Behind the Line is Foobooz’s weekly interview series with the people who make up Philadelphia’s dynamic bar and restaurant scene. Click here for the full archive.
This week’s special Best of Philly-edition of Behind the Line brings us to Nick Elmi, who went from winning Bravo’s Top Chef to having one of the hardest tables to get in Philly: Passyunk Avenue’s Laurel, which we recently named the 2nd best restaurant in Philadelphia. His South Philly bar followup ITV just won Best of Philly for its caviar service. And we can’t wait for his soon-to-open Old City spot. Here, we talk about all that and more. Read more »
Cocoa-cured foie gras at Laurel | Photography by Jason Varney and Samuel Markey
Yesterday, we were pleased to announce the return of something we haven’t seen in a little while–a collaboration dinner between the teams at Will and Jaxon. It was interesting to us because it has seemed like the collaboration dinner has been a fading trend lately, something overwhelmed or forgotten under the summer’s glut of food events, tasting menus, bar takeovers and whiskey, wine or beer dinners.
And that’s fine. These kind of things? They come and go. But collaborations are almost always exciting because unlike some special event menu or pairing (where, generally, the same crew is working in the same kitchen they always do, with all their influences and biases intact), the collaboration introduces a chaos element into things: The arrival of a whole new chef (or a whole new crew) with their own ideas about what food is supposed to look and taste like.
So one collaboration dinner? That’s good news. But two is (we hope) starting to look like the return of a trend. And the one that’s coming up at Laurel looks like it could be a good one.
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Outdoor garden at Little Nonna’s | Photo by Jason Varney
The Center City District now counts 412 outdoor dining cafes in just Philadelphia’s downtown area. Many a sidewalk has been turned over to eating al fresco. But if you’re looking to dine in the sunshine without the crowds, out of earshot of the SEPTA bus and away from the peering eyes of passersby, you’ve come to the right place. Here, our picks for the 12 best hidden outdoor dining spots in Philadelphia.
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Photo by Claudia Gavin
Last May Nick Elmi went to work on securing a liquor license and expanding into the former coffee shop that is next door to his Laurel. The initial plan was to add some seating and install a bar. But here we are more than seven months later and that hasn’t happened.
So when we caught up with Elmi at Philly Cooks, we asked him what was up. Elmi, whose Laurel has been named the top restaurant in the city for the past two years, has decided not to mess up the good thing he has going at Laurel. So Laurel remains BYOB though he does now offer a $60 wine pairing for those interested.
About the bar »
The new 50 Best Restaurants List | Photo by Samuel Markey
If it seems too soon for another 50 Best Restaurants issue, you’re right. For a long time, this list was something we put together every two years. But now that’s changing. Because it has to.
Philadelphia’s restaurant scene moves fast today—too fast for the kind of monolithic thinking that says a list of the best restaurants in this city could possibly stand, fundamentally unchanged, for two years. Fortunes rise and fall over weeks, not years. Opinions shift. Focus drifts. There was a time when a list of the best restaurants in Philly could have some breathing room—would be just as true (or nearly as true) six months or a year later as it was on the day it hit the stands. But today that sort of thinking seems as quaint as cedar-plank salmon or those bicycles with one big wheel in front—an artifact of another time.
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The three Philly contenders
Ben Franklin once said, “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.” I’m like 80% sure he was talking about voting in this year’s Food & Wine People’s Choice Best New Chef competition.
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Photo by by M. Fischetti for Visit Philadelphia
Starting in May, Laurel will be moving to only offering tasting menus. Currently, Nick Elmi’s East Passyunk BYOB offers the option of a la carte during the week with tasting menus only on Fridays and Saturdays. Elmi tells us, 70% of weeknight guests are now choosing the tasting menu and “it really doesn’t make sense for a small space like ours to carry a full menu.” Elmi says it has always been the goal to go tasting menu only at Laurel, and the restaurant’s reception has allowed him to speed up the process.
The number of courses and pricing remains the same, 7 courses for $85 per person.
May reservations will be available beginning on Tuesday, March 3rd, starting at noon.
50 Best Restaurants in Philadelphia – 2015 [Foobooz]
Professional mouth (and Philly native) Alan Richman has come out with another list of the 25 Best New Restaurants in the United States for GQ magazine, and Philly has made the cut–twice.
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The Foobooz Speakeasy from Philly Cooks 2014
Get your tickets for Philly Cooks Big Event before the end of day on Friday, January 9th in order to save 15%. After that the tickets go up to $100. The Big Event will feature food from more than 40 of Philadelphia’s best restaurants including this year’s number one restaurant, Laurel.
The event will also feature the chance to try food from Philadelphia’s newest restaurants including Brick and Mortar, Bing Bing Dim Sum, Palladino’s and more.
Get your Philly Cooks Big Event tickets now before the prices go up.
Philly Cooks [Philadelphia Magazine]
From left, Laurel chefs Kyle McCormick, Edmund Konrad, Nick Elmi, and Paul Becker.
| Photo by Michael Persico
Three months. That’s about how long it takes us to eat at every important restaurant in the city. And then eat there again. And, sometimes, again.
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