When seeking vegan-friendly bars, I think I am pretty easy to please. I basically require just a few simple things:
- Craft beer on tap
- Vegan items clearly labeled on the menu, so I don’t have to play a game of 20 Questions with the waitstaff
- More than 1 vegan choice, excluding hummus, “garden salads”, and portabello mushroom sandwiches. I’ve had enough of all three in my lifetime, thank you very much
One particular chain of bar/restaurants in Philly always fulfills all three of those requirements. I’m talking about the Royal Tavern and both Cantina locations (Dos Segundas and Los Caballitos.) The head chef at all three locations, Mark McKinney, does a splendid job of giving us vegans a plethora of delicious menu options. The recently revamped Khyber Pass Pub is the 4th, and possibly the best of the bunch in my humble opinion!
I strolled up to Old City this past Monday for an evening of food and drink at the Khyber. The Khyber used to be primarily a music venue with a decent bar. The first time I went there was more than a half-decade ago – to see Andy Rourke, formerly of The Smiths, spin records. It happened to be the first time I tried a Victory Hop Devil; I deemed it too hoppy for my tastes at the time (oh, how the times have changed.)
The new Khyber has replaced the music floor with dining tables. They now boast 20 tap lines and 2 hand pumps for cask-conditioned beer – everything from local favorites like Yards Philly Pale Ale or Victory Storm King to West Coast IPAs like Ballast Point Big Eye or Port Brewing High Tide. And the food menu – still in “preview” mode for now, is Southern-style, with a bunch of vegan options.
Normally I’d go with seitan po boys or the veggie sausage sandwich – two mainstays on the still-new menu. On this evening, however, I chose to start with one of the daily specials: Vegan Sausage & Mustard Greens Soup.
The soup was very hearty and tasty. The sausage reminded me of the vegan chorizo you can purchase at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. The greens and tomato broth complimented it well.
For my entree, I chose to go with the Vegan Pulled Pork Sandwich with a side of mashed potatoes and gravy.
The mashed potatoes had a really raw (in a good way), un-processed feel to them. As you can see by the crappy iPhone photo I took, it doesn’t look like the perfectly blended commercial junk you get in the supermarket. This was a real mashup of potatoes and soy milk. I think the gravy could be a tad thicker, but overall the taste was spot on (not overly salty, like some veg-gravies can be.)
The pulled pork sandwich itself was a soft bun surrounding a mound of slightly sweet but also tangy seitan covered in some sort of cole slaw. I’m not a big cole slaw fan – in fact, I don’t like most white, veganaise-y things, but even I found this to be delicious.
I was too stuffed between the beer and food that I had no room for dessert. They do offer cakes from Vegan Treats in the event that I ever leave room in my stomach during a future visit.
Previously, my go-to, never-dissapoints, vegan-friendly Philly pubs were Local 44 and Memphis Taproom, but I now have to make room for a third. (It also helps that the Khyber Pass Pub is merely 2.5 miles away from my house, making for a pretty pleasant walk through Philadelphia.) I highly recommend it to any vegans looking for hearty pub food and a few tasty pints.