A first: national burger chain offering vegan sandwich in Philly

The Beyond Burger from Beyond Meat.

As of today, Philadelphians can order a vegan burger right off the menu from a national burger chain, and that's a big deal. Our city has been in the forefront of mainstreaming vegan fast food, but it's always good to have options such as this from a national partnership. The more the merrier!

"The plant-based Beyond Burger that looks, cooks and satisfies like traditional beef" from Beyond Meat, with diced onions, tomato, pickles, ketchup and mustard, served on a vegan bun, grilled on a separate grill, will be available at Burger Fi (44 N. 12th St, 267-928-3882) through the end of 2017 as one of eight test markets.

There is an option to get the vegan burger on a nonvegan bun, adding dairy cheese, etc., and there's also a nonvegan veggie burger that the chain has offered for a while, but such half-measure options are now commonplace on fast-food menus; it's the legit vegan menu item that stands out.

The Philly location was selected for test-marketinggeneral manager Sean Heaton said, partially because "they saw we were selling a lot of the veggie burgers, percentage-wise." Now that word has got out about the new vegan burger coming to town — this is the first chain here to offer it, though it's been at Whole foods since late last year — Heaton says "people have already been asking about it."

He looked forward, he said, to being able to satisfy a larger number of customers by offering at least one all-vegan sandwich, dodging a growing "vegan veto."

"It'll be good to have the opportunity to bring in more guests," he noted.

The restaurant will be open all day on July 4, in case fellow vegans or vegan-curious are out and about in Center City.

For completists, I'll note that in the extra-green style of the Beyond Burger you can use lettuce instead of a bun, though when it comes to sandwich wrappings this sounds to me a lot like "you can always have salad." Anyway, it's an option, and we all like options.

Back in 2013, when HipCityVeg became our town's first vegan fast-food chain, I wondered how soon national chains would begin to challenge its inspired vegan sandwiches — "will homegrown Philly sit back as national chains waltz in and, you know, ring our bell?" — and charged our foodies to prepare for "a veggie influx" of "healthy and humane moves by Big Fast Food." That time is now.

Burger Fi and Beyond Meat win pride of place as the first fast-food chain and nationally-distributed burger to muscle their way into our market with a new, appealing vegan item. But it's pretty clear they won't be the last.

UPDATE 8/29: After test-marketing the burger in Philly and seven other cities, Burger Fi has announced that the Beyond Burger will now be available at all of its locations nationwide starting on Monday, Sept. 4.