V Street (Philadelphia)
Tell me about the time you had some of the best food you’ve ever eaten. Consider the nuances, the flavors, and the textures. Think about its provenance: is it the type of all American fare offered by drive-in spots on lonely highways? Or is it extra-U.S. in origin, from lands far, far away? And, finally, does it have meat? I’m guessing your knee-jerk response to the last question is “yes.” But that’s because you’ve never been to V Street, the self-proclaimed vegan street food bar, in Philadelphia.
A sophisticated threesome led me to V Street, tucked away on 19th Street in the Rittenhouse neighborhood. As we walked through the restaurant’s double doors, one of My Lady Dining Partners (MLDPs) commented that it felt like we were entering someone’s apartment. The level of hospitality shown by V Street staff makes you feel like you’ve landed in a friend’s home, so I suppose the unusual entrance is well-suited for this fantastic spot.
You’re going to like what we ordered (because I certainly did): we basically got the entire menu. Using discretion, we avoided some of the less exciting small dishes, such as the market greens and spicy chaat salad. But, we opted for the other two small plates and all of the large plates listed on the menu du jour. Oh, yeah, and we got both desserts (more on them later). (V Street changes up the menu every so often, but the dishes we tried were definitely representative of the magically delicious food they serve.)
Okay, so, here we go.
The server brought out all the dishes in quick succession and placed them on our rapidly diminishing table surface.
The togarashi fries and chilled kung pao noodles–both small plates–were probably my favorites. The heavily spiced fries feature scallions and cilantro, but the real star of the show is the gochujang mayo. Whoa, gochujang mayo! For the uninitiated, gochujang is an amaaaaazing spicy paste used in Korean cuisine, which you may be familiar with if you’ve ever had bibimbap. I’m sort of speechless about these fries, but even more so about the cold noodles. The perfectly cooked noodles are slathered with a delicious peanut sauce, with bits of charred broccoli mixed throughout. Everyone at the table was like “these noodles!” and rendered basically speechless, as I am now thinking about how incredible these two dishes were.
The large plates were also very good, and my favorite among them was definitely the blackened tofu taco salad, which seemed to be less favored by my company. I think it was the uniquely charred tofu that did it for me. I also enjoyed the accompanying smoked black beans, crunchy tortilla, and creamy avocado. The most innovative dish we ordered was easily the Korean fried tempeh reuben that turns the classic sandwich on its head. It has kimchee kraut and sriracha thousand island dressing (!). If you go to V Street and order this dish, you will never ever feel okay ordering a reuben anywhere else–it could never compare.
I couldn’t tell what everyone else liked best because whenever someone asked what one of the dishes was, the common response was, “I don’t know, but it’s good!”
We had to get dessert, obviously, because we clearly hadn’t eaten enough already. So, V Street has soft serve and a churro ice cream sandwich on offer. The flavors for both change on a regular basis. We were fortunate enough to be there when they had Mexican chocolate soft serve, which has a tequila topping sprinkled over it–yum! The churro ice cream sandwich that day had a tropical blend sorbet squeezed in between two halves for a sweet yet tangy treat to finish our meal.
You should know that V Street also serves up fascinating beverages, such as interesting iced teas and lemonades (with trees in them [???]), as well as a selection of rotating cocktails that will keep you on your toes.
All said, V Street’s laser-like focus on the adventurous and original keeps their customers coming back for more. And it makes New Yorkers like me wish I lived in Philadelphia. Yeah, it’s that good.
Philadelphia is awesome, by the way, so you should visit whenever you get the chance. Here’s a list of fun things to do in the city of brotherly love over the next few months. When you do make it down there, go to V Street–you won’t be sorry you did!
126 S. 19th Street
I have no idea how to get there. Grab a friend, use your GPS, and get walking. I swear it’s not far from 30th Street station, but it may be a trip worthy of a cab.