Dumplings and Scallion Pancakes at SuGa | Photo by Emily Teel
I love the smell of SuGa. The dim warmth of it. The banquette tables that run along the wall opposite the bar, in the front of the narrow, shotgun space in the middle of Center City. I love the weird, blobby lights that hang down, casting spotlights onto those tables. There’s a drama there that I can appreciate. A sense of controlling the environment.
There’s a sheen to everything at SuGa of newness and polish and efficiency. It’s a new restaurant (not even quite three months old yet) that operates like there are 20-year grooves cut into the floor. Everything is on rails, running with a precision that would make German train engineers jealous. This place represents the culmination of decades of experience—of Susanna Foo’s return to Center City (where she got famous, where she made her name) after closing her namesake Walnut Street restaurant in 2009 and its Radnor offshoot last summer. A veteran returning to the trenches, Foo is backed up by her son Gabriel on the floor (he grew up in the restaurant industry, went to medical school, but then found his way back to restaurants again) and sous chefs Clara Park (who opened SuGa with Foo, then left) and Chris Dougherty (who stepped up when Park left) in the kitchen. There are no amateur mistakes at SuGa. Nothing happens without a reason.
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For those of you out there too lazy to read our list of the best spring restaurant openings in the current issue of Philadelphia magazine (or who have forgotten that we have an up-to-date list of just about EVERY opening, closing and rumored restaurant project in the city right over here), we have a perfect solution.
Me and the crew from FYI Philly recently sat down to talk about all the new and upcoming stuff, and some of it (the non-sweary, non-digressive parts) made it onto last week’s show. We’ve got the video now, which includes a walkthrough of Double Knot, and conversations with both Susanna Foo (SuGa) and David Jansen (Jansen).
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Wander into SuGa for a late lunch and you might be joined by Sinatra crooning through My Way, then Strangers in the Night, and then My Way, again, this time recorded a few decades later. He’s there each day from 3:00 until 4:00, a request by Susanna Foo herself, an hour of big band standards to get through the afternoon lull.
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