James Beard Finally Acknowledges Philly’s Little Guys (and Gals) for its 2017 Semifinalists List

Essen Bakery (Oustanding Baker semifinalist) - Facebook

Essen Bakery (Outstanding Baker semifinalist) – Facebook

This story has been updated.

The almighty James Beard Awards Committee rarely ever left its comfort-zone when it came down to Philadelphia restaurants. Year after year, it was always Philly’s ultra-notable restaurants and chef names that made the cut — Zahav, Vedge, Vernick, Fork; Vetri, Starr, Solomonov — with the occasional nod to any Philly talent considered under-the-radar on the national scale, e.g. Joe CicalaKonstantinos PitsillidesAndre Chin and Amanda Eap (Artisan Boulanger Patissier). That’s not to say those big-name nominations weren’t deserved — they absolutely were — it’s just that there’s so much more to this city than Zahav and Marc Vetri. The rest of the country just isn’t aware.

But for whatever reason, this year, Philly-area chefs and restaurants, both big and small, caught the committee’s attention. Check out who’s repping Philly in 2017:

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Looking Back: The Best (and Worst) Restaurants of 2016, Part 1

ting wong ducks 940

2016 was a big year in Philly’s restaurant community. We saw the openings of some of the best restaurants in the city–and a couple of the worst. We saw a continued revision of the city’s signature style–this kind of casual-local, over-educated, multiply-influenced neighborhood-level version of new New American that is unique to Philadelphia–and saw a kind of ennui settling into the heart of its cuisine. Fine dining took a few more body blows. Fast-casual continued to boom in a huge way. Our chefs expanded outside the bounds of the city and suburbs as Philly became a national force in cuisine, and we saw some big time national restaurateurs looking at Philly with hungry eyes and wondering what THEY could do here.

So yeah, it was an important year. A formative one. And Foobooz and Philadelphia magazine were there for all of it. This week, we’re looking back at some of the biggest names and biggest moments of the year gone by, and where better to begin than with the most important restaurants of the year?

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Sunday: Apple Dinner at Martha

wenk apples martha 940This Sunday, November 20th, Martha in Kensington is throwing an apple-themed dinner to highlight the many varietals of apples you’ll find in the Philadelphia region. There will be 14 apple varietals featured in the $35 per person, vegan dinner.

Martha’s Jon Medlinsky will be joined by Ben Wenk of Three Springs Fruit Farms and Vincent Finazzo of Riverwards Produce. Wenk and Finazzo will share their knowledge about apples for the assembled.

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Halloween and Craft Spirits Week

Alla Spina moves its industry up a week to coincide with Halloween and Craft Spirits Week.

Alla Spina moves its industry up a week to coincide with Halloween and Craft Spirits Week.

It’s already day five of the inaugural Philly Craft Spirits Week and this evening, Craft Spirits Week runs straight into Halloween.

Martha, with its dozens of local spirits is the defacto home of PCSW and tonight they are hosting a Freaky Tiki Halloween Party with free rum. That beats the heck out of miniature Snickers bars. The fun kicks off at 5 p.m. but most assuredly goes all night long. The outdoors will feature a rum tasting tiki hut and inside there will be tiki-inspired exotica music and if you come in costume, you can also get half-off tiki beer from Terrapin and Avery Brewing.

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Philly Craft Spirits Week Kicks Off Thursday

Philly Craft Spirits Week promises 9 days of events.

Philly Craft Spirits Week promises 9 days of events.


Philly Craft Spirits Week
kicks off this Thursday at Philadelphia magazine’s Whiskey and Fine Spirits Festival. The fest will feature a local spirits sectin with tables and bars representing the 11 participating distilleries in Philly Craft Spirits Week.

Beyond Whiskey Fest, each participating distillery is setting up a bevy of exciting events where you may tipple between Thursday, October 27 and Friday, October 4.

Among the Highlights:

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A Happy Hour Where You Might Learn Something

Martha | Photo by Ted Nghiem

Martha | Photo by Ted Nghiem

Martha Mondays is the alliterative title to the educational happy hour that happens at Kensington’s Martha (#14 on this year’s 50 Best Bars list). Starting at 5 p.m., these happy hours typically showcase a local, beer, wine, spirit or artisan producer that shows up elsewhere on Martha’s menu.

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Wawa’s Hoagiefest Has Us Thinking About Our Favorites

Now this is a hoagie!

Now this is a hoagie | Photo by Jason Varney

Wawa’s Hoagiefest is upon us and though a Wawa hoagie will do in a pinch, it certainly isn’t our favorite hoagie. We’ve been big promoters of Sarcone’s for the longest time, we’ve become fans of Northeast Philly favorite, Fink’s Hoagies since they’ve opened on Jewelers Row and we’re loving what Martha is doing with their hyper local hoagies in Kensington.

But we know there are more great hoagies out there. Just this weekend we were told that Antonio’s Deli, which replaced the award winning Chickie’s Italian Deli at 1014 Federal Street hasn’t missed a beat. We haven’t tried Antonio’s yet, but it’s now at the top of our list.

What are your favorite hoagies? Is it from a tried and true spot in South Philadelphia or have you discovered a winner off the beaten track.

Let us know in the comments.

Field Guide: 12 Hidden Outdoor Dining Spots in Philadelphia

Outdoor garden at Little Nonna's | Photo by Jason Varney

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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How to Get Your Hands on Free Kombucha Today (Yes, FREE Kombucha)

Martha | Photo via Facebook

Martha | Photo via Facebook

The folks at Kensington’s recently opened Martha — a bar that serves up both kombucha and kefir, along with hoagies and, you know, normal bar drinks — has kicked of a little something called Martha Mondays, a happy hour series where they introduce folks to the makers behind their products. And today, Martha Mondays is all about Funky Fresh, Philly makers of kombucha, kefir and all sorts of other fermented goodies. Read more »

Tonight: Rum Happy Hour at Martha

cooper river rums 400w

Martha at 2113 East York Street is adding some shine to your Monday with a series of Monday night events that are designed to be free, fun and even educational as Jon Medlinsky’s bar invites in the people behind the local food and beverages served at Martha.

Up first is James Yoakum, founder, chief distiller and president of Cooper River Distillers in Camden, New Jersey. Cooper River did particularly well on our Best Local Spirits list from last year. Yoakum will be pouring samples of his spirits and discussing the product and process. Martha will also be offering half-off of Cooper River cocktails plus some complimentary snacks inspired by the rums.

The happy hour event runs from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. tonight, February 29th.

Martha [Foobooz]
Philadelphia’s Best Local Spirits [Foobooz]

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