Philadelphia-Based Vegan Chain HipCityVeg Debuts in DC

Philly-based HipCityVeg offers a meatless spin on fast food favorites like this crispy "chick'n" sandwich. Photograph courtesy of HipCityVeg

It’s a good time to be vegan in DC, or anyone who dabbles in meatless-ness, given the full spectrum of options—from casual Mediterranean at the newly-opened Shouk to finer-dining tasting menus at Todd Gray’s Equinox, and in-between spots like Doron Petersan’s forthcoming diner/bakery/bar, Fare Well. The newest player on the scene: Philadelphia-based HipCityVeg, which will offer yet another experience when it opens in Penn Quarter on Wednesday.

Founder Nicole Marquis launched her flagship eatery in Rittenhouse Square with accessibility in mind, which translates to a meatless menu inspired by popular fast-foods like crispy chicken sandwiches, smoked tempeh burgers, and Philly steak subs alongside salads and smoothies.  She even initially eschewed the vegan descriptor for “plant-based” cuisine.

“Flexibility is key, and ‘plant-based’ is more straightforward,” says Marquis. “For many people, the word vegan is heavy with ethical baggage, and maybe there’s a perception that the food isn’t satisfying.”

She admits that the mindset has changed–and now uses both terms at the restaurant–but was especially sensitive to the accessibility issue after helping her father transition from a meat-heavy diet to a vegan one when he was diagnosed with type-two diabetes—now in remission, Marquis says, thanks to the lifestyle change.

The healthful philosophy continues at the new DC branch of HipCityVeg—the third for Marquis, and the first outside Philadelphia, in what she hopes will be a larger expansion. The opening menu is the same as at the flagship, with a daily-made lineup of salads and smoothies using local-when-possible produce, sandwiches, burgers, sweet potato fries, and sweets. Look for delivery to start soon after the opening—via bicycle, naturally.

HipCityVeg. 712 Seventh St., NW.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.