At Sunday's final judging event for the Philly.com / V for Veg Best Vegan Cheesesteak in Philly contest at Union Transfer more than a hundred people watched as 2014 champion Blackbird Pizzeria reclaimed the title.
Watch for a full contest wrap-up on Thursday. Meanwhile, here's the basic info: 2nd place went to Triangle Tavern, which introduced a new cheesesteak from Mark McKinney (2015 winner with Royal Tavern) just in time to qualify for the contest.
3rd place finalist Frankie's on Fairview had handed out plenty of vegan cheesesteak samples before the event, as did The Abbaye from Northern Liberties. Also sampling was Crust Vegan Bakery, which gave out cookies at the event's conclusion. All of these seemed to be very well received by the vegan-friendly crowd.
Judges' gifts included fresh Dottie's Donuts, celebrating that team's newly-opened storefront at 4529 Springfield Ave. The winner of the sweepstake prize, dinner for 2 at Miss Rachel's Pantry, was Susie Adams.
Vegan-cheesesteak pioneer Alfoncie Austin, former proprietor of Basic 4 Vegetarian in the Reading Terminal Market, was recognized at the event for her role in mainstreaming vegan cheesesteaks, and received a gift card donated by Vedge. Ms. Austin's daughter, Lisa Tynes, was a judge, joined on the panel by the DN's Stu Bykofsky, former Pa. House Rep Babette Josephs and Leila Vaughan of Peace Advocacy Network.
Frankie's may not have prevailed in the final judging vs. Blackbird, but the venue was named "Best Newcomer," having put in a strong showing in social-media voting. Due to the glitch in philly.com balloting we are tabling the "People's Choice Sandwich" award this year, so the 2015 titleholder, Royal Tavern, will retain that title until 2017.
Former contest judge Christina Pirello made an appearance with emcee and Pat's King of Steaks owner Frank Olivieri, Jr., showcasing their collaborative pop-up meal at Caffe Valentino on April 3.
Thanks to all who came out for the event and those who provided food and/or support of one kind or another. The show, at a much greater scale than last year's, had its hiccups, but was a tasty celebration of the growing tradition of excellent vegan cheesesteaks in Philadelphia.