Today, Center City workers get a jolt of new vegan lunch options

Workers at Naked Lunch, the in-store cafe at the new Mom’s Organic Market in Center City, prepare for the store’s Sept. 8th Grand Opening.

It’s a banner day for vegan-eating office workers in and around “East Market,” as we gain, just steps away, a spot to grab a large variety of vegan foods for lunch.

That’s the MOM’s Organic Market that opens this morning at 11th and Ludlow. While theoretically a weekly-food-shopping destination, the store’s urban-centric location assures that many purchases will come from office workers grabbing one or two items – and for an increasing number, those items will be vegan. You can check them out and in some cases try free samples as MOM’s celebrates its Grand Opening throughout the weekend with special events and promotions.

Sure, nowadays any supermarket carries some vegan packaged items like faux meats and plant milks for stocking your pantry, and it’s become easier to find vegan snack items. And don’t forget the original “high-raw” food sector of fresh produce. But for those of us looking for a pre-made full-meal grab-n-go, MOM’s certainly goes above and beyond.

Regional Coordinator Vannessa Quandt first noted that the bigger the MOM’s, the more variety there is to offer, and that the Center City location is “bigger than the Bryn Mawr location, but smaller than Cherry Hill.” The new place has “a large prepared foods section featuring a lot of items from local vendors,” including such faves as Moshe’s sandwich and noodle line, supplemented with other vegan sandwich and lunch varieties. She stressed that local vegan ravioli Eat Nice will also be available among the many regular-shelf items one might (depending on one’s office setup) build a more extensive lunch around.

But also installed within the space is the vegan-friendly Naked Lunch — “an all-organic, vegetarian eatery” — which Quandt says is “an experiment with grab-and-go food” and which offers juices, soups, salads and other plant-centric items such as a black bean burger and cauliflower steak. I got a chance to try the latter and it was very tasty, served on a bed of spinach and rice with tomatoes and mushrooms and accompanied by chimichurri sauce.

The main option at Naked Lunch comes in the form of hearty pre-made bowls, including a sushi bowl (brown rice topped with miso roasted tofu, avocado, carrots, cucumber, seaweed, sesame seeds, soy sauce and ginger-sesame dressing) and other fun combo bowls (e.g. the Confetti Bowl, the Breeze Bowl, the Crowder Bowl) all of which either are or can be made vegan. And all are priced just under $10 — a pretty attractive price point for a handy vegan lunch of fresh organic ingredients in the middle of Center City. The Naked Lunch packaging is all compostable, which is fantastic if, you know, your office happens to do composting. Either way, a positive step in keeping with MOM’s crunchy, green identity.

Quandt also enthused about a DC-based product, Swapples, which are vegetable-based toaster waffles in flavors such as pizza with sun-dried tomatoes and which “are available in both Paleo and vegan varieties.” These you’d need to take back to the office microwave and/or toaster oven, but they sound like an interesting potential lunch component.

Maybe most importantly for those vegan coffee-drinkers who lighten their drink, “we will have a nice variety of vegan creamers as well as regular vegan milks,” said Quandt. This is good news, given that to this date, even soy-milk pioneer Starbucks has yet to introduce a vegan creamer option (yeah, no, “milk” doesn’t do the same job in coffee as “creamer”). I know I’m not the only one to whom this will appeal when all our workplace has handy are “Non-Dairy” creamers that, um, contain dairy. And upon seeing the shelves yesterday, I noted that I was looking at the most extensive collection of vegan creamers I’ve ever seen in any store.

So yeah, this could be the start of something big: Hopefully the presence of MOM’s and its extensive animal-free inventory will spur still more adoption of same by merchants around the area. And this is, of course, not to slight the smaller venues that have already cropped up, or persisted, in the area since the Gallery closed in 2015, eliminating a lot of eh-not-bad lunch options, some of them vegan-friendly. Honeygrow, for one, recently opened just across the street from the new MOM’s, and other places in the neighborhood are gradually expanding their plant-based menus. But with the number of easily-accessible foods jumping (and, ahem, the “inconvenience” of veganism for would-be adopters continually falling) today is a good time to raise a glass, and a fork, and enjoy a vegan lunch!