Photo by MICHAEL PERSICO
NAME: Blackbird Pizzeria
LOCATION: 507 South 6th St, Philadelphia, PA, 19147
JAWN: Vegan pizza, wings, sandwiches, fries, salads
VIBE: With its no-frills, bare-bones atmosphere, Blackbird doesn’t try to wow their customers with any flashy high-concept gimmickry. At Blackbird, the food speaks for itself.
PRICE RANGE: Slightly above your average pizza shop prices but so worth it.
HIGHLIGHTS: Thankfully, there is no shortage of vegan-friendly options in Philly, but when the urge to indulge in the guilty pleasures of a junk food binge arises, Blackbird Pizzeria is the answer. The choices range from specialty pizzas with insanely creative topping combos, sandwiches infused with complex tastes, hot wings, fries, salads and decadent desserts from Bethlehem’s Vegan Treats. Junk food classics are not only veganized, but taken step further, blasting taste buds into the realm of pure and utter elation.I ordered the “Wingwich,” impulsively, and by the time I noticed that in addition to tomato, onion and pumpkin seed pesto, it came with “Cajun spiced coleslaw” and avocado — two items I don’t ordinarily like — it didn’t really matter. I was sold on the symphony of flavor nestled between the fluffy, buttery bread courtesy of Wild Flour Bakery.
The seitan cheesesteak is definitely a crowd pleaser, it is both familiar and surprising. The chefs really do a great job of emulating that greasy, cheesy, fresh off the grill, authentic, philly cheesesteak feel. The drippy, meaty mash oozes from the ends of the roll and soaks right into the bread. Mmmm. Holding it in your hand makes you feel so damn Philly that you want to flip off a cab driver and run the steps of the Art Museum. The secret ingredient is white mushrooms.
Also try the root beer barbecue wings served with pineapple and jalapeno relish. Made from seitan, these wings are crisped to perfection on the outside, juicy and tender on the inside and smothered in a sauce that is a spicy, citrus-y blend.
The habanero wings are a close second to root beer varietyl. They are prepared more like fried chicken than the root beer wings and lightly spiced with the habanero sauce, resulting in a more sophisticated version of the original hotwing. Not sloppy and over the top but just greasy and fried enough to belong in a pizza shop.
Of course, vegan pizza is their jawn. My personal preference is the plain pizza topped with seitan sausage. The slightly crunchy crust and the, dare I say, meaty sausage taste combine with the gooey, melt-y mass of sauce and cheese to create an extremely complementary blend of flavors. Admittedly the seitan-sausage pie is a little prudish when compared to the more exotic specialty pies like The Haymaker — freshly made dough lathered in a homemade roasted garlic/ vegan butter spread, topped with Daiya cheese, thinly sliced red onions, sausage-style seitan, red sauce, fresh oregano leaves.
The nacho pizza is another one of Blackbird’s major highlights. Basically a cheddar cheese pizza with avocado, caramelized onions and jalapenos, this is way beyond the realm of any pizza I’ve eaten and it definitely earns bonus points for uniqueness.
LOWLIGHTS: Having frequented Blackbird more than once for “research purposes,” I have not found a single dish disappointing. The only risky thing about Blackbird is the compulsion to order half the menu and shamefully stuff yourself to the point of incapacitation. You also run the risk of becoming almost strung out on their food, plotting and scheming your next visit.
DINING EXPERIENCE: On top of the incredible food, Blackbird also has awesome staff. You never get that “too cool for art school” attitude from behind the counter. Rather, you get a smile, answers to your questions, honest recommendations and perhaps even a pleasant chat. In Philly, this is rare, so it’s nice to feel like you’re not being hastily pushed along- even when you are ordering half the menu. Or maybe I am just a sucker for the whole “service with a smile” deal. Either way, it adds to the laid back, comfortable appeal of Blackbird.