City Tap House has been on a bit of a tear lately. For the past year or so — ever since chef Chad Vetter took over the kitchen — the beer bar has been showing new culinary aspirations. Sure, there are still nachos on the menu, and chicken wings and other snacks friendly to the 60-plus beers on tap. But those wings are rubbed with a house blend of 10 spices, and the nachos are crowned with pulled pork and topped with a Walt Wit white cheddar sauce. What’s more, Vetter does shrimp-topped fried green tomatoes, and chicken and waffles with honey-thyme butter. And as if all that isn’t enough to convince people this is a perfectly respectable place to settle in for dinner and drinks, he recently added a spread of new gourmet pizzas topped with everything from Cantimpalo chorizo to Benton’s ham, peaches and arugula.
Oh, and you know. There’s still beer, too.
City Tap House [Foobooz]
Photo by Mike Arrison
There are two ways a restaurant can be and remain successful: It can stay relevant, or it can become a classic. Sometimes, when the planets align and the gods approve, the two happen simultaneously. Pumpkin has lived at 17th and South for what’ll soon be 10 years, the anniversary of the day when owners Ian Moroney and Hillary Bor grabbed hold of a space nobody believed in and created (and kept) the BYO atmosphere we all know and love.
Alas, with the surrounding restaurant neighborhood explosion — the fancy toasts, the small plates — tiny places like this can get lost in the scrum. But Pumpkin stayed true and stayed exciting. Fregola sarda (toasted beads of Sardinian pasta) risotto with an English pea salad on top was not only comforting, but a texturally fun play on popping peas and smooth risotto. And it was the succotash that brought the sweet, tang and heat (from Styer Orchard chili peppers) that tiny gobbets of snails reveled in.
It’s easy eating at Pumpkin — not dated, not too precious, not clinging to trends, but not losing sight of what Philadelphia wants, either. It’s a restaurant that’s both current and classic, and that still harks back to a day when Philadelphia began to do what we do best: bring our own.
Originally published in the September 2014 issue of Philadelphia magazine.
Photo by Alex Tewfik
This weekend, Craig LaBan reviewed Chip Roman’s The Treemont and wonders where all the diners are. Scared off by an unusual deadspot in Center City or dissuaded from the Cheesecake Factory construction site down the block? But for those who have made it in the doors, there are rewards.
If Roman has the financial fortitude to endure the leaner months, the Treemont has the ingredients to become, with refining (and maybe some noise-proofing), a reliable, fine-dining hideaway with quality entrees, fairly priced in the mid-$20s.
Two Bells – Very Good (93 decibels)
Treemont mystery: Good food, few eaters [Philadelphia Inquirer]
The Treemont [Foobooz]
The folk of East Passyunk Avenue dwell within an embarrassment of restaurant riches, but when the weather’s as lovely as it was at the beginning of August, apparently only one bar will do. That’s what I couldn’t help thinking when I turned up at Stateside on an evening when its giant windows inhaled a mild breeze. Every indoor stool but one was occupied. The open-air counter facing Cross Street was full, and the sidewalk bar on Passyunk was three deep with what looked like the tail end of a Hugo Boss shoot.
When a stroke of luck swept me into a Steam Age swivel-mount seat on the Cross Street side, there was no denying that life was good.
Then the wait began.
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Society Hill Society | Photo by Courtney Apple
In the annals of faint praise, neighborhood restaurant is a peculiar epithet. People usually apply it to the places that make them feel most welcome. Yet it’s a dismissive classification—not just because it implies that a place merits only limited attention, but because it suggests that one neighborhood restaurant is more or less interchangeable with any other. Warm hospitality, a menu that’s not trying to reinvent the wheel, consistent cooking, and bang—your Brewerytown pals are all, “Why can’t somebody open a place like this by us?”
Nobody would ask that about Society Hill Society, because Reed Barrow has remade the old Artful Dodger into a public house that looks like pints have been sliding across its hammered copper bar since the first bricks were laid on Headhouse Square (and only lately, eclectic cocktails). Locally crafted spindle chairs and coarse-grained chestnut soak up the warm light of yellow globe fixtures on patched plaster ceilings. The upper bar shelves hold objects so random, it seems they must have taken decades to accrue. Is that a femur wedged in next to the ship captain’s hat?
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Craig LaBan enjoys the ampersand cuisine of Alex Capasso’s Crow & the Pitcher where Le Bec Fin’s gilded cheese cart meets up with small plates and burgers.
Capasso’s mussels are easily some of the best in town – clean, perfectly cooked, bathed in a creamy natural broth fortified with vermouth. The house-made charcuterie platter is also satisfying, its chicken terrine creamy with confit fat and leg meat, a heady lamb terrine piqued with olives & silky foie gras cured in Sauternes. Crisp nuggets of tender sweetbreads play against the bitter, roasty crunch of brussels sprouts in bordelaise.
Two Bells – Very Good
Crow & the Pitcher [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Crow & the Pitcher [Foobooz]
Petruce et al is the ninth three bell review for Craig LaBan this year, a number it usually takes a year to achieve. In La Ban’s review states that this effort by Justin and Jonathan Petruce is one of the best.
Petruce may well become best known for interpretations of some true basics – such as lasagna, roast chicken, and steak that are instantly among the city’s best. The hearty eight-layer lasagna, its fresh pasta ribboned with nutmeg-scented béchamel, is oven-finished to a crunch in cast iron. The simply roasted chicken brings parchment-crisp skin and juicy flesh, with creamy grits ringed by an electric-yellow sauce of slow-cooked yolk thinned by white soy and lemon.
Three Bells – Excellent
Wood-fired excellence at Petruce et al [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Petruce et al [Foobooz]
Cape May used to have a restaurant-bar called Martini Beach and its concept was perfect for right around the time Stephen Starr opened his first martini bar, Continental. As we all know, that was a long, long time ago. Alas, Martini Beach has closed, and in its place, M’Ocean, a fine-dining restaurant for Cape May’s bustling restaurant scene.