In late June, Honest Tom’s announced a shift to a completely vegan menu, and this Street writer is here to try it for you.
Walking in through the bright yellow doors into the newly renovated Honest Tom’s Plant Based Taco Shop feels comforting and familiar, yet it still elicits the excitement of trying a new place for the first time.
It looks different—those white crowding tables with orange chairs are now replaced with a long wooden picnic bench along the left wall that makes the place seem excessively trendy. The new smiley tomato logo is painted right above it and it’s a reminder that this place is indeed quite friendly. You don’t need a tattoo sleeve and a moody playlist to sit here.
Before, it smelled heavy and greasy with the salty smell of meats, but now, it’s a fresh scent, clean. ICMYI: No meat here. The right wall holds their new menu; it’s not very long but it’s still different, intimidating. While classics like their pico de gallo and guacamole are still available, the real stars are the new protein options. They stepped up the game by going completely vegan, but by avoiding the classic meat substitutes like tofu, tempeh, and basically anything soy-based. It’s a veggie glow–up, and we’re here for it.
While I didn’t try the entire menu, I did get to sample a huge portion of it, and, boy, do I have some thoughts. I wanted to try out the new protein options they now offer, so I tried them in tacos. Here’s how they rank up:
1. Biff Tacos: This walnut–based meat substitute was by far the favorite. Not only did it have the most flavor, it had that salty aspect you expect when you bite into a classic taco. While it was slightly dry, the seasoning really shined. It had a nice kick and overall, tasted way better than your store–bought taco seasoning. While the texture of it is off–putting and it’s not the prettiest, mixed with the guac, pico, and new cashew–based crema makes it taste the most like a classic taco. I recommend this one with a squirt of halloween sauce.
2. Sweet Potato Tacos: This is a classic, and a classic that's been sitting, unappreciated, on Honest Tom's menu for a while. It’s sweet, but that is expected (dude, it’s a sweet potato). It doesn’t taste like anything, but it leaves the sweet potato as the main star. If we’re going to eat an Oompa Loompa in a taco, I need it to be slightly crispy, especially when mixing it with other goopy ingredients. Still, we’re not mad.
3. Carbacoa Tacos: This is their new lentil and carrot barbacoa, meant to replace their carnitas. Not sure if the “c” is meant to stand for carbs or carrots, but they’re both very present. It’s brown, it’s thick, it’s sweet, and it literally only tastes like unsalted lentils. This is the taco that really makes me question the odd texture that really only comes with vegan foods. Warning: this one feels very heavy, so getting though an entire burrito with the carbacoa will probably be a mistake later. It really doesn’t help that this one has no flavor. With the guac, crema, and pico, it just feels wrong; however, it’s great with the hot sauce, but that’s because your taste buds are on fire and you can’t taste anything else.
4. Chucken Tacos: Meant to replace chicken, "chucken" is made of chickpeas and plantains. Besides the terrible name (ed. note: seriously, say it out loud. It just sounds weird.), this is the type of vegan food that keeps me from being vegan. It’s way sweeter than the sweet potato, but the mixture of soft plantains and what tastes like canned chickpeas is just sad. It’s an odd blend of soft and crisp. This one also feels under–seasoned, which is unfortunate because I had high hopes. No sauce can save this one, just skip it.
Some tacos were good, some were disappointing, but because they’re all loaded with the extra Nickelodeon-looking green guacamole, you can’t choose wrong because you’ll need to really search long and hard to even notice anything else. On the plus side, they’re gluten free.
Besides the tacos, I got to try the PB nachos. Not peanut butter, plant–based, and these were so good that the sad boy music stopped for a second and Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry” had to play to make sure I could contain myself.
The nacho cheese is made of potatoes, carrots, nutritional yeast, etc., but it’s definitely nothing like that vegan cheese recipe you found on Pinterest. Oddly enough, the vegan cheese tastes just like jarred queso, but it doesn’t all go straight to your thighs. Not mad.
These nachos are covered in their nacho sauce, pico, cashew crema, and black beans. What brought me to the verge of tears was the fresh, NOT pickled, jalapeños (Frontera, take note!). The chips are super crispy, and although they’re fried, don’t feel guilty—the rest of it is so healthy. These aren’t the nachos you’re eating at 3 a.m. on the kitchen floor after a night out, but they do taste like it, and that’s all that matters. The small is less than $6, making it completely worth the trip.
While the new menu is good, we’re not going to pretend like we won't miss those huge breakfast burritos that could cure any hangover. If the old Honest Tom’s menu is Beans from Even Stevens, then this new menu is Bella from Twilight. It’s the exact same throughout, but it has its moments. It’s trying.
Overall, the commitment to healthy and clean eating from the new Honest Tom’s is commendable, and it’s a huge step for the availability of affordable vegan food in West Philly. We’re excited to see what else Tom can do.