, and although I’ve been back in ovo-lacto-pesce land since 2006, I appreciate a healthy, plant-based option.
I had an afternoon meeting in Center City and needed a small meal to fuel my creativity, so I headed to HipCity. I found the interior to be light and the décor spare, which I dig – it’s all part of their sustainability mission, which includes salvaged building materials, compostable packaging, local sourcing, and bike delivery. The menu is equally simple, consisting of eight sandwiches, five salads and a few sides. I’ve been mourning for years the demise of North Carolina’s Crazie Mae’s, which had the best vegan fried chicken sandwich ever, so I went for the Crispy HipCity Ranch.
To be honest, the first thing I noticed was the adorable packaging. A brown wrapper printed with recycling logos surrounded my sandwich. When I pulled the flap down to check out the insides, it felt a bit like opening a present. And my immediate thought upon seeing the sandwich itself? “This looks like food.” You see, vegan food can be…well, unfoodlike. Generally I prefer recognizable vegetables and grains to ambiguous glutinous shapes designed to imitate meat. But this, this looked like a sandwich.
So I chomped my way in. The sandwich, with battered “chicken,” lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and peppercorn ranch, was pretty darn tasty. The bun was chewy and just a touch sweet, sprinkled with healthy-looking seeds. Though the tomatoes clearly weren’t quite in season, they were fairly juicy, and the crispy pickles provided a nice texture accent. I liked the tangy peppercorn ranch; I could see using it to dress up other dishes. Of course the most important part was the chicken, which seemed to be gluten-based. It was nicely seasoned, if a touch salty, but I wished it were crispier. I imagine it wasn’t chucked in a deep frier, but to be honest I would have liked a thicker layer of crunchy batter. And by the end of the meal, I found the spices to be a bit overpowering.
At $8.50 plus tax, I found my sandwich (and most of the others) to be a wee bit expensive. While it made a perfect small meal for my errand-running, it wouldn’t have sufficed for dinner. As every main dish on the menu ranges from $7.50-$9.00, and the sides all clock in at $4, there’s no obvious deal here. But tasty, well-prepared, local food comes at a premium, and I can appreciate that. It’s a nice touch that they offer orange-infused drinking water for free. And fresh juices and desserts are available for those seeking a sweet treat. Bottom line: I’ll definitely go back, but probably not more often than once a month for a special veggie reward.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- Healthy, wholesome, ethical
- Convenient location and hours (10a.m.-10p.m. 7 days)
- Fairly quick – about ten minutes to prepare lunch
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- Expensive for everyday
- No “guilty pleasure” options
HopCityVeg, 127 S. 18th Street, 215 278 7605