Restaurant Review: The Black Olive: An Inviting New Restaurant to Visit in Philadelphia
There’s a new gem of a restaurant in the Mount Airy area of Philadelphia. It’s got a cheery atmosphere and the menu is fully vegan, at once delicious and wholesome. The prices are reasonable for the quantity and quality of food served; we could see this place taking off and charging more.
None of the parking troubles that go with downtown dining crop up here. Simply pass the restaurant front on Mt. Airy Avenue, turn into the lot, and park without worries. Ah.
On our second visit to the Black Olive, we were greeted by a delightful staffer who remembered us from the first visit -- a full month before. We walked across the polished hardwood floor to a waiting table and were immediately enveloped in the comfort of the place, as fresh bread with a side of olive oil and herbs arrived, and sparkling fruit drinks were offered.
We talked for a while over enjoyable jazz music. As local activist Randy Shields observes, “Real jazz. Not smooth or muzak jazz.” And unless the place is reserved for a large party, the tables are well separated, allowing for intimacy and conversation.
The menu has just enough choices to allow one to keep going back to try new things. Most important, the food is prepared and served lovingly, and we were made to feel at home. The chef, smiling warmly, has always come over to check on us.
We recommend the soup of the day; so far we’ve tried the split pea soup, a creamy broccoli offering, and a hearty vegetable soup. All were satisfying and served in friendly, big bowls.
Our strong pick for the main dish is the Grilled Seitan Steak ($18.00), served with mashed Yukon potatoes, baby carrots, and grilled asparagus. Were also taken by the barbequed vegan-chicken sandwich (“p an-seared seitan coated with Black Olive’s tantalizingly delicious barbecue sauce, served on toasted seven-grain bread, along with potato wedges and vegan cole slaw), a less expensive yet filling meal at $8.00.
And we insist that you can not eat here without trying the garlic and sesame seasoned kale side dish; much as we all love kale, we did not know it could be this good. The Kente Slaw ($3.00) is also a nice side note -- more summery than the rich, warm Sesame Seasoned Kale ($4.00).
The desserts don’t disappoint; we sampled the German chocolate cake, the double chocolate cake, and the lemon cake (all $5.00). Nothing was left but crumbs. Sorbets ($4.00) are also available.
What won’t you find here? Well, because the idea for the restaurant was guided by Carolyn Hines, who counsels in nutrition, the Black Olive does not serve processed foods, greasy foods, unnatural ingredients or harmful additives. And you can tell. For now, we think you can show up without a reservation, but as people catch on to this lovely restaurant, you may have to jostle for a table.
The staff is patient too. They are amenable to pouring wine you bring along, and will let guests linger and talk after dessert. After sitting for nearly four hours discussing upcoming animal rights projects, we decided to make Black Olive a regular meeting spot. So when you come try this restaurant, look around: You might just see us planning to protect the deer in Valley Forge Park!
After your meal, if you’d like to sample some great, home-brewed vegan beers (of which part of your payment goes to local environmental non-profits), walk a few yards to Earth Bread & Brewery at 7136 Germantown Avenue. Although it’s not a vegan restaurant, the kitchen staff is amenable to preparing special items for vegans, it’s a nice atmosphere for a vegan brew, and, interestingly enough, the soaps in the washroom are vegan!
24 East Mt. Airy Ave. (near the corner of East Mt. Airy and Germantown Avenues)
Philadelphia , Pennsylvania 19119
Tuesday – Thursday 5 - 9 pm
Friday and Saturday 5 – 10 pm
Sunday brunch begins 11 am; last seating is 3 pm
Monday’s menu – Monday Night Live, from 6 to 9 pm – comprises 100% raw or “living” foods.