Pretend you’ve been led into a new restaurant wearing a blindfold. We’re playing a game: When I uncover your eyes, you try to piece together enough clues to guess what sort of place we’re in. Go! The 24-flavor gelato counter would give it away too easily, so I yank the blindfold a few steps beyond it. Your eyes fall on a white wall lined with bottles of Campari and Martini dry vermouth. Fresh espresso hits your nose just as a Serie A soccer rerun steals your gaze. You look around. The place is choked with waiters rocking natty short-brim fedoras of a sort most often found atop comic-strip gangsters (but apparently resurgent in Milan). A montage of touristic photos and factoids loops on a second TV — tidbits about Venice and Rome alternating with Maserati commercials. Read more »
If restaurateurs were rock stars (and in Philly, they’re as close as we come), Ben Puchowitz and Shawn Darragh would be vintage R.E.M. Whether they’re slinging ramen with brisket and matzo balls, as at Cheu Noodle Bar, or papering the walls of their new Bing Bing Dim Sum with acid-trip dumpling emojis, they have a knack for twisting a budding trend just far enough to make it unmistakably their own. Read more »
It was no surprise that the Navy Yard’s Saturday-night gate guard greeted my car with wry amusement. Given all the restaurants in all the neighborhoods of Philly, who picks one in a deserted office park half a forlorn mile from the nearest SEPTA station? I wish I could have seen him later when a sleek SUV limo rolled up, blinker flashing for Lo Spiedo.
The Vetri Family’s latest restaurant may profit most from its location at lunch, when this resurgent hub teems with some 11,500 workers. But it can also thank Uber, which no doubt delivered many of the customers who filled this stately brick building in after-dark Nowheresville with Center City-level weekend energy. Read more »
At Juniper Commons, where old newspaper headlines paper two walls in a triumph of microfilm and selective memory, there’s electricity in the air.
E. GERMANY OPENS BORDERS
SURGERY OVER, REAGAN IN CHARGE
PHILLIES RULE THE WORLD
Lionel Richie’s on the radio — along with Air Supply and Hall & Oates, all those smooth synthesizers washing over the occasional drum-machine downbeat of early LL Cool J. Votive candles flicker in amber ashtrays beneath globe lights fed by telephone-coil wire, and the lounge area goes back to the future with wingback chairs out of the Jetsons’ living room. Read more »
There’s only so much a clean bathroom can tell you about a restaurant, but every now and then they speak volumes.
To face the poster of Olivia Newton-John wearing her “Physical” gear in the Juniper Commons men’s room is to know, conclusively, that there’s no escaping the 1980s there. The inexplicably unflattering powder-room lighting at the late, unlamented Avance — which had inherited perfectly good illumination from Le Bec-Fin — encapsulated the misguided priorities that sank the place. Even the community chalkboards lining Crow & The Pitcher’s facilities testify to that restaurant’s yearning to be adopted by a neighborhood that’s never really rallied behind a tenant at that address. (And where else but Miami Beach could have a setup like this?) Read more »
You walk by Bryan Mayer’s butcher case at Kensington Quarters, and you develop certain expectations about what awaits you in the dining room. These deepen as you pass the meat locker, a sauna-paneled light box punctuated by widescreen windows framing floodlit views of hanging hog carcasses. By the time you reach your seat (the chairs face butcherblock tabletops anchored to honest-to-God I-beams), there’s just no two ways about it: You’re in for meat haunches so stupendous, they apparently require structural-grade steel to hold them up. Read more »
Everyone knows that opening a restaurant is the surest path to an empty checking account, but George and Jennifer Sabatino know better. For truly shredding your bankroll, nothing beats not opening a restaurant — as the couple spent an agonizing year doing before the first customers finally came to Aldine in October.
We expect a lot from restaurants these days. If they don’t transform liquids into powders or barrel-steep cocktails with homemade bitters, they’d better serve chickens that roamed freer than our children do. So when a forneria bowls you over even before the door whooshes shut as you enter, it’s time to ask what really matters most.
I’m not the only winter-bitten soul to feel that way crossing the threshold of Brigantessa, where great blasts of heat from a Vesuvian-ash pizza oven ripple along a bar teeming with platters of sausage-stuffed long hots and oil-poached swordfish and wood-grilled octopus salad. Chef Joe Cicala’s sophomore effort on Passyunk Avenue has been rollicking since it opened in October.
You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider it now: the Super Grain of the Future. Because the thing is, there’s a new one every season. One year’s quinoa becomes another year’s amaranth, which soon gets buried in chia seeds.
But for 2015, you could do a lot worse than injecting more teff into your friends’ diets.