507 S. 6th Street (between Lombard and South)
Let me set the record straight before I even get this next review off the ground. I love meat. I adore meat. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy devouring things that were once alive and innocently grazing this lovely planet. The only thing better than eating meat is eating meat with another side of meat. Over the last 19 months, Plichter and I have consumed countless slices of pizza smothered in glorious shards of seared animal flesh. The one thing that we’ve neglected is a vegan pizza. It’s actually kind of selfish, because I can totally picture the animal friendly community reading our posts and disregarding anything the doughboys have to say…but then again, doesn’t everybody? I gotta hand it to them though. Those who practice these dietary ideals have mad heart. No chocolate milk? No rib eye steaks? No taco bell doritos locos tacos?! Y’all got some issues.
Blackbird pizzeria opened their doors for business a block north of 6th and South about 2 years ago. Apparently the need for an establishment which caters to the pizza needs of the Philly area “veganites” is in high demand. And why shouldn’t it be? Pizza is the best, with or without animal by-products. At first glance of their menu, you can tell that they’ve put some serious time and thought into perfecting their starting line up of pizzas. Blackbird is owned and operated by fellow veganites, who live and die by this lifestyle. They only utilize ingredients that they’d like to see on something that they themselves would eat. Throw them a “like” on Facebook and you can get advance notice on some killer “limited time only” pies. I just missed out on a buffalo chicken, mushroom and habanero pepper pie called “The chicken in the woods”. I’d do terrible random acts of violence for just a little sample of that pie.
Today, I decided on 2 of Blackbird’s top sellers. The first was “The Haymaker”. It’s a 12″ pizza brushed with garlic butter on the crust. Then it’s topped with “daiya cheese”, which is made from cassava root and arrow root. Sounds pretty unappetizing, right? Think again. Even though it’s made from various plant roots, it’s consistency was strikingly similar to fresh mozzarella. Add some red onion, fresh oregano and red sauce. Herein lies my problem. The sauce was extremely thick, almost like a tomato paste. I’m not sure if this is a vegan thing or not but I really wasn’t feelin’ it. The seitan sausage was the final addition. It’s basically a “wheat meat” with a blend of spices that gave it an authentic pork taste. I couldn’t tell the difference. I have mixed feelings on this pie. The savory, buttery crust and spicy faux-sage were delicious, but weren’t enough to get me passed the thick vegan pizza sauce.
My second pie choice (and my favorite of the duo) was the “Funghi”. This pie also starts off with a brushing of garlic butter. Then a handful of truffle oil mozzarella style “daiya cheese” is scattered throughout. Followed by some fresh thyme and then it’s polished off with 8 different types of mushrooms (including shitakes and white truffles) that are imported from a single local mushroom grower. I’m a huge fan of fresh ‘shrooms on pizza…and I stress “FRESH”. I cannot stand when pizza joints pop the lid off of a can of generic mushrooms and dump them on their pies. It’s sacreligious to the fullest. All the different tastes and textures from the various mushrooms were perfect. When I asked for a sprinking of grated parmesan cheese to add some flavor, I was told they have something called “nutritional yeast” which alot of people substitute for the cheesy topping. The name is extremely awkward but it worked really well. The “Funghi” was a home run.
All in all, this was an extremely informative visit to this mysterious and meatless lifestyle. I knew absolutely nothing about veganism before walking through the doors. It gave me a better understanding about what they stand for. Having said all that, I think that I’ll stick with my double bacon and extra cheese pizzas when I’m craving the almighty wonder that is ‘za.
After King Lorenzo died, many places in the South Street area have been eyeing up a very prestigious position. Who exactly has the best pizza in the Bella Vista area of Philly? Stella? Nomad? The torch has to be passed on to someone, and Blackbird has officially thrown their hat into the ring.
Over the past couple months, I’ve heard nothing but great things about this strictly vegan pizzeria right off of South Street. A self proclaimed foodie, I was a bit skeptical at first. I mean, I have plenty of vegan and vegetarian friends. But honestly, I think most of their meatless food substitutes taste like crap. Blackbird unjustifiably had its work cut out for them.
I walked in, took a gander at the slice pies, and immediately knew I had to have the Nacho Pizza. I don’t know how vegan cheese is made or what’s in it, but the cheddar Daiya cheese on this thing looked like straight up radioactive orange nacho cheese. (After a little research, Daiya is made from cassava and arrowroot, and is a much healthier alternative to traditional cheese.) Topped with avocado, caramelized onions and jalapeno peppers, this was honestly one of the most impressive slices of pizza I’ve ever had. Again, since my expectations for vegan pizza were exceptionally low, I was thoroughly impressed.
Next up was the slice of seitan pepperoni. A meatless substitute, seitan is a wheat gluten that’s an alternative to soybean-based products such as tofu. The uneducated would probably mistake it for sliced steak meat, or maybe even leather. It’s not exactly pleasing to the eye to say the least. It was grey and dry looking, but had an interestingly spicy taste to it. It won’t be my first topping of choice in the future, but it’s worth a try.
Personally, I believe that humans are natural carnivores. But if I had to live in a world without meat, Blackbird would be my restaurant of choice. While you’re there, be sure to try some of their natural sodas as well. But do yourself a favor and get that nacho pizza before you do anything else.