Taste Daily: Critic’s Notebook: Hard to Swallow

I was an early fan of Swallow in Northern Liberties. I loved this BYOB bistro for its low-fuss approach to cooking. (I was particularly smitten with the shaved mushroom-fennel-Parmesan salad.) But almost from the outset, I feared the kitchen didn’t understand its own strengths. On one of my first visits I enjoyed a perfect roast chicken — a black feather hen sourced from a farm in Virginia. A few weeks later, though, it was gone, banished from the menu, never to be seen again.

Now, the husband-wife chef-owner team behind Swallow has scrapped the whole menu and decided to re-launch the place as a macaroni and cheese bistro. That’s a lot of culinary talent to dedicate to the mixing of pasta and cheese. Yes, recessions can clobber restaurants, but there are other ways to cut costs. A simple reduction of portion size and prices might have been the way to save Swallow’s soul — and keep it in the black at the same time. I, for one, would be thrilled to see a menu that boasted “reasonable portions, reasonable prices.” As for mac-and-cheese: Thanks, Swallow, but I’ll keep making mine for pennies at home.

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