The Pennsylvania Vegan-Eats Bucket List

Over the past few decades, the vegan diet — once a notion only of the fringe-y health-food community and animal-rights activists —  has firmly taken root in mainstream American culinary consciousness. This rise is thanks, in part, to celebrity vegans, like Natalie Portman, Alicia Silverstone and Ellen Degeneres (even Beyoncé and Jay Z go on vegan cleanses from time to time); a rise in plant-based cookbooks, like Mark Bittman‘s Vegan Before 6 and Isa Chandra Moskowitz‘s many volumes from the “Post Punk Kitchen”; the proliferation of health-conscious food markets, like Whole Foods Market and Sprouts Market; Instagram “wellness”; and the spread and popularity of plant-based cafes and restaurants.

At one point not so long ago, it felt like striking gold to find more than one vegan item on a bar or restaurant menu (usually just a basic portobello burger) — now, a few no-meat, no-dairy dishes are the new standard. Restaurants know they need to do better for their vegan guests, and some have gone even further to create fully vegan menus.

Pennsylvania has dozens of amazing vegan dining options, too many to count, really. Perhaps you’ll be surprised to know that they’re not all in the big cities. Whether you’re a fully committed, I-never-even-sneak-a-bite-of-cheese type of vegan, or you just like to take it easy on the meat and dairy sometimes, here are the best vegan-eats options in Pennsylvania to put on your bucket list:

Northeast PA

With two locations in NEPA, Eden-a Vegan Cafe is living proof of the notion that vegans eat more than bland health food. Comfort food classics, with a meat-free twist, of course, are the specialty of the house. Plenty of vegan products, like vegan mozzarella cheese and vegan salmon, let the team at Eden-a Vegan deliver familiar, satisfying flavors via menu items, like wraps, pizza, burgers, hot dogs, drumsticks, sandwiches and more! Veggie burgers and some faux meats are made in house, and there is a great kids’ menu and a vibrant list of smoothies, to boot. 344 Adams Ave., Scranton; (570) 969-1606 136 S Main St., Wilkes-Barre; (570) 235-6770.

Fork N Bowl is a locally-owned build-your-own bowl spot in Scranton. Everything on its menu is gluten-free and a lot of it is vegan, too! The formula here is simple and familiar; a bowl starts with your choice of a base, like coconut rice, sweet potato noodles or kale Caesar salad, and is topped with veggies (think: zesty chili cauliflower or basil mushrooms), proteins, sauces and finishing touches, like avocado, chickpea salad or corn salsa. Grab a seat in the casual spot, or order online for pick-up or delivery. 305 Penn Ave., Scranton; (272) 228-1280.

Nucleus Raw Foods is heaven for pretty much anyone with a dietary restriction or allergy. Its offerings are raw, vegan, gluten-free, soy-free and organic. It offers dozens of amazing smoothie options, as well as cold-pressed juice and plenty of solid food, too. Think: cashew crab cakes, an eggplant bacon BLT, veggie taco meat salad on a bed of zucchini noodles or greens and avocado tacos. For dessert, try a banana whip (so good!) with your choice of caramel or chocolate sauce, and toppings like cacao nibs, coconut and dates. 63 Main St., Luzerne; (570) 569-2139.

Lehigh Valley

Long before you could get a vegan cookie at pretty much every coffee shop, Vegan Treats was baking mile-high Peanut Butter Cup Brownies, gluten-free chocolate chip cannoli, cookies and cream whoopie pies, and so many more tasty morsels. These vegan treats were sold from its Bethlehem shop and wholesaled to cafes in the region. Now, Vegan Treats’ selections have expanded to include a rotating list of vegan soft-serve, all kinds of decorative cakes, pies, candies and custom work for special occasions, like weddings and birthdays. It also goes big for holidays, with special sweets for Valentine’s Day, Halloween and more. 1444 Linden St., Bethlehem; (610) 861-7660.

Brunch isn’t usually the most vegan-friendly meal, what with all the eggs, bacon, waffles, etc. But at Bed Head Vegan Brunch House in Bethlehem, every single menu item, from the biscuits and gravy to the cinnamon rolls are 100% plant-based. Many items can be made gluten-free, as well. There are weekly specials to explore, as well, like a country fried steak and collard greens sandwich, and gingerbread waffles. Enjoy cafe-style seating, or order takeout online. 310 E. Goepp St., Bethlehem; no phone.

Southeast PA

Since opening in 2010, Sprig & Vine has been making a name for itself with creative, elevated vegan cuisine, informed by the seasons. Chef/owner Ross Olchvary creates the 100% vegan menu, impressive and expansive, informed by global flavors even while leaning heavily on local produce and products. From starters like za’atar grilled oyster mushrooms, to main dishes like miso-maple-mustard glazed tempeh, to decadent desserts like gin and tonic cake, each dish is inspired and fresh. Sprig & Vine is especially fun for brunch (try the French toast!), a meal that can be extra tricky for vegans. 450 Union Square Dr., New Hope; (215) 693-1427.

If you crave veganified junk food, Boardwalk Vegan is the place for you. All of the classics are here; we’re talking disco fries, chicken “wings,” mozzarella sticks, pizza, hoagies, burgers and more. There are fun desserts, like cannoli and milkshakes, and even a kid’s menu! Pop into the small shop for a meal or order online for pick-up. 28 N. Manoa Rd., Havertown; (484) 453-8798.

No vegan roundup would be complete without a mention of Vedge, the much-lauded and influential vegetable restaurant in Philadelphia from James Beard Award-nominated Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby. With national press and attention (Food & Wine named it one of the “40 Most Important Restaurants of the Past 40 Years“), it’s a popular spot for locals and tourists alike, and reservations are strongly encouraged. Each dish is so incredibly well-considered and gorgeously plated, it really has a been a game-changer for vegan cuisine across the county. The menu is mostly small plates, so you and your dining companions can try all kinds of things, from wood-roasted carrots to smoked potato crepes to rutabaga fondue. The beverage program is super-exciting, with classy craft cocktails, a solid beer list, and a dynamic, mostly natural wine list. The dessert selection is also top-notch, possibly one of the best in the city, vegan or not.

best vegan food Pennsylvania

Miss Rachel’s Pantry

Whether you need catering for a baby shower or wedding, want to throw a private party in the cutest space or love the idea of dining in an intimate space, Miss Rachel’s Pantry in South Philadelphia has got you covered. Rachel Klein’s food (which is also Kosher), is clever and the littlest bit indulgent, with lots of extra touches like house-made vegan cheese and homemade pasta. Dinners, which are held mostly Thursday through Saturday nights, and are best booked in advance; each reservation is for a table of two, and includes a five-course meal, non-alcoholic beverages and dessert. And special events, like Italian Food night and to-go meals for Rosh Hashanah and Thanksgiving, ensure that local vegans are never going hungry on holidays. 1938 S. Chadwick St., Philadelphia; (215) 798-0053.

Not so long ago, going vegan meant pretty much giving up on ever having great pizza again. But in 2020, nothing could be further from the truth. The team behind Blackbird Pizza, long-beloved for its plant-based pies and cheesesteaks, recently opened 20th St. Pizza, which solely focuses on pizza, both square and circle pies. Vegan mozzarella, cashew ricotta and a variety of unique toppings (mushroom sausage, pistachio pesto), put this spot toe-to-toe with the city’s other gourmet pizza shops. 108 S. 20th St., Philadelphia; (215) 398-5748.

The Tasty is the cutest little South Philly diner that’s a delightful vegan update on the classic greasy spoon. In addition to hot coffee and donuts, there are other sweet options, like waffles, pancakes and french toast, as well as savory plates aplenty. You can make your own tofu scramble with your favorite ingredients, breakfast burritos, biscuits and gravy and more. Lunch dishes are also available, like vegan cheesesteaks, fried chicken sandwiches and salads. 1401 S. 12th St., Philadelphia; (267) 457-5670.

In West Chester, vegans know to head to Love Again Local for great vegan sandwiches, like chickpea tuna salad, coconut bacon BLTs and deliciously melt-y grilled cheese. Don’t miss the vegan desserts (like edible cookie dough!). Dine in or order online. 18 S. Church St., West Chester; (484) 266-7381.

Both an adorable restaurant and a small grocery, Firefly Cafe is 100% plant-based, 100% of the time. You can’t go wrong with any of its sandwiches, like the BBQ “pulled pork” (made with jackfruit) with coleslaw, or the za’atar chickpea burger. The Outpost (what it calls its grocery section) is stocked with vegan staples, like cheese from Mykinos and Vtopian Cheese, Field Roast mock meats, Renewal Kombucha and many more. If you’re looking to stay the night in the area, check out the Firefly Loft, the newly-opened AirBNB right above the cafe! 12 N. Reading Ave., Boyertown; (484) 415-5066.

South Central PA

Root, which opened in late 2015, was founded by Rob Garpstas, an established bar and restaurant owner, who went vegan in 2011 after becoming inspired by one of his daughter’s interest in animal rights. His all-vegan bar and restaurant refreshes its menu every six to eight weeks, attending to the seasons and offering exciting new dishes to its regulars. Its bar program is dynamic, too, offering cocktails, beer and wine. 223 W. Walnut St., Lancaster; (717) 826-9130.

Indian and Nepalese food is what’s on the menu at Himalayan Curry and Grill, and while it’s not fully vegan, there are so many great meat-free options to enjoy at its lunch buffet and on its dinner menu. Every dish that is vegan is helpfully labeled with a V (and GF for gluten-free); there are familiar Indian dishes, like aloo gobi (potatoes and cauliflower) and chana masala, as well as Nepalese plates you may not have heard of, like vegetable momo (dumplings), rayo ko saag (pan-fried mustard green leaves) and mula ko achar (Nepalese pickles). Grab a table in the cozy dining room, order takeout online. ​22 E. Orange St., Lancaster; (717) 393-2330.

The Vegetable Hunter, which comprises both a plant-based eatery and a boutique brewery, is one of our favorite places to eat clean in Harrisburg. Dishes like the loaded Superfood Protein Bowl, eggplant Reuben and chickpea crab cake sandwiches are virtuous and delicious, and if you’re not concerned with virtue, the smothered nachos, ranch and bacon chickn sandwich or seitan hot dog should do the trick. A breakfast menu is available, and coffee, iced tea and house-made kombucha are on offer; on the boozy side of things, there’s a fun cocktail list and house-brewed beers to explore. Online ordering is available! 614 N. 2nd St., Harrisburg; (717) 695-6229; 121 Towne Square Dr., Hershey; (717) 500-5964.

North Central PA

In downtown Williamsport, The Olive Tree serves cuisine inspired by owner Sophia Daskalakis’s childhood in Karpathos, Greece. The restaurant does serve a handful of meat dishes, but mostly maintains a heavy emphasis on vegetarian and vegan food. There are a bounty of vegan soups, including wild mushroom, lentil spinach, and artichoke and garlic, as well as fresh salads, grilled eggplant with bean dip, stuffed grape leaves, falafel sandwiches, and a few entrees that all fit the bill. 43 W. 4th St., Rear Suite, Williamsport; (570) 326-4493.

A bookstore, record shop and cafe in one, Webster’s Bookshop hooks it up with a fully vegan brunch buffet every Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For $24 per person ($18 for students), you can take as many trips to the buffet as you’d like to load up on baked goods, baked oatmeal, tofu scramble, roasted veggies, rice noodles with tofu, spicy bean chili, and so much more! There are also options for single-serve plates or to-go plates. Tea, coffee and kombucha round out the beverage selections. 133 E. Beaver Ave., State College; (814) 272-1410.

Western PA

Perhaps the second most famous vegan restaurant in PA (after Vedge), Apeteka has won Pittsburgh’s heart, not just with its wildly authentic Polish food, but with an incredible cocktail program, too. Honestly, where else can you get racuchy jablkowe (Goldrush apple pancakes with yogurt, black currant jam and wildflower sugar), kluski slaskie (lima bean puree and potato dumplings), vegan perogies and house-made bilberry cordial, or a glass of natural wine from Eastern Europe? Nowhere else, that’s where. 4606 Penn Ave,. Pittsburgh; no phone.

The Zenith is a combination vegetarian restaurant and vintage store (AKA heaven) in Pittsburgh’s South Side. The menu, which is mostly vegan, changes weekly; some recent specials include vegan spicy Creole stew, a vegan BLT and vegan peanut noodle salad.  It holds hours Thursday through Saturday, with a brunch buffet on Sunday. 86 S. 26th St., Pittsburgh; (412) 481-4833.

ShadoBeni brings vegan Trinidadian cuisine to the vibrant Pittsburgh dining scene; some fan favorites include fried plantains; oyster mushroom wings; Dhal Puri, a roti with split peas baked into it, and stuffed with chickpeas, pumpkin, spinach or okra; and tumeric rice jerk chick-un, with coconut rice, pigeon peas, stewed soya and slaw. Don’t leave without trying the coconut bread with jelly and a glass of the tamarind ginger drink. Dine-in and online ordering are available. 1534 Brighton Rd., Pittsburgh; no phone.

Tucked inside both of the Erie Food Co-Op locations, find Co-Op Cafe, which uses local, organic ingredients to make a variety of sandwiches, wraps, soups, salads and desserts. The menu isn’t entirely vegan, but the majority of items are “vegan-izable,” and are very clearly marked. There are also lots of gluten-free options, and the in-house bakery makes all kinds of vegan and GF celebration cakes in tempting flavors, like Hummingbird (pineapple banana) and Chocolate Raspberry Tart. 1341 W 26th St., Erie; (814) 456-0282.

Jekyll & Hyde Gastropub doesn’t have a ton of vegan options, but we’re giving them props for being one of the only places in Erie (besides Burger King) to offer the Impossible Burger. It’s also got some other suitable snacks, like baba ganoush, a falafel pita sandwich and a kale salad. Weekly specials often include a vegan option, such as a banh mi sandwich, chili, tempeh BTL, veggie wraps and more! 8 E. 10th St, Erie; (814) 456-0072.

What other local PA vegan spots are out there that we need to know about? Don’t be shy — let us know, either in the comments here, or on the PA Eats Facebook page.

  • Feature photo: Miss Rachel's Pantry
  • Vegetable Hunter Photo: The Vegetable Hunter