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.
Jose and Jennifer Vargas of Leila’s Bistro in Jenkintown created a sophisticated yet comfortable sequel when they opened Forcella, serving authentic Italian cuisine, in downtown Jenkintown earlier this year. Recently, the BYOB has made some changes with chef Anthony Pasceri taking over the kitchen and adding a new seasonal menu.
Pasceri, formerly of Modo Mio and Popolino, has been on the Philadelphia restaurant scene for over 10 years. At his new home in Jenkintown, he will be serving house-made classic Italian pastas, breads, desserts and more.
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All of the winners for Philadelphia magazine’s Best of Philly issue are now online. Explore everything from the Best BYOB to the Best Whiskey list. And there are videos too »
Will BYOB is celebrating its second anniversary with a special collaboration dinner. On Sunday, August 24th, owner and chef Chris Kearse will be joined by chef John Patterson of Fork and chef Eli Collins of Pub & Kitchen for a special $100 per person dinner that benefits the National Foundation for Facial Reconstruction.
Call for 215-271-7683 reservations or book online.
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Australian black truffles.
Need we say more?
Tuesday, August 26th, Blackfish invites you to their Australian Black Truffle Dinner. The tasting menu is comprised of four dishes featuring the prized ingredient. Guests will start with duck and truffle rillettes, followed by truffle dumpling, albacore and truffle ballontine and finish with beef and truffle parfait.
The dinner, curated by chef and owner Chip Roman with the help of chef de cuisine, Yianni Arhontoulis is $65 per person.
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This summer Dean Carlson’s Wyebrook Farm is offering “farm to fork” dinners, prepared on site by Chef Eric Yost. Diners can enjoy the farm’s grass-fed beef, heritage breed pork and free pastured chicken accompanied by locally grown produce. Guests will be seated outdoors on the farm and are encouraged to stroll the 350 acres. Prices will vary from the $7 organic fried green tomatoes to $23 black trumpet encrusted pork sirloin. Other good news? The farm is always BYOB. Dinner is served Wednesday through Saturday from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Reservations are required.
Wyebrook Farm [Official]
There was this moment, shortly after the finale of Top Chef: New Orleans had aired, shortly after Nick Elmi had been named the winner, when another chef walked up to him at one of the big food events in town, shook his hand, congratulated him, and asked him what the hell he was thinking, opening a 22-seat restaurant.
Because, seriously? When you win Top Chef, you suddenly become one of the most famous chefs in America. At least temporarily. Shoot, even losing on the show can be enough to raise you up out of obscurity and turn you into a brand — a known name who can draw down the dollars just by having been featured on the jumping box for a few hours. Cookbook deals, product endorsements, cruise-ship gigs — it all comes to you. And a big-ass restaurant with high-volume turnover on the floor? Of course. That’s just a given.
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Junto | Photos by Courtney Apple
“Do you know of any deserving young beginner lately set up,” members of Ben Franklin’s mutual aid society would ask one another, “whom it lies in the power of the Junto any way to encourage?”
They’d ask the same thing about “deserving stranger[s] arrived in town since last meeting.” And while neither description exactly matches MacGregor Mann, who’s cooked in Philadelphia for more than a decade, they’re close enough. Before naming his solo debut after Franklin’s eclectic club, the Garces vet went on a culinary walkabout ranging from an Idaho fly-fishing lodge to a stage at Denmark’s Noma—often named as the best restaurant in the world. And when he returned, he was bent on digging deeper into his home turf.
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Adam Erace notes that you can’t have a vibrant neighborhood in 2014 without a good Mexican spot. And with the addition of Cafe Ynez at 2025 Washington Avenue on the Graduate Hospital/Point Breeze border, both neighborhoods can boast they have their Mexican restaurant.
Erace’s only complaint, he wants more. “More food, more hours. Fortunately, both are in the works later this summer.”
A new Mexican place comes to GradHo and Point Breeze [Foobooz]
Cafe Ynez [Foobooz]
One recent evening, after picking up a four-pack of Allagash at Cambridge — the go-to place in this ’hood for quality takeout beer — I wandered with a friend into Entrée, a BYOB that opened in September. We weren’t expecting much. It was prime dinnertime, but the restaurant was empty, and the chef and his lone server were sitting out front. As things turned out, even if our expectations had been moderately high, they would have been exceeded. From the perfect calamari with slivered sweet peppers (one of my favorite versions in a city with many great calamari plates) to the pan-seared cornish hen to the pan-roasted halibut, everything was meticulously executed, yet presented simply and unpretentiously. Another win for the western end of South Street.
Entree Bistro [Foobooz]