Photo by JASON BLEECHER
EDITOR’S NOTE: Vegging is a new foodie feature wherein Phawker intern Patrick Kaisinger rates the city’s vegetarian and vegan eateries
NAME: Miss Rachel’s Pantry
LOCATION: 1732 W Passyunk Ave., South Philadelphia
CONCEPT: If Farmer Brown went vegan and the cow jumped over the moon.
DECOR: Walking from the streets of South Philly into Miss Rachel’s Pantry is like experiencing a complete reality shift, as the cold, grey streets, filled with parking spot anxiety, give way to the calming warmth of Miss Rachel’s world. The bright, welcoming dining room is reminiscent of visiting a slightly more modern version of your grandmother’s house, right down to the quirky artwork, vintage kitchen decor and communal style seating arrangement. I was immediately seduced by the assortment of hungry food smells filling the room and after looking over the four course menu I was worked into an overwhelming frenzy of hunger and anticipation.
DINING EXPERIENCE: The “Farmhouse Table,” which consists of 12 strangers at one enormous table, was a source of terror for me as I suffer from some extreme social anxieties. I was surprised that after the initial awkward greetings and forced conversation, the meal began to feel very much like a casual family dinner. I can confidently assure that even the terminally awkward have no need to fear, as a mutual love for vegan cuisine and delicious eats is bound to keep the conversation flowing smoothly. The only downside to Miss Rachel’s is that it is not open 24/7 and it is not close to my apartment. This is probably a good thing though, at least in my case. The fact that Miss Rachel only serves her Farmhouse Dinner once a week (Saturday night) by reservation, prevents me from eating there every night of the week and blowing my whole paycheck on her food.
PRICE RANGE: About $45 a meal, totally worth it.
THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY: The menu changes all the time, but on the night I dined there it was a minor masterpiece — four courses, each with two mouth-watering options. I have never had a more difficult time ordering off a menu. With the possibility of appetizers like “tempura tofu in spicy, creamy sauce with edamame puree” or “wild mushroom tartlet with herbed cashew cream” the decision making process feels something like a high pressure sales situation, filling you with fear of missing out on the best bargain. My suggestion? Bring a friend that is willing to share. Thanks to the generosity of my eating partner I got to sample every option for every course and I can honestly say that Rachel does not serve a single dish that is anything less than amazing.
The dish I found to be the most mind blowing was the “hearty seitan bolognese with tofu ricotta dumplings.” Miss Rachel confided to me that this was her favorite dish as well. When I asked how she prepared this phenomenal dish she explained the process of “slow-cook[ing] a ‘meaty’ seitan sauce with diced carrots, tomatoes, onions, garlic and basil until it … became almost stew-like” and then adding “a handful of delicate little dumplings” filled with “tofu ricotta and cashew cream.” Rachel professed her love for dumplings, proclaiming them “tiny little presents that you get to eat!” I could not agree more. I am also compelled to give honorable mention to the potato and leek bisque, which was more like a thick, creamy mashed potato dish in the best, most phenomenal, bowl scraping manner possible. I cannot, in good conscience, let the onion bread (compliments of Wild flour Bakery) with herbed butter go unmentioned as it immediately set a very high bar for the rest of the meal. Also, the “fluffy blueberry shortcake,” closed the meal by magically satisfying the sweet tooth without being too rich or heavy.
As I’ve said, nothing at Miss Rachel’s is disappointing. If I really had to pick a complaint, I would say that bigger guys (like myself) may be a little fearful of the fine dining portions at first, but after four course I will believe they will be more than satisfied. For example, when it comes to an amazing treat like the toast (or red peppers, for gluten free diners) spread with a rich cream cheese and sprinkled with crispy coconut bacon, you may be compelled to eat four, five, maybe fifteen pieces but you will have to show restraint, share with the other kids, and pretend not to be a ravenous beast for the benefit of the other diners. This isn’t really a complain, it is just that the food is so good, you may want to lick the plate, but if I can hold back, so can you, so don’t worry about it.