While a student at Overbrook High School back in 1995, with mad cow disease in the headlines, Lamarr Ingram says he got sick from a bacon cheeseburger.
Already a picky eater, “I just had this feeling that I would never eat beef or pork again,” he said. “For about six months I did have dairy, but I didn’t have any chicken or fish. Then I basically became pescatarian.” He wanted to go vegan, but “this was 1995," he said. "There were no options, especially in the inner city. You couldn’t even find turkey bacon in most diners.”
Ingram, who along the way worked at a hospital and started a real estate business, did go all-vegan nearly three years ago.
Now he is taking the plunge into the restaurant world with Vegan-ish, a fast-casual shop, opening Saturday, Jan. 11, at 1214 N. 52nd St. just north of Girard Avenue in West Philadelphia.
The entire menu of sandwiches and salads is vegan. Seafood, however, is offered on four dishes. So... vegan-ish.
Chef Todd Butler, whose resume includes Aqimero at the Ritz-Carlton, Marquis & Co. (HipCity Veg, etc.), and City Winery, said the only thing that’s not vegan is the seafood option itself. “There’s a salmon burrito,” he says. “The only thing in the entire sandwich that’s not vegan is the fish itself. We’re trying to eat vegan, but maybe [customers] still eat fish, but they should understand that we really have a complete separation in our kitchen between the seafood and the vegan dishes.”
Burgers are all made with Impossible Burger “meat,” including a spicy creation called When Smokey Sings ($10), which has caramelized onions, barbecue sauce, long hots, and house-made slaw on a brioche bun from Baker Street. The chickpea burger samosa ($8) is a chickpea patty with curry, apricot chutney, lettuce and tomato, and fries on the sandwich.
“I believe people are looking for healthy options,” Ingram said. “We want to introduce it to the community and let people experience it.”
Initial hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.