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The Short Version: Located in Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, Bar Bombón is a welcoming place where traditional Latin cuisine meets vegetarian sensibilities. The menu includes savory empanadas, tacos, and nachos that are packed with healthful plant-based ingredients. Couples can find plenty of tantalizing treats and nourishing noms at Bar Bombón, which recently opened a quaint outdoor space with private dining sections. Eating your vegetables has never been so delicious or so romantic.
Since its opening in 2015, Bar Bombón has created a unique Latin-inspired dining experience and become a vegetarian hotspot in the heart of Philadelphia. It has won over food critics and meat eaters alike by putting an innovative plant-forward twist on traditional Puerto Rican recipes.
The owner Nicole Marquis said she’s often too busy dealing with business matters and management issues to stop and smell the tacos. Bar Bombón is one of several restaurants she runs in Pennsylvania. She opened the flagship restaurant HipCity Veg in 2012 and the cocktail bar with the interesting name Charlie was a sinner. in 2014.
Every once in a while, Nicole said she finds a moment amid the dinner rush to appreciate the upbeat and casual vibes at the Bar Bombón restaurant.
“Reservations are in, glasses are clicking, people are smiling, and good food is coming out piping hot and looking delicious,” she said. “The sun is going down, and maybe a musician is playing outside. You have all these senses coming together, and it feels really good to see people enjoying themselves.”
Nicole said the inspiration for Bar Bombón came from her Puerto Rican heritage. She wanted to pay tribute to the precious memories from her many childhood summers with her family in San Juan. She even took the restaurant design team on a week-long trip to San Juan, just so they could get a sense of the flavors, colors, and traditions she wanted to evoke.
“San Juan is a European-influenced city with all this charming architecture and cobblestone streets,” Nicole told us. “It’s a really magical city with a fun tropical aesthetic, and I wanted to bring a bit of that back home to Philadelphia.”
Bar Bombón provides a lovely spot for a first date because it’s fun, it’s casual, and it proves a restaurant can be vegan-friendly while still satisfying a mainstream audience.
Rittenhouse Square is the centerpiece of a bustling neighborhood in Philadelphia. The sidewalks see a lot of foot traffic, and the local food scene has a lot to offer. Couples often wander through this area in search of a delicious and affordable meal, and that’s exactly what they find at Bar Bombón.
The name Bar Bombón came from a Spanish phrase meaning “sweet treat,” and that is an apt way to describe its quaint, casual atmosphere and rich Latin flavors.
Bar Bombón offers a plant-based menu that doesn’t compromise on taste. Its delicious dishes and handcrafted cocktails keep locals returning for seconds, and some people don’t even realize the Spanish meatballs and tacos don’t contain meat.
The kitchen churns out soft homemade tortillas and sweet plantains that follow traditional Latin recipes, but it also caters to American tastes. The Philly Steak Empanadas flawlessly merge two classic food items and offer a lot of cheesy indulgence in a fried dough pocket.
“A lot of people love eating at Bar Bombón,” Nicole said. “It’s easy, it’s fun, the food tastes really good, the service is excellent, and you know you can always get a great margarita.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Bar Bombón got creative with its takeout menu and offered Takeout Taco Kits. The kits included a choice of protein, tortilla, cumin crema, pico de gallo, shredded lettuce, cilantro, and lime. Couples could order the taco kits to bring the flavors of the restaurant to their date nights at home.
Planning a first date can be a little nerve-wracking because so many factors go into it. Daters often want to meet somewhere casual where they aren’t locked into a multicourse meal. But they may not want to appear cheap or sacrifice food quality in the process. And, of course, dietary restrictions have to be accomodated.
That can be a tall order, but Bar Bombón checks every box and offers a lovely setting for a first date.
Couples can enjoy happy hour cocktails at the bar, and they can dig into an order of vegetarian tacos at a table for two. The restaurant space is cozy and perfect for a quick bite or an extended conversation.
“It’s not a stuffy date spot. It’s easy breezy, and the menu has something for everyone,” Nicole said. “It’s very casual, but there’s an elegance to it, so you’re getting the best of both worlds.”
Couples typically meet at Bar Bombón to get a delicious meal in a low-key atmosphere. The street corner is ideally located in a buzzing district, so couples don’t have to end their night early. They can go for a walk and discover local bars and ice cream shops around the corner.
On sunny days, some couples choose to take a to-go meal or drinks from Bar Bombón into the nearby park and find a quiet place to sit together on their date.
Bar Bombón has adapted to social distancing measures by adding an outdoor dining structure called La Casita. Its bright green colors attract attention and make for a fun selfie opportunity. La Casita protects diners from the elements and from COVID-19 spread by placing privacy walls around the tables. Reservations are recommended to get seated in this popular area.
If it’s cold outside, La Casita can turn up the heat with a system that uses 100% fresh air to warm guests as they eat.
“People love how comfortable it is,” Nicole said. “It has hanging vine plants, orange rugs, tan chairs — it’s adorable.”
Bar Bombón is all about delivering flavorful and nourishing dishes that appeal to people of all backgrounds. It’s not just vegans and vegetarians who love hanging out here. The restaurant provides a fun, casual atmosphere for anyone craving veggie tacos or nachos.
Although the past year has been challenging, Bar Bombón has continued to maintain high standards when it comes to food service and flavor. The team has gone above and beyond to perfect the menu, expand the seating options, and provide a safe and friendly environment. As a way of saying thanks, Nicole has pledged to raise the minimum wage at Bar Bombón to $15 an hour, effective July 2021.
Looking ahead, Nicole said she’s excited to grow her restaurant brands and fuel the vegetable-forward movement in Pennsylvania.
“A lot of vegans and vegetarians choose Bar Bombón for a first date because they know they’ll be able to enjoy it, and their date will enjoy it,” Nicole said. “You don’t have to be vegetarian to enjoy our food — and that’s really the point. We focus on flavor and texture that just happens to be plant-based.”