Essen Bakery (Outstanding Baker semifinalist) – Facebook
This story has been updated.
The almighty James Beard Awards Committee rarely ever left its comfort-zone when it came down to Philadelphia restaurants. Year after year, it was always Philly’s ultra-notable restaurants and chef names that made the cut — Zahav, Vedge, Vernick, Fork; Vetri, Starr, Solomonov — with the occasional nod to any Philly talent considered under-the-radar on the national scale, e.g. Joe Cicala, Konstantinos Pitsillides, Andre Chin and Amanda Eap (Artisan Boulanger Patissier). That’s not to say those big-name nominations weren’t deserved — they absolutely were — it’s just that there’s so much more to this city than Zahav and Marc Vetri. The rest of the country just isn’t aware.
But for whatever reason, this year, Philly-area chefs and restaurants, both big and small, caught the committee’s attention. Check out who’s repping Philly in 2017:
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With 2016 coming to a close, we’re taking this week to look back at the year in restaurants. And while things didn’t start off great (for starters, two of the first six restaurants I reviewed were closed before the year was done), with the spring came a turning point and the opening of some of the best restaurants of the year.
So let’s keep going, shall we? We pick things back up in March with the review of the new steakhouse that came in to take the place of Fountain at the Four Seasons…
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In the basement of Double Knot | Photo via Double Knot
Summer is a tough time in the restaurant industry. Things get quiet and weird when the mercury climbs. People eat later. They leave town. They abandon their regular haunts for beer gardens, beach bars and rooftop decks. Autumn is solid. Winter is dependable–there’s the run-up to the holidays, and then the post-New-Year slump. Even spring has its own kind of rhythm, with reservations and walk-ins increasing in direct relation to the calendar ticking forward through March and April and May.
But summer? Summer is fickle. Summer is flighty. Summer is something that most restaurants just survive.
The good news? The season is almost over. We’re rolling inexorably toward September now, toward Labor Day and back-to-school. But before we slide into fall and all of fall’s new openings, this seems like a good time to look back over the past six (or seven) month’s worth of reviews and see where we stand. To measure what we’ve gained, what we’ve lost and where you should still get to (or get back to) before all the new kids on the block get up and running for the season.
And the most obvious place to start is…
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