Vegan cheesesteak contest judges named

The first sandwich to win Best Vegan Cheesesteak in Philly was this 2014 entry from Blackbird Pizzeria.

With more than 500 votes cast among 35 nominated venues, the 2016 Best Vegan Cheesesteak in Philly contest is starting to sizzle as we head into the final week. Vote once a day for your favorite venue at philly.com/vegancontest or by tweeting with the hashtag #vegancheesesteak.

Voting ends at noon March 18. At 4 p.m. March 20, the three top finalists will be taste-tested to determine a winner during a vegan event at Union Transfer (1026 Spring Garden St., $10 at the door, 215-232-2100).

The event, emceed by Frank Olivieri Jr. of Pat's Steaks, will feature samples of vegan products. It will also recognize Alfoncie B. Austin, whose Basic 4 Vegetarian, a Reading Terminal Market fixture for 31 years until its 2012 closure, pioneered vegan cheesesteaks in Philly.

Austin's daughter, Lisa Tynes, who served as Basic 4 general manager, will be one of our judges.

Joining Tynes on the panel will be:

Babette Josephs, a longtime vegetarian/vegan who served 28 years in the Pennsylvania House;

Leila Vaughan, president of Peace Advocacy Network, a nonprofit that runs Vegan Pledge programs to help people transition to veganism;

and Daily News columnist Stu Bykofsky, who often writes on animal issues but still enjoys regular cheesesteaks. More info on the finals event at V for Vegan.

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Vance Lehmkuhl is a cartoonist, writer, musician and 15-year vegan. "V for Veg" chronicles plant-based

eating in and around Philadelphia. VforVeg@phillynews.com or @V4Veg on Twitter.