Restaurant Review: Tweed

Does the farm-to-table fare at this Wash West restaurant suit its bespoke interior?

Hell hath no fury like a restaurant patron wronged, but usually customers have the decency to suffer rotten food or wretched service before they blow their tops. Tweed hasn’t had to wait that long. Merely walking through the door of this beloved building, formerly John Mims’s Les Bon Temps, has been enough to set some would-be diners off. One look at the sleek steel and glass surfaces that have replaced the weathered wood paneling and swooping fantail staircase of old, and the tirades begin.

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“People have actually walked into the restaurant and said that we desecrated the space,” says Sam Shaaban, whose architectural firm Urban Space Development is responsible for the sacrilege. “They’ve come in and said things like, ‘This is a monstrosity!’”

Or they don’t come in at all. Before Tweed even opened for business in June, Shaaban was standing outside when a passerby peered in at the renovated space. The man turned to his companions, Shaaban recalls, and announced, “These people are criminals.”

There’s nothing like living in a city that’s demolished more than a dozen Frank Furness buildings to stoke preservationist ire. But it turns out the staircase zealots can count Tweed’s owner on their side. That Gone With the Wind-style charm is what sold Edward Bianchini, who spent the past 28 years running a hotel and restaurant in Southern France, on the space. Then he peeled back the paint. The floor was rotting, and the stairs were structurally unsound, as were the mezzanine balconies that flared out from either side.

After an abortive effort to extricate himself from the lease, Bianchini and chef David Cunningham pivoted toward Sam and Tim Shaaban, whose firm played midwife to a whole different concept. They’ve rewritten the space with a vocabulary of exposed steel beams and glass balustrades, punctuated it in a postmodern style, and traded antique charisma for contemporary cool. The namesake fabric upholsters the banquettes, and doubles as an allegory for the restaurant’s farm-to-table culinary concept. Tweed (the cloth) has transcended its rustic origins and is now a symbol of urban sophistication. Tweed (the restaurant) wants to do the same thing for local food: take it out of its rural element and showcase it in a modern space. It’s an admirable concept, but does it translate?

Dipping into a quenching gazpacho on a hot night in July, or parting a tangle of exquisite arugula to cut a lemoned-and-capered bite of veal scallopini as a serene Frank Sinatra lilted over the sound system, I had one delicious answer to that question.

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  • Eric

    I have been to this place several times and I am so passionate about it. The whole farm to table is what philly needs and the decore is sophisticated. I rave about Tweed. The food is spectacular and I am new to this city and don’t care what the building looked like before. This guy does not know what he is talking about. Tweed is my favorite new spot in Center City hands down.

  • Michelle

    The lamb there is to die for. I am having my birthday party there because I love it so much. The cocktails rock. Tweed is a must do.

  • Joan

    I have dined at Tweed 3 times and loved it! Every food item that I or my friends have ordered was perfection. The cheesesteak fritters (appetizers) are so good you don’t wish to share. The chicken entree was cooked to perfection and the accompanying sauce and vegetables were scrumptious. My favorite dessert is the cheesecake with blueberries. So creamy but not too heavy after a fine dinner. The decor speaks of sophisticated modern with a bar and bathroom that are stellar. The waitstaff are young, hip, well-trained and personable.

  • dave

    I have had the best happy hours in the city at tweed. They are incredible with their selection of cocktails and the deals for e apps for 12 dollars is astonishing. The chicken lolly pops have to be the most delish thing I have had in a long time. Though you can have 3 choices it is hard for me to not take that for all three. I would recommend it to anyone.

  • Anna

    I could not disagree more! I’ve been coming here since the very begining and I’ve never had a bad experience. My favorites is the lamb burger for lunch and the AMAZING pork chop, (and I dont even like pork chop). By the way, if you dont like beautiful modern desing this place is not for you ;-)

  • Sam

    Every society has a dialogue, in my opinion a productive one, between those seeking to preserve the old and those trying to create something new – architecture is one area among many in which that dialogue, unfortunately, turns to feral noise. The quotations you attributed to me and with which you lead your review of Tweed were from the galley of hecklers and fanatics, as you labeled them; not productive interlocutors in this ongoing dialogue. When speaking with you, I didn’t realize that you counted yourself among that fringe – regardless, good journalism always includes the counterpoint, which, in this instance, as I thought I made clear in our telephone conversation, is the majority. Your article doesn’t mention a single instance of passers-by or would be diners having an impression of the space that is the exact opposite of the negative one you stress.

    We’ve done a number of restaurants in the Philadelphia. Tweed is the first one where I’ve seen numerous people ask for the owner after their meal to tell him how much they enjoyed their experience, and when he brings me into the conversation, tell me how much they love what we’ve done with…

  • Sam

    the space.

    What’s more, we, as URBANSPACEDEVELOPMENT, are not enemies of preservation. Many of our projects, including Tweed, preserve much of what we find in the spaces we transform. In fact, as I mentioned to you in the half hour long interview, the creaky staircase whose loss you lament, was surgically dissected and its pieces cataloged for whoever desires down the road to repair it and install it; most likely a wasted effort since the hecklers are a noisy bunch but not an active one.

    I don’t usually comment on articles of opinion, but your quoting me, one of the people responsible for the changes you decry, out of context and in a large part of your article to decry those changes is insulting – to me for obvious reasons and to your readership for thinking that they wouldn’t wonder why the designer had nothing good to say about the design.

  • Fran

    Could not disagree more…The Trout was excellent,the service was very professional, and the ambiance and design of the space, beautifully done.

  • Janice

    I also disagree. I have been to Tweed several times and have ALWAYS had a delicious meal. Last night I had the meatballs (NOT Tough) and spaghetti just like my grandmother used to make it. Chef Cunningham does a superb job! This restaurant and space is MORE. Experience it for yourself. You will not be disappointed.

  • Tom

    My new favorite spot. Staff is hip and young. The food is fantastic. The veal is tremedous (melts in your mouth). The drinks are one of a kind and the price is right. I have met the owner – a real gentlemen who knows his business. Try it you will like it.

  • mike

    Wow…I never comment on these articles, but i cant let this one slip by.I also used to subscribe to Philly Mag…but got tired of reading about the Top Doc’s in every other issue. I have brought clients to Tweed on several occasions, and most if not all of them have told me they went back with friends/spouses etc…and Thanked me for introducing them to Tweed.Wherever the author came from…he should crawl back to, and not come out again…until he knows what the heck he is writing about. PHILLY MAG…you really need to re-visit ( in my opinion)…leave the idiot at home!!
    Keep up the Great work TWEED !!!

  • david

    I can not disagree more with your review. Granted the old place had to suffer but if it was crumbling down what good would come from opening an extablishment where the patrons could be injured? The food is outstainding! I have been there on more than one occaision with family and friends and found everything excellent The pork chop and the lamb, which you tear apart, could not be farther than your review.I suggest you return to review Tweed with a competant reviewer!

  • Mary Lou

    What restaurant did you visit? I have been there multiple times and found the ambience and decor very comfortable and relaxing. The food is to die for! The lamb can be cut with your fork. The one thing you were right about is the roast chicken. It is outstanding! I met the owner and he is a very knowledgeable and pleasant businessman.

  • Dave

    I have visited Tweed several times with my family and with friends and found virtually the complete opposite of your review. The food is very good and the prices are reasonable. The decor is very hip and interesting. I would recomend this establishment to anyone looking for good food that is reasonably priced with a pleasant atmosphere. You should revist this restaurant because you were way off in your assessment.

  • Nancy

    Wow ! Where did you eat? i have been at Tweed with my family and we all enjoyed the food and atmosphere. The cocktails were outstanding as was the spaghetti and meatballs. You left your taste buds at home. Just because you don’t like the new decor is no reason to trash the food. Send someone there who has no bias.

  • Maria

    Upon reading your review, I immediately headed straight to Tweed for dinner. You are so very wrong, TP. The space is beautiful, and the food is excellent. A welcome addition to the ever growing Midtown Village – an improvement from the seedy night club that formerly occupied the space (whose patrons, I am positive, didn’t give a you-know-what about the staircase…), and a refreshing break from the typical “same food, different place” establishments popping up across the city (thank you, Mr. Starr).

    Hopefully, readers of this review will take you as seriously as you take your “towering self-regard of Ratatouille’s Anton Ego”. Did you really compare yourself to a cartoon character when describing your review technique?!

    Enough said.

  • Bruce

    Wow! An 11 paragraph “restaurant” review and only 5 of them about the food. Reading your review it’s perfectly obvious that you were biased before you even took your first bite of food. Maybe you ought to change your career path to write architectural reviews. I’ve had the pleasure of dining at Tweed and found the food, service and ambiance to be exceptional.

  • Kristen

    The decor and music did not fit the “mission statement” if you will. And while some things were quite tasty others were just off (specifically the sashimi sauces noted in the article) I would not go back.

  • Isabelle

    From eating at Tweed several times myself, and reading many of their reviews the only conclusion I cant take from this one is that the writer craves attention, and wants to get a reaction out of people. Well…you succeeded, people seem to be pissed, and rightfully so! Tweed is great!

  • Joy

    I could not believe what I was reading…I can only imagine Trey Popp as a rookie who does not have a clue about food or decor! I saw the property before Mr. Bianchini upgraded the space… before it was deplorable, old, falling apart… quite frankly it was a dump and should have been condemned! Now it is modern, upbeat, casually elegant and safe!!! How many people did the critic interview… one??? and apparently he reported one side… Tweed is beautiful and welcoming. The food is fantastic… I will visit often!

  • Ed

    This reviewer has it totally wrong. I have visited Tweed on several occasions and not only is the food fantastic, the atmosphere is wonderful. A perfect place for a special event. I was a subscriber of the Philadelphia Magazine but have now decided to cancel it due to the Magazine’s careless reporting.

  • Todd

    I am a huge fan of this place. It’s in my neighborhood. A great place for me and my wife to get a quick bite in an elegant comfortable space. My favorites are the cheese steak croquettes, Fluke, pork chop, and the green bean salad. I have to say I love the spaghetti but am partial to my mothers meatballs. not to say that they were tough; On the contrary, they could be crispier. I suggest you try it for yourself. I looked up this Trey and found him to be negative about all kinds of places. It’s sad to see him in print. time to get a new critic. It’s all opinion anyway.

  • Deborah

    I love the restaurant Tweed, the atmosphere is terrific, the waiters etc very friendly and the food is te best. One time iI had the Veal, it was the best Veal I ‘ve had in my life. I recommend Tweed to everyone I know . It is just what the City needs.

  • Mary

    The only design flaw in the restaurant is the the tweed banquets. Nothing like starting off your meal with a shock…created from the static caused sliding across the tweed fabric of the banquet.

  • Angelo

    I couldn’t disagree more with the review. My experience at Tweed was excellent. Not just the atmosphere and not just the food. Both were excellent. Service was spectacular.

    I am recommending this bright new restaurant to all my friends and family.

  • Jen

    This “critic” could not be more wrong about Tweed. The restaurant is absolutely beautiful…you have to see it for yourself! I did not see the building before it was renovated for Tweed, but I can assure you that it is a major improvement!

    In addition, the food was amazing and the staff was really friendly. Check it out!

  • dan

    this is to the phillymag, i dont know what your grudge is against the owner of tweed, but i am the electrictain who was there right bafter the old owner left, “and it was a total DUMP! I went there the other week to see just how the new owner renovated it,and i was so dam impressed i sat down and ordered a dinner.To top it off ,in was even more impressed with the food! I dont know what kind of bug climed up the philly mags but, but he shouldn’t let it soiled the truth , thats not good reporting.

  • Jason

    To the owners of Tweed: Jeez, curb your rabid PR dogs, these cookie cutter “Tweed is the best restaurant ever on the planet ever” posts aren’t fooling anyone. If anything they’re more off putting than the review itself. Stop bashing the review, and the previous space, start cooking some good food and being nice to the customers, natch.

  • Dean

    Was the critic in the right restaurant? Wow- I have only had the best experiences every time I have eaten there. Food, service and atmosphere were terrific. That is a an embarrassing review and not accurate-Sounds like a personal gripe…..

  • Andy

    On the food – Trey has this right on the money. The food was boring and expensive. Service wasn’t all that good either. There are better options within a block of Tweed.

  • Andre

    This review is WAY OFF. Tweed’s food is outstanding and the atmosphere is welcomed. This reviewer is way too self important and misses the mark completely. TRY TWEED FOR YOURSELF, and come to your own conclusions.

  • Matt

    Despite so many readers “disliking” Trey’s review of Tweed, I found it spot on after dining there last night. Without dwelling on some service flaws, the biggest problem is the restaurant’s lack of identity. Sashimi, Sliceberg salad and spaghetti & meatballs? Holy schizophrenia batman. Stick to the comfort food (veal pot roast, braised lamb) and you’ll win over many more diners.