La Calaca Feliz Lands Three Bells

Craig LaBan declares that chef Tim Spinner is owning it, making a statement of his own when it comes to his Mexican food at La Calaca Feliz.

Spinner’s latest inspirations, though, mostly caught my eye with striking, and often unexpected, pairings. Huge Barnegat Bay scallops, seared with one side clinging to a crispy round of salty queso, had the perfect sweetness to echo the spring delicacy of white asparagus soup that had been pureed into ivory silk. Cubes of melon, meanwhile, compressed and infused inside a vacuum bag with La Calaca’s Garcia margarita (with Espalon reposado), had a distinctive firmness and fiesta flavor that further heightened the already fruity character of pristine diced raw tuna, a creamy green scoop of avocado sorbet melting richness into the mix.

Three Bells – Excellent

La Calaca Feliz Reviewed [Philadelphia Inquirer]
La Calaca Feliz [Official Site]

Photo by Courtney Apple

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  • Andrew

    No wonder it is packed all the time. The food is fantastic and the outdoor patio is going to be rocking come summer time. The service is also wonderful here, they have hired a great team.

  • rory

    I was surprised by this. The food was very good, but each dish we had had a small but significant mistake when we were there. Definitely will be back, but didn’t expect three bells for it.

  • Marx

    I don’t know why every food critic assumes people that live in the suburbs aren’t adventurous and can’t take the “sophisticated” food/ingredients of the big, bad city. Perhaps it’s because we have children and don’t want them to attend the slums that are Philadelphia public schools? I happily eat fois gras and sweetbreads and lamb hearts. Get over yourself.

    With that being said, I can’t wait to try this place. :)

  • Dan

    Marx, I hear ya. It is a pretty untenable situation. The suburbs are for the most part a culinary (and cultural) wasteland of local routes studded with chain restaurants, wawas and fast food. There are the occasional gems thrown in, but if you’re going to be enjoying a bottle or two with your meal, good luck getting home. And the city is a comparative cultural center, but with a city government that has done little to nothing to provide a working infrastructure with the wage tariff they proudly steal from the rich and upper middle class. Purportedly this money is shifted to the poor but all I see is a bloated bureaucracy of welfare jobs and expensive housing projects which enrich the milton streets of this fine city.

  • rory

    Yeah Dan, you tell them!

    The city totally hasn’t lost half of its population (in other words, tax base–especially because mostly the wealthier citizens had access to the burbs) to the suburbs that generally use city services but don’t pay an equitable tax rate towards those city services. That’s not the cause of the general collapse of former industrial cities throughout the rust belt. Nope, it’s the 4% wage tax. That damn extra 3% wage “tariff” has to be it! and how dare the city have public housing! Only city governments are corrupt! lol.

  • no

    Is this foobooz, or

  • City Dweller

    Does this place take ACCESS cards? Will they give me change in CASH?

  • Dan

    haha, I guess my post got taken down. Well context is key, so I get it.

    That aside, I wish I could live in Rory’s fantasy land.
    If you think that the city is well utilizing its resources on our schools,parks and infrastructure I have two names for you: Arlene Ackerman (former head of the Philadelphia School District) and John Street (current Chairman of the Philadelphia Housing Authority).

    If you truly believe that the wage tax does not create serious disincentives for the city to attract businesses I have two other names for you: King of Prussia/Route 202 (where most Philly area business are currently located) and the Navy Yard (the only place in the city where new business will consider moving, b/c of the tax breaks).

    But lets not let reality get in the way of good ole fashioned ideology…

  • rory


    funny, the reality is I never claimed the city is “well utilizing its resources on our schools” only that it isn’t unique in being corrupt and inefficient.

    My wealthy hometown suburb had to buy out its superintendent while I was in high school. Only real difference was that a rich suburb could afford to do it without problems. The suburbanization of business happened all around the country, not only where city and suburbs did or did not have different wage taxes. I’m not a fan of the wage tax, but to blame it as the cause for the city’s ills is…how did you put it?

    “let[ting] reality get in the way of good ole fashioned ideology…”

    yep, good line.

  • mitchy the kid

    lets keep this about the great food, drink and atmosphere that la calaca is all about. tim, brian and their team do a great job showcasing the authentic mexican cuisine with a modern spin (no pun inteneded). talking about wage tax and the cities blight and suburbia has no place here, its about the grub, tequila and we are grateful that la calaca opened on our shakedown street!

  • Snake

    I love the place, the food is good and they make nice margaritas but I didn’t expect a 3 bell review. This may earn me a few negative comments or a disappointed head shake, but I love it because it’s so kid-friendly. We’ve gone a couple times before prime time dinner on weekends and the place is very accomodating for little kids and toddlers…hey this is Fairmount we’re talking about.