If you thought Pennsylvania’s best vegetarian and vegan restaurants were strictly a big city thing, think again. There is no shortage of unique meat-free, plant-based dining options throughout the entire state.
It’s a new world for vegans and vegetarians. Gone are the days of nothing but beans and rice. Now, you can get a plant-based Whopper at Burger King and vegan cheese that actually tastes good at the grocery store. Vegan and vegetarian food has even taken the culinary world by storm, with vegan chefs being honored alongside omnivore ones, and big-name chefs taking their restaurants in distinctly vegetable-forward directions.
The sea change has not passed Pennsylvania by. In fact, Pennsylvania has become a certifiable hub of vegan and vegetarian offerings. And while the majority of vegan and vegetarian restaurants in the state are found in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, there are unique meat-free establishments across the entire state.
We’ve put together a list of 13 restaurants to visit. Four of our suggestions are in the state’s two biggest cities. But the remainder of our list proves that the rest of the commonwealth is far from devoid of delicious, plant-based fare.
Bar Bombón – Philadelphia
As Pennsylvania’s biggest city, diverse and eclectic Philly is a champion of veg-friendly food. There are dozens of vegan and vegetarian restaurants one could visit. While we’d like to recommend at least 20 of these veg-friendly restaurants, we had to narrow it down.
We chose Bar Bombón because a vegan Latin American restaurant is a thing of beauty. At this lively bar and restaurant near Rittenhouse Square, you can order plant-based tamales, tacos, jackfruit “pork,” and more. The cocktails are also a treat, especially the margaritas (of course), which you can get for less during Bar Bombón’s weekday happy hour.
Our recommendation? A giant plate of nachos featuring housemade “cheese” sauce, paired with a marg.
LUHV Vegan Deli – Philadelphia/Ambler/Hatboro
We also chose Philadelphia’s LUHV Vegan Deli because it offers a quintessential Philly experience with a vegan twist: grabbing a bagel sandwich or a hoagie at Reading Terminal Market. Everything at this deli — the chicken salad (made with chick’n), the reuben sandwich (made with seitan), the lox (made with golden beets) — is 100% vegan. Non-meat eaters don’t have to wander the market with stomachs growling, while omnivores can try something new. LUHV also has vegan bistros not far from the city in Ambler and Hatboro.
Apteka – Pittsburgh
While Pittsburgh may have fewer vegan and vegetarian restaurants than Philly, those found in the Steel City certainly pack a punch. After all, Pittsburgh has a committed group of animal-friendly food advocates in Vegan Pittsburgh, working to grow veganism in the city by working with restaurant owners to expand their vegan offerings.
At Apteka, one can order mouthwatering, unique versions of the Pittsburgh classic, pierogies, as well as lesser-known options like celeriac schnitzel and kluski śląskie (soft potato dumplings). The restaurant also has creative cocktail offerings and many imported European wines. The menu changes with the seasons.
Shadobeni – Pittsburgh
Shadobeni, across the Allegheny River on Pittsburgh’s North Side, is the new brick-and-mortar location of a longtime Pittsburgh farmer’s market favorite. With its name a nod to the Caribbean herb culantro (not cilantro), this restaurant serves up vegan Trinidadian food like roti, caramelized plantains, and sorrel, a spicy-sweet deep red drink. We like ordering the pineapple chow (made with shadobeni!), a bowl of okra, and the current special (like a crispy oyster mushroom sandwich topped with a spicy slaw).
Vegan Treats Bakery – Bethlehem
Since 1998, Vegan Treats has been baking outstanding cakes, cookies, donuts, pies, and all sorts of treats with vegan ingredients. Indeed, that long track record of delectable delights has made Vegan Treats rather famous in both the vegan and baking worlds. The bakery was named one of the top ten bakeries in the world by Departures travel magazine, the only vegan establishment on the list. Stop in for a cookie and some (vegan!) soft serve, or place an order for a magnificent wedding cake.
The Vegetable Hunter – Harrisburg/Carlisle/Hershey
Central Pa. has vegan options too. The Vegetable Hunter is a full-service, all-vegan bar and restaurant with locations in both Harrisburg and Carlisle. At each restaurant, the menu includes vegan versions of comfort food, like a cheesesteak made with marinated tofu and housemade “cheese,” a barbeque veggie hot dog, and chick’n and waffles for breakfast. The Vegetable Hunter even brews their own beer via its boutique brewery.
The Hershey outpost is a counter service spot in the Fresh Market farmers’ market in Hershey Towne Square, offering build-your-own burritos, bowls, and sandwiches as well as a few beer and cocktail options.
Umami Gorilla – Wilkes-Barre
Most of the time, Umami Gorilla sells burgers, sandwiches, and other delicious vegan junk food; think “pastrami” sandwiches and even a KFC-inspired mashed potato bowl. But sometimes, the restaurant also hosts special dinners for which diners must reserve a seat. Plus, Umami Gorilla often offers catering for special occasions—like glazed “ham” for Easter dinner or calzones and pizza for the Super Bowl. If you thought going vegan meant giving up your favorite foods, you thought wrong.
Webster’s Bookstore and Cafe – State College
Webster’s Bookstore and Cafe is the idyll of any college town: a bookstore that’s also a coffee shop and a vegetarian restaurant. If you’re not already sold, the menu items are named after books. So if you’d like to grab lunch at Webster’s, you could order a Brave New World (a barbeque tofu wrap), the Good Earth (a rice bowl with tofu and roasted vegetables), or perhaps Paradise Found (a chili cheese burrito).
Webster’s also has a full espresso bar so you can have your coffee fix while you’re browsing for a new read.
Root – Lancaster
Root is an all-vegan restaurant focused on both meat-free foods and sustainability. While much of the menu is ever changing, with weekly specials like breaded trumpet mushroom “scallops” and a sushi-inspired soup, there are also a good number of “favorite” items that are at least seasonally on the menu. Currently, this section features fried tofu buffalo bites and the “Big Mic” (a plant-based take on a Big Mac).
Chen Vegetarian House – West Reading
If you’re a vegan or vegetarian who has missed Chinese food, get excited for Chen Vegetarian House. This restaurant has a similar menu to any other Chinese establishment you’ve visited, except…the sesame chicken? Vegan. Pork lo mein? Vegan. Salmon teriyaki? Vegan. All of the “meats” are made using soy-based ingredients. That’s right, you can go to a Chinese restaurant as a vegan and order anything you like, whether that’s “shrimp” rolls, hot and sour soup, or even a Thai curry.
Eden Vegan Café – Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
Enjoy new American comfort food, made fully vegan, at this restaurant in NEPA. The Scranton location of Eden has been operating since 2008, serving a giant menu boasting pizza, wraps, veggie dogs, hoagies, burgers, and other sandwiches. Here, and at their Wilkes-Barre location, vegetarians and vegans can order vegan versions of junk food they used to love, and omnivores can just eat really tasty food. Try the “meatball” hoagie, BLT, or the Wild Wild West Burger (made with vegan bacon, barbeque sauce, and crispy onions). Or, if you’re leaning in a healthier direction, you can order steamed veggies and rice or create your own salad.
Udipi Cafe, Monroeville
Udipi Cafe is roughly 30 minutes from Pittsburgh, meaning that some of the best Indian food in the area is a mere half hour from the city. The restaurant serves South Indian as well as North Indian favorites, with a menu featuring samosas, dosa, uthappam, Indian curries, and much more. While the restaurant is vegetarian, the menu — and Udipi staff — are clear on which dishes can be made vegan. For instance, while the yogurt-based mango lassi can’t be made vegan, people who say no to dairy can partake in Udipi’s mango juice.
HYPE is an all-vegan vendor making globally inspired vegan food inside York’s historic Central Market. Expect plant-based versions of lunch items like a Thai chick’n bowl, as well as salads, sandwiches, soups, and even empanadas. To visit, be sure to check the market’s hours.