Hot Plate: The Mushroom Seitan Sandwich at Milkboy South

Milkboy on South Street opened up only three weeks ago, but is already getting a ton of foot traffic from locals and tourists alike. The one menu item that kept popping up in conversation is their vegetarian take on a Philly cheesesteak — the mushroom seitan sandwich.

With Jim’s Steaks across the street from the newest Milkboy location, I couldn’t help but wonder — is Jim cool with them selling any sort of cheesesteak?

Brittni Nelson, sous chef at Milkboy South, says they’re supportive of each other’s businesses: “So our deal with them, they do the cheesesteaks and we do the fries and other options like our chicken cheesesteak and our mushroom seitan. If anyone goes there and asks for a vegetarian option they send them here, and we send people there [to Jim’s] to get cheesesteaks.”

Pretty sweet! But now let’s get to the meat of the matter — or in this case, the mushroom seitan. Even the bartender Matt confessed this was his “favorite sandwich on the menu” and he’s not even a vegetarian.

The dish comes in three parts — the mushroom seitan sandwich, a bowl of mushroom jus for dipping and, of course, french fries. (You could also get a green salad but what’s the fun in that?)

The sandwich itself is seitan, mushrooms and thyme cream cheese on a long roll freshly delivered from Le Bus bakery. Make no mistake, this is the “upper crust” version of a cheesesteak, folks. After taking a bite, I was surprised at how well the thyme cream cheese worked with the meat substitute. At first, the thought of cream cheese on a “cheesesteak” grossed me out — but because the seitan is on the lighter side, any other cheese would have been too overpowering. The cream cheese added a buttery body to the seitan without disrupting the balance of the sandwich and the thyme helped add a burst of unique flavor. (Thyme isn’t used “all the time.” Ha!)

The mushrooms also lent an earthy elegance to this Philly classic. After washing it all down with aFounders All Day IPA, I left Milkboy feeling satiated but no so full that I needed a nap.

Even nonvegetarians would like this dish because it doesn’t try to be a Philly cheesesteak. The mushroom seitan sandwich adds a bit of meat-free diversity to the world of American bar food.

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