KRISTIN LAJEUNNESSE can't be the only person who's ever thought of traveling the United States eating at every vegan restaurant. But she's the one who's actually doing it, in a project called "Will Travel for Vegan Food."
Her journey began last fall, and in March she came through Philadelphia. I interviewed her afterward to get an outsider's perspective on our veg scene.
Q: How did this go from "crazy idea" to a reality of your daily life?
A: I was ready to start living these "dreams" I had. I left my 9-to-5 job, set up a social-media consulting business, spent a few months planning the trip and securing a van, started a Kickstarter project to help fund gas and food, and then . . .I was off!
Q: Before you got to Philly, what eateries did you find noteworthy?
A: G-Zen in Branford, Conn.; Eden Vegetarian in Bar Harbor, Maine; and Borrowed Earth Cafe in Downers Grove, Ill.
Q: How did our town's vegan offerings compare with other cities'?
A: Among the best! Hands down. Between the standouts, the overall vegan-friendliness of non-veg restaurants, and the ease of walking around (everything seemed to be within a mile of each other, which made it easy to walk/bus around), the overall experience was one of my best so far.
Q: What Philly place stands out the most for you?
A: Vedge is absolutely one of my all-time favorites of the entire road trip to date. Mostly it's the creativity that's put into each meal, as if every bite had its own pop of flavor.
Q: OK, no surprise there, but other than Vedge?
A: Blackbird Pizzeria and Grindcore House - I definitely spent the most time at both of these places. Blackbird's vegan pizza is truly one of a kind. Unique pies with crazy delicious toppings. And their cheesesteak is the best I had in all of Philly. Grindcore House was my first experience with an all-vegan coffee house. I fell in love with their mocha lattes with soy whip drizzled with chocolate syrup. So. Good. I would move to Philly for just these two places.
Q: Any surprises here?
A: A vegan restaurant that completely caught me off guard was Sprig & Vine in New Hope. The food was simply magnificent and the ambience was tip-top. And they pay attention.
Q: Did you find any common thread among Philly venues?
A: Absolutely. It had little to do with food or ambience, however. It was the sense of community and connectedness among the restaurants and overall vegan community. If I chatted with servers or owners, they'd always bring up other area restaurants and compliment them, and encourage me to visit them. It was beautiful, really. I have yet to see this kind of group support anywhere else.
"V for Veg" chronicles the growing trend of plant-based eating in and around Philadelphia. Send your veg tips to VforVeg@phillynews.com and follow @V4Veg on Twitter.