It used to be hard to get excited about a hotel restaurant. They’ve always opened not for us, the city’s impassioned diners, but for the transient throngs passing through with no sense of adventure. We ended up with places like Ruth’s Chris Steak House or Aqimero, our most recent 0-star loser of a restaurant that distracts visitors, caters to expense accounts, and really, wastes prime restaurant real estate inside the Ritz-Carlton.
But now it’s 2017, and things are getting a little easier. For every hotel restaurant that makes us yawn, there’s an Urban Farmer to keep us satisfied, or an a.kitchen, or a Wm. Mulherin’s Sons, or someday soon, a big-deal restaurant backed by a Michelin-starred team. Hotel restaurants in Philly are better than they’ve ever been, making real efforts to tune in to our world by dipping into our local talent.
Take, for example, CO-OP, University City’s brand new restaurant on the ground floor of its new, high-end hotel, The Study.
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Two of my favorite places to eat in Philadelphia competed Monday night at our 23rd Foobooz Open Stove event. It was a knife fight between Cheu Noodle Bar’s sous chef, Chad Smith, and Will BYOB’s sous chef, Craig Russell. I asked Chad before we began if he was going to be doing anything Asian-inspired, or rather, Cheu-esque. And the soft spoken chef looked up, said “nope,” and went back to his prep. I walked over to the other side, where Craig was furiously assembling his amuse bouche, and I observed, “This doesn’t look very ‘Will.'” to which he responded, “You won’t see a single shaved vegetable on our plates tonight.” Now this, obviously, was not a dig at Chris Kearse. He just wanted to make sure the world knew that this was his food, done his way. The same went for Chad: this wasn’t going to be an extension of Ben Puchowitz‘s style—this was going to be all Chad.
So it began–Open Stove XXIII, a battle between two powerhouse restaurants in a restaurant obsessed city, with food by sous chefs who may be as talented as they come. And if you missed being there for the actual event, don’t worry. We have pictures–which don’t taste quite as good as the food that was served at COOK, but are the next best thing.
Show me the photos