V For Veg: Vegan dines coast to coast, but says Philly's the best

Kristin LaJeunesse is traveling from town to town with the goal of eating at every all-vegan restaurant in the USA. (Photo: Jennifer Simmons)

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 Voyager: Follow Kristin's further progress at wtfveganfood.com or on Twitter at @wtfveganfood.

"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.