When I go to a restaurant these days, I’m a lot pickier than I used to be.
I want an experience. A vibe. Generic, cookie-cutter crunchy vegan places don’t work for me anymore.
I want an interesting and diverse menu. Dishes I wouldn’t normally make at home.
I want GOOD food. Delicious would be even better.
And I want excellent service.
Go Vegan Philly exceeded my expectations on all these.
As we found street parking and walked to the restaurant, I did a double take. “Go Vegan Philly? I thought we were in Wilmington, DE!”
We were. Turns out the restaurant originated in Philadelphia but relocated to Wilmington.
Sleek, modern, sophisticated. A number of small, intimate tables, many of which could be reconfigured to seat a larger group. Art and posters celebrating Black musicians, entertainers, and important moments in Black history. It’s a mini museum!
The soundtrack is eclectic, upbeat hip hop and R&B – a mix of both old and new. The kind that makes you happy and has you grooving ever-so-slightly in your chair.
I had another moment of scratching my head and wondering “where am I?” when I saw the menu.
The menu items are named after Philadelphia landmarks – Philadelphia International (crispy cauliflower bites with a choice of six sauces); South Street – a very hip and happening street (fried onion rings); Penn’s Landing – a waterfront district with parks, restaurants, bars, and museums (a breaded “fish” filet sandwich).
OR the items are named after Black musicians/singers with strong ties to the Philly area. For example, you could order the Jazzy Jeff (quinoa stir fry w/ peppers, onions, and broccoli) or the Fresh Prince (“fish” cakes with two sides and cornbread). There’s also Jilly from Philly, aka Jill Scott (jerk “cheezesteak”) and the Patti LaBelle (fried oyster mushroom “chicken” and waffles).
We started with the Uptown, vegan mozzarella sticks with marinara dipping sauce. It’s probably been at least 13 years since I’ve had mozzarella sticks, but these were just like I remembered – ooey, gooey, and stretchy. The breading was lightly seasoned, not greasy, and the marinara sauce had flavor without being too garlicky or overpowering.
I chose the Phyllis Hyman. (Phyllis was a Philadelphia-born singer/songwriter popular in the late 70s/early 80s). The plate comes with two giant krabcakes, your choice of two large sides, and a big slab of cornbread.
The krab cakes were fantastic – some of the best I’ve had. Part of it was due to the cakes being a mix of hearts of palm AND jackfruit – the texture was spot on. And part of it was due to the sauce. It wasn’t quite your typical remoulade sauce- a bit more lemony – but it paired perfectly with the krab cakes. Tip: Order extra sauce; you’ll want to slather a thick layer of it on these krab cakes! It takes them from good to truly decadent.
For my sides, I chose Go Vegan Mac, Collard Greens, and Cornbread.
Go Vegan Mac – This was really good mac. It tasted like – well, mac and cheese. I’m not sure of the ingredients, but I didn’t pick up on any weird undertones or aftertastes (coconut, nooch). Also, Go Vegan Philly used MACARONI NOODLES! So tired of vegan places trying to be original by using farfalle or rigatoni pasta. It’s called “mac and cheese” for a reason!
Collard Greens – Slow simmered and melt-in-your-mouth tender. None of that “tender-crisp” nonsense here. Flavorful, without any overwhelming spices.
Cornbread – Sweet, with a fine texture. If you like sweet cornbread you will love this. I’m from North Carolina, where the cornbread we eat with our meals is not sweet. This tasted like cake to me. Not a problem – I saved it and ate it for desert.
My travel partner got the Teddy P. (Teddy Pendergrass was born in South Carolina, so the Carolinas always considered him a native son. However, he was mostly raised in Philly, so apparently Philadelphia feels the same way.) The plate named after Teddy had chicken-fried oyster mushrooms, two sides, and cornbread.
The chicken-fried oyster mushrooms were much closer to fried chicken than we had expected. Part of it was the perfectly seasoned batter. Everyone who grew up eating soul food or Southern food knows half the secret to good fried chicken is the batter. The other half is frying the chicken so it is not greasy – and these fried mushrooms weren’t.
Also – and apologies to those who are squeamish, I wasn’t always vegan – pulling a mushroom apart from its buddies was eerily similar to pulling fried chicken meat off the bone.
In short, a really good fried chicken substitute that wasn’t made from highly processed “mock meat.”
C-Food Salad – We had to try this one as this was something we had not encountered before. It turned out to be a very good pasta salad, with a mild seafood taste. Very unusual and very good.
HUGE. I think even my “little” brother Piller would be satisfied with a plate. I had enough food left over for another meal, and we also had some leftover “chicken.” It all reheated well in the hotel room microwave.
Because we were on vacation, and wanting to try new things, we both got plates which are the more expensive items on the menu. (The Phyllis Hyman was $24.50 and the Teddy P. $24.00.) However, given the quality of the food and, again, the generous portions, it is a good value for the money. They do have a number of sandwiches in the $16-$18 range.
Service was excellent! The owners, Shaun Thomas and Charmaine Quarles, and their staff couldn’t have been any nicer. Shaun came out to introduce himself and talk to us, and he was genuinely excited about the food and sharing it with us. Overall, this place has a real vibe of positivity.
Go Vegan Philly is the complete package. One of the best vegan soul food restaurants in the country. If you are ever anywhere near Wilmington, DE – make a detour to dine here.
Go Vegan Philly is definitely one for your vegan bucket list!
Location: 607 N Lincoln Street, Wilmington, DE 19805
Hours: Confirm before going, with constantly changing Covid situations. Currently closed Sundays and Mondays.
Line 1 (302) 543-4431
Line 2 (302) 543-4126
Can You Bring Your Dog?
No; indoor seating only, no patio.
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