HipCityVeg: A Critical Menu Commentary

As a lifelong vegetarian, people often wonder what I’ve been eating my whole life. They ask me if I have salad everyday. Perhaps a serving of bread and rice on occasion. Or if I must resort to eating grass at times. Fortunately, none of those statements is quite representative of the modern vegetarian diet.

One great option where I’ve had several tasty meals in University City is HipCityVeg. In accordance with full restaurant review protocol, I intended on tasting and reviewing every item on HipCity’s menu, until I realized that doing so may further exacerbate the student debt crisis. Thankfully, our budget allowed us the liberty to navigate to HipCity’s website and review the text descriptions of several menu items. Check it out!

Smokehouse Burger Beyond Meat®, crispy onions, tangy BBQ, & smoked gouda cheese.

Backed by Bill Gates. IPO’ed more successfully than Uber. Partnerships with restaurant chains all over the U.S. It’s Beyond Meat, the meatless meat start-up gone viral, kicking off our list of burgers with a bang. The concept of something as classic as the American burger, yet forged with modern techniques at a modern enterprise, simply puts Beyond, and the Smokehouse, a full leap year ahead of the times. Combine that with crispy onions, classic BBQ sauce, and smoked cheese, and I already see it. Self-driving electric vehicles pulling up to HipCity’s all over the country. AI-enabled voices over neon OLED lights. Welcome to the future. Welcome to the Smokehouse.

Philly Steak grilled onion, mushroom, organic ketchup, & mozza cheese.

I’m not going to lie, the moment my eyes glazed over this description, my eyes only glazed over further. With the only notable aspects from the ingredients list being an unnamed fungus that grows on dead trees, the “organic-ness” of a condiment that probably occupies less than 5% of the volume of the sandwich, and an unimaginative abbreviation of one of the most common cheeses, this sandwich is a pyramid scheme.

Ziggy Burger organic smoked tempeh & special sauce.

Whenever a restaurant uses an adjective that begins with a “Z” to describe a burger, you already know it’s going to be good. But the first thing that caught my eye was the special sauce. The particularly astute reader may ask, well what’s so special about the special sauce? Let me tell you, it’s not about the sauce. It’s about the special. Consider the Special Sauce from the leading institution for American burgers, McDonald’s. Or the Special Sauce recipe from Penn Appétit’s contemporary, Bon Appétit. Every special sauce tells a story, and here’s the Ziggy Burger’s story. It’s made with tempeh, a soy protein produced via a special fermentation process that also helps it retain more protein, fiber, and vitamins. And when smoked, organic, and dressed with special sauce, the Ziggy becomes a cultural icon. 

Ancient proverbs state that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But at Penn Appétit, we prefer to take the contrarian approach in our reviews. From hidden gems to blatant pieces of coal, reading between the lines on menu item descriptions can often reveal insights that can help you make the best of your time and money.

Featured Image from Philly Mag