During a 22-year stint as tour manager for New Jersey-based punk band The Bouncing Souls, Kate Hiltz had to learn how to cook for large groups.
“Tour and shows became an excuse to feed people,” said Hiltz, who started catering weddings and events 15 years ago. “Everything was always vegetarian, then it became vegan.”
Today, Hiltz and friends Sofia Baltopoulos and Ben Pierce are set to open The Tasty, a new vegan diner in South Philadelphia.
For years, Baltopoulos cooked and baked at home. After moving to the city two years ago, she began to sell her baked goods to coffee shops in the area. Later, Baltopoulos and Hiltz began to collaborate and cater events throughout the city.
An advertisement in the Passyunk Post for the open space at the corner of Gerritt and S. 12th streets caught the attention of Pierce, who offered to handle the coffee served at the diner. Pierce, who worked as a barista during high school, now works behind the scenes at ReAnimator Coffee.
For 30 years, Atlantic Pizza occupied the space The Tasty will take over. Hiltz and Pierce decided to keep much of the already-existing interior decor to give the new space a classic diner feel.
The throwback decor, however, is the only aspect of The Tasty that will resemble Atlantic Pizza—customers hoping to find burgers and cheese-based foods on the menu will have to go elsewhere.
“There’s a big difference between a regular place having vegan and vegetarian options and having a vegetarian place or a vegan place,” Hiltz said.
As Philadelphia moves to becoming a more vegan-friendly city, the prospect of The Tasty being a destination for vegan residents and visitors alike excites Hiltz. She hopes to dispel preconceptions neighborhood customers might hold about vegan food before trying The Tasty’s offerings.
Baltopoulos noted limited vegan offerings as a discouraging aspect of other diners in the city. The Tasty will serve its guests a wide array of diner favorites with a vegan twist.
The menu will focus on classic, well-known diner dishes like french toast and pancakes, as well as inventive takes on egg-based favorites. Tofu will be used in scrambles and breakfast sandwiches, and a tofu-based batter will be used in omelets.
Hiltz said she and Baltopoulos share a goal of providing filling, homestyle food that tastes good without emphasizing its vegan qualities.
“We’re not playing the vegan card, basically,” Baltopoulos said. “That’s not why we’re doing it, but I think it’s great that other people are catching on.”
Baltopoulos said the group’s collective passion for good food and coffee, and giving back to the community, is their motivation for opening the diner.
With a menu planned and an opening in sight, The Tasty is ready to serve customers looking for a hot cup of coffee and a new spin on an old favorite. “We’re not going to be rich [and] we’re not going to be sleeping … We’re going to be tired,” Hiltz said.
“That’s what caffeine is for,” added Pierce.
“We won’t be hungry or thirsty,” Hiltz said.
Tim Mulhern can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.