127 S. 18th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
HipCityVeg, one word or three? I'm not sure, but either way, I've decided to call it TimeMoneyCalories, because that's what I wasted on a cool, windy day during my lunch hour on this recent visit to the new Rittenhouse eatery.
In case the title leaves you guessing, it's a strictly vegetarian joint that opened a few weeks ago in what used to be Pad Thai Shack – talk about quick turn-over. It's "fast food" for health nuts, vegetarians, etc. with a pretty comprehensive menu that offers a range of plant-based salads, sandwiches, wraps and sides.
The inside is small, but clean and modern with an open kitchen – the line runs the length of the space, its only separation being a chest-high counter. It's nice to see what's going on in there, and while I took a late lunch, even at 2pm, this place was packed with a steady flow of customers so I didn't get the opportunity to really sneak a good peak.
After little deliberation, I decided to order the Crispy Hipcity Ranch and a side of sweet potato fries (they don't offer regular ones). After nearly 10 minutes, my name was called and I retrieved my bag.
Not surprising that the packaging was, dare I say it, "hip." It was clean and really driving home the whole, "we recycle" thing, but I found myself having trouble breaking the sandwich out of its little tightly pleated shell. There was sauce everywhere to begin with.
The Hipcity Ranch came with battered chick'n, lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles & peppercorn ranch on some sort of large, really bread-y, dense brioche roll. I took one bite and realized that I'd have to deconstruct this thing to even try and enjoy it. The bread was 5/6ths of the sandwich, and it was d-r-y. The ranch wasn't ranch, it was like a bland soy-based mayo that offered moisture, but really no flavor.
I pulled the chick'n out and ate it first. It WAS crispy, and pretty delicious. With a well-seasoned batter with the punch of coarse ground black pepper, it reminded me of a sassy McDonald's crispy chicken, only 3 times the price, for (most likely) the same (soy-based) ingredients. All of the bread and its 'ranch' dressing sat idly nearby, waiting to join the paper bag in the can.
The sweet potato fries were good. Not crispy, but still good, likely because their mate, a cilantro-black bean dip, was the highlight of the meal. My chick'n patty definitely saw a few dunks in this stuff as well. It was flavor-packed with bits of cilantro and tasted like a fresh Tex-Mex ranch.
Sadly, I can't say another visit will be in order, especially when a $14 price tag leaves me mostly with food waste. Next time I'll go around the corner to McD's when a crispy chicken sandwich is what I'm craving.
-posted by gabulous