There are restaurants you go to because you’re hungry, and restaurants you go to because they’re cool. There are restaurant you go to because they’re close—the old soldiers of your particular block, with rooms as comfortable as faded blue jeans and a bartender who knows your name. And then there are restaurants you go to because they make you feel better about your neighborhood, your city or yourself. That’s what Royal Sushi and Izakaya is for me.
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Photo courtesy Briana Louise Photography
Along the arc of a graph reading “Why Is My Restaurant Not Good?,” two opposite mistakes hold down either end of the bell curve. On one side, you have a good concept crippled by poor execution. On the other are bad ideas masked by a talented, passionate crew trying like hell to fight its way out of a losing situation. Between these two points falls every other reason for a restaurant to go bad: terrible food, awful service, a coked-up owner snorting away the profits, rats, that weird smell, location, location, location. But existing with beautiful, snow-white purity are the alpha and omega of reasons: Either you had a good idea ruined by thumb-fingered losers who turn all gold to crap, or you had a bad concept that no amount of earnest polishing will ever make shine.
The first one? That’s unforgivable. And the second one is Scarpetta.
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Mushrooms Sandwich. Photography by Jason Varney.
IT’S SELDOM A GOOD IDEA to boil down a restaurant recommendation to a tweet-size paragraph, but for prospective visitors to High Street on Market, a short questionnaire might be in order.
Do you go for broccoli rabe? What if it’s fermented? How about juiced and given a leading role in a mezcal cocktail?
If you answered yes to all of those questions, congratulations: You’ve clearly gotten your money’s worth out of your Vitamix! And now Eli Kulp, who made Fork required dining for serious eaters in 2013, has given it a next-door neighbor where you can quench your appetite for left-field gastronomy from breakfast straight through dinner.
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As we promised, 2014 is the Year of the Cheesesteak. And as part of the continuing coverage of the cheesesteak, we will be profiling cheesesteak rivalries around town.
When GQ’s Alan Richman came to town to rank his ten favorite cheesesteaks, one of the biggest complaints was the omission of Dalessandro’s Steaks in Roxborough. According to Ray Didinger, who went along with Richman on his cheesesteak hunt, Richman had eliminated the Roxborough stalwart from his list based upon a previous cheesesteak visit to Philadelphia.
Sunday, I set out with a couple of friends, including comedian Chip Chantry, to try both Dalessandro’s and Chubby’s across the street. Check out the results of our first Rivalry Tale of the Tape.
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Brian Freedman reviews Nick Elmi’s Laurel for Philadelphia Weekly. Freedman calls the East Passyunk BYOB “stellar.”
Berkshire pork lavished in its triumvirate of treatments, and each one, from silky slices of belly to roasted loin to a crepinette of braised shoulder meat secreted inside a cocoon of crisped-up brioche enshrouded in caul fat, had me longing for it days later. Dragging one bite through the mashed chestnuts, dunking another into the shimmering huckleberry-kale vinaigrette, and leaving a third one unadorned became an in situ study in the range and vision of this kitchen.
New East Passyunk BYOB Laurel serves brilliantly imaginative seafood [Philadelphia Weekly]
Oyster sliders at The Fat Ham | Two Eat Philly
Two Eat Philly sit down and order much of the menu at Kevin Sbraga’s The Fat Ham and finds lots of highlights including the oyster sliders and hot chicken.
Midtown Lunch checks out Ol’ Boy’s Soul Food Restaurant,at 243 South 6oth Street and finds great lima beans and cornbread. It’s also the fourth anniversary of Midtown Lunch, so congrats to Jamie.
Brian from Bridges, Burgers and Beer orders up the South Philadelphia Tap Room burger rare. And he loves it.
Photo by Neal Santos, City Paper
Adam Erace recognizes that the talent at High Street on Market goes behind Fork frontman Eli Kulp. Baker Alexandre Bois has turned High Street into the best bakery in town. A second dinner at the Market Street sibling of Fork had Erace crowing about one of his best meals of the year.
High Street on Market is Bready for Its Closeup [City Paper]
High Street on Market [Foobooz]
Photo by Mike Persico
Brian Freedman reviews Meltkraft, the grilled cheese stand that’s part of the Valley Shephard Creamery in the Reading Terminal. The grilled cheeses are of course glorious, after all you can choose bacon fat or duck fat for the sandwich to be grilled in. Freedman aslo provides tips on how to resurrect the sandwich should you decide to get it to go.
Artisan Grilled Cheese at the Reading Terminal Market [Philadelphia Weekly]
The easiest way to tell a bar from a restaurant is by the smell of the men’s room.
I couldn’t keep that thought away from my olfactory nerve during a recent night at Southwark. It had been years since my first time there. And my first time had also been my last. I remember having a fine dinner, but one that failed to cast the spell that so many other folks had fallen under at the then-new, classically styled Queen Village haunt.
In retrospect, that was probably because I’d eaten in the back dining room instead of at the bar, where bartender George Costa was mixing Gibsons and Aviations when the rest of the city was still one big slosh of pink-lemonade Cosmotinis.
Almost ten years later everyone else has caught up—and Costa has moved on—but Southwark is still humming along. It recently installed a new chef, Sam Jacobson, whose previous tenure at Sycamore helped put Lansdowne on the dining map.
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Han Chiang has graduated, shutting down his beloved (if small) Han Dynasty in Old City and moving the Szechuan restaurant across the street into the enormous, opulent 180-seat space formerly occupied by Reserve steakhouse (among other operations). The bar manager from the University City location has come over to craft a cocktail program for the new space. The menu is roughly the same burn-your-face-off-spicy Chinese food that’s served at all of Chiang’s other locations (at the same price point, despite the upgraded digs), but he’s added a late-night menu inspired by Taiwanese street food, served fast and cheap across a small second bar on the main floor. Highlights include the dry pepper fried chicken wings and the pork belly buns, but be on the lookout for frequent changes as Chiang tinkers with the new board.
Han Dynasty [Foobooz]
First appeared in the December, 2013 issue of Philadelphia magazine.