The 2009 Philly Mag 50: Restaurants 1 to 25

3. James
3. James
South Philly | Italian | Entrée: $21–$30
Last Year’s Ranking: 6

Candied bacon, it turns out, tastes like peanut brittle. But better. Sweet, crunchy, salty, and vaguely redolent of actual meat, it takes an already luscious dessert—roasted apples atop a brown-sugar cake—and turns it into something you remember. Something you talk about the next day. So it goes with pretty much every dish at James, the refined little foodie refuge in Bella Vista, where a sunchoke soup manages to be light (tinged with lemon) and rich (served over black truffles), and a buttery, loose risotto—the most delicate you’ll find this side of Milan—is dotted with bits of oyster. Chef Jim Burke and his wife, Kristina, run the show with such intense attention to detail that naysayers have called the place too precious. The naysayers are wrong. James has earned serious accolades from Food & Wine magazine for the very reasons that we remain evangelical about the place: It has a serious chef making memorably good food in a pretty space. What’s not to love? Order: Tagliatelle with duck ragu, shaved chocolate and orange. Seriously.824 South 8th Street, 215-629-4980.

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Photograph by Jason Varney


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