Last week, we debuted our new series Behind the Line with an interview with TV chef Michael Symon, who has a just-opened restaurant at the Borgata. This week, we talk to Zahav’s Michael Solomonov, whose last month has been filled with awards, great press, and big moves. Read more »
It was all fun and games when the James Beard Foundation announced Philadelphia’s semifinalists back in February. In previous years, only our industry’s biggest names ever made the cut, but for whatever reason, this year, they took notice of our city’s BYOBs, tiny bakeries, taquerias, and the women who make our scene so great.
A month later, the finalists were announced. That list was less surprising but still exciting. Our biggest deal restaurant group (CookNSolo) got a lot of attention: Michael Solomonov was up for Outstanding Chef, Zahav for Outstanding Service, and pastry chef Camille Cogswell for Rising Star Chef Of The Year. The Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic category was a big one for Philly, too, with Vedge’s Rich Landau and Greg Vernick from Vernick Food & Drink still in the running. Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione was competing for Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Professional and Stephen Starr capped the list as the lone Philly finalist for Outstanding Restaurateur.
Last night, the James Beard Foundation announced the 2017 awards recipients (chef and restaurant categories), and Philly won big.
Famed fast-casual hummusiya Dizengoff is expanding yet again. Mike Solomonov and Steve Cook’s choice for their next outpost? Sunny Miami.
Center City’s darling new give-back diner, Rooster Soup Company, caught some national attention last week after GQ named it one of the ten best new restaurants in the country. The author, Brett Martin, waxes creative about Rooster’s chicken schnitzel sandwich, its Yemenite chicken pot pie and its smoked-matzo-ball soup; he even goes so far as to mention its hours (“[o]pen from breakfast through early-bird dinner”).
Now, just four days after the list was published, Rooster Soup Co. tweaked its menu and hours, so its entire blurb is effectively dated material — a perfect example of the fidgety, fast-moving, fickle nature of the restaurant business.
Look at Sweetgreen, so crafty with ways to make their product — the lowly salad — one of the most exciting foods money can buy. Besides appealing to youngins with branded store sign verbiage (see: Beyonce and Kanye West references like “hot sauce in my bag, er, bowl” and “I made that peach famous”), they collaborate with big names in food — David Chang (Momofuku), Dan Barber (Blue Hill), Jessica Koslow (Sqirl) — to keep the menu fresh and relevant. It’s a pretty neat business model — even Kendrick Lamar has his own salad: Beets Don’t Kale My Vibe.
And on April 28th, Philly’s own Michael Solomonov will join these celebrity-types with Sweetgreen’s Zahav Bowl.
Michael Solomonov is making moves in 2017.
He and his partner Steve Cook just opened an impressively charitable luncheonette in Center City called Rooster Soup Co., last night was Solo’s documentary debut at the Ritz Five cinema, and yesterday, the team announced a new restaurant opening right above Rooster Soup Co.: Goldie, a vegan falafel shop, at 1526 Sansom Street. It opens today at 11 a.m., too, which is pretty crazy considering there was no lead-up media coverage whatsoever — easily one of the most hush-hush restaurant openings we’ve ever witnessed, especially by such a prolific restaurant group (Zahav, two Dizengoffs, Rooster Soup Co., and part of Federal Donuts).
Here’s everything you need to know:
Nationally speaking, Michael Solomonov is the current face of Philly food. He’s our chef. The one who got so big, he was capable of turning the country’s focus — finally — to Philly, a city which, despite its best efforts to keep relevant and exciting (and, not to mention, two Top Chef winners), always had a hard time shaking its past. Plus, he’s the one responsible for introducing Israeli cooking to the American public, which is a big friggin’ deal since there’s so much unexplored nuance, history, and new vibrancy to the cuisine.
And, now, today, he is also a movie star.
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 Cicala, Konstantinos Pitsillides, Andre 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: