In our quest to find and support more Black-owned (and vegan-friendly) Philadelphia restaurants, who would have known one of the best would be from our own backyard?! With that being said, we’re very excited today to spotlight Little Man’s Juice Bar and Grill owned by Byron Mathis in the very heart of the Mayfair section of Northeast Philadelphia.
Here in the land of cheesesteaks and wings, there is a small, hidden gem that serves…well…cheesesteaks and wings, but VEGAN!
Open since March of 2017, Little Man’s Juice Bar and Grill (4218 Princeton Ave. Philadelphia) is a tiny, almost missable shop (don’t blink or you’ll have to turn around) that has made a BIG impact on the vegan food scene in Northeast Philly.
Sadly, this place has been on our radar for a long time, and we only recently finally ordered from there. What makes it sad, you ask? Because this place is literally less than a 10-minute walk from our front door!
Though not entirely vegan (they serve about 6 pescatarian dishes and offer whey and honey as add-in options for smoothies), LMJB serves a great variety of vegan fare.
One thing we noticed (and appreciated!) was how everything was very clearly marked on the menu. These guys definitely know what’s what!
I spoke to the owner Byron and he informed me that they started out making paninis, but the current menu really took on shape at the request of the local vegan community.
They wanted cheesesteaks. They wanted wings. After all, this is still Northeast Philly. Little Man’s listened…and they listened well.
From all-day breakfast dishes to all-day lunch bowls, dairy-free shakes to meatless steaks, this place has something for EVERYONE!
And of course, as their name would imply, they also serve over two dozen fresh-squeezed juices and smoothies “free of syrups and flavor enhancements”. More on that later!
“Research” #1 – The Northeast Philly Classics
In the interest of “research,” we have ordered from Little Man’s multiple times in the past couple weeks and have not been disappointed.
On our first order, we went the route of classic Northeast Philly food, made vegan: The sublimely delicious chicken(less) cheesesteak, classic Impossible® burger (lettuce, tomato, onion), and vegan cheese fries.
The Vegan Chicken Cheesesteak
The cheesesteak was as big as it was delicious!
The flavor combinations of this sandwich are amazing. Beautifully seasoned meaty seitan, with what seemed to be a garlic/rosemary type marinade flavor happening, FILLED the sandwich roll evenly. There was no skimping going on here.
Speaking of the sandwich roll, I should note that it was actually a very tasty, multi-grain type roll. But you know how sometimes those types of rolls can be too dense or dry for a sandwich like this, causing the insides to spill over the top because they can’t seem to find their place in the roll? NO!! This was soft and had some give and really cradled the ingredients it held.
Not overly cheesy as to take away from the integrity of the main star and not just a layer on the bottom, the cheese seemed to just meld throughout the sandwich perfectly proportioned to enhance but not overpower.
Friends, this sandwich was not just a sandwich, this was truly a food experience.
The Classic Burger
First, it has to be said the burger was also absolutely delicious and seasoned very nicely. But what I really did notice and love about the burger was the evenness of the accompaniments.
You know how sometimes you’ll get a burger and the lettuce either barely covers the patty or is popping out from every side like some sort of leafy bulwark defending the sandwich from siege?
Or you get just the tiniest bit of onion plopped down on the edge where most of it falls off when you pick it up? Or one giant tomato and one paper-thin half-cut?! Not on this night.
It may seem inconsequential, but to me that evenness always shows a care of quality by the maker of the sandwich. A good sandwich is always a good sandwich because it’s made by someone who cares, and this was a GOOD sandwich.
The burger was also served on a healthier type bun, but again, it was so good I barely took notice.
LMJB does offer multiple other variations on their burger and their steaks, and I’m really looking into getting either the Teriyaki Burger with Grilled Pineapple and Onion or the Korean BBQ Chicken Cheesesteak next time!
“Research” #2 – All-Day Lunch Bowls
On our next adventure, we got a couple of their all-day lunch bowls – they have 6 or 7 on the menu – and a couple of their juices closer to dinner time…which is always a nice option.
B got the Taco Rice and a Red Lemonade. I got the General Tso bowl and a juice called the Calm Down.
Both bowls were pretty big for being a lunch-size portion. And both were absolutely delicious!
The Taco Rice
The Taco Rice Bowl had a similar style shredded/thinly sliced seitan to the chicken cheesesteak but VERY differently (and delightfully!) seasoned. The seitan in the chicken cheesesteak was full of a definitively unique garlic and rosemary combination.
However, this seitan REALLY reminded both B and me of every beef taco we’d had before becoming vegan. It was so good and the wonderful blend of taco-style spices left a little lingering hint on the tips of the lips as a gentle reminder.
The vegan beef was served over a nice large bed of rice with the vegan cheese placed between the two to melt fully from the combined heat. The resulting effect is genius.
They served the main next to a “salad” of lettuce and tomato. You know, like a taco.
A spicy, chipotle mayo topped the whole dish which, again, really complemented and did not take away from any of the other flavors. They really understand a good balance of flavor over at Little Man’s.
The Taco Rice Bowl was big enough for B to get her fill, for me to have a taste, and for B to have a decent amount left for lunch the following day.
The General Tso Bowl
My General Tso bowl was also a really good portion size, but it was so tasty and I hadn’t had the dish in so long, the poor thing didn’t stand a chance! I inhaled this…something I rarely do.
It was gone before I knew it, and though I was definitely full, I was still sad there wasn’t more to be had. It truly reminded me of all the Gen Tsos I’d had before going vegan! (Once upon a time, my favorite dish.)
A generous portion of chunky vegan chicken over a nice, large bed of Jasmine rice accompanied by broccoli, green beans, and peppers all brought together in that wonderfully tangy, sweet and spicy sauce.
Even B said, “Wow! You finished that fast! Must have been really good!”.
It was. It really was.
Just writing this makes me want another one. Hmm, it IS around noon as I type this….
As I said, we also ordered a couple juices with our dinners, and we were SO glad we did. Really, there are few pleasures in life better than cold, fresh-squeezed juice.
B’s Red Lemonade was a combination of apple, strawberry, orange, and, of course, lemons. Wonderfully sweet with a tangy zip that hits your cheeks and puckers your lip.
I had the “Calm Down,” a blend of orange, pineapple, lemon, and ginger. This had more of a zippy tang than a tangy zip, and I believe that to be the strong but not overwhelming presence of ginger. I love ginger.
With almost two dozen combination juice varieties containing names like “Beet Berry Blast,” ”Beauty Glows,” “Sweet Green,” and “First Love,” you’re sure to find at least one that will tickle your tastebuds the way only a fresh juice can.
Meet Byron Mathis: The man behind the food!
On Saturday, before this post “went to print,” I had the opportunity to speak to Byron Mathis, owner of Little Man’s Juice Bar and Grill.
Affable does not even begin to describe this man. I could feel his infectious energy and good-natured charm immediately as he spoke about how Little Man’s came to be.
He said the requests of the surrounding vegan community changed the direction of the shop.
60-Cent Wing Sunday
I’d just been on their Facebook page before speaking with Byron and noticed an older post about “60-Cent Wing Sundays”. I asked him if that was still a weekly special.
He laughed a truly sincere laugh and said “Yes! Yes! As many as you want!”
He mentioned to me it’s one of the ways he likes to give back to the community that has given him so much. And THAT is a healthy business model.
Also, as I edit this for the last time Sunday evening, B and I can now confirm that the wings are among the best wings we’ve had, vegan or not.
Yes, we just had to order the wings after learning about the Sunday special.
We got four of each type (5 flavors – from Plain to Volcanic) to sample. The only negative thing I can say about the experience is that I wish we ordered TEN of each.
But there’s always next Sunday!
All in all, we HIGHLY recommend Little Man’s if you happen to be in the Northeast Philadelphia area. They do offer flat-rate delivery rates up to 12 miles out. See their website for pricing, and follow them on Instagram for some seriously drool-worthy shots of their food!
Even if you don’t live in the neighborhood, do yourself a favor and give Little Man’s Juice Bar a try when you get the chance. (Maybe Sunday??)
If you find yourself near the Cottman exit on Interstate 95, take a break to grab lunch and a juice. They’re that close to the ramps, and you’ll be back on the road in minutes.
We know we’ll definitely be ordering from there again and again. We have Sunday dinners covered for the indefinite future!
Maybe breakfast next? Those vegan chicken and waffles sound great followed up with one of their cheesecake spring rolls!
So tell us: Have you been to Little Man’s Juice Bar and Grill?! If you have, let us know your favorite dish in the comments below!
Who knows, maybe I’ll even see you there, sippin’ on ginger juice, laid back….