Rebirth of the Cool: Heritage Reviewed

Beef tartare with green strawberry | Photo by Neal Santos

Beef tartare with green strawberry | Photo by Neal Santos

On the first day, there were Edison bulbs. Twenty-first-century diners across the land gazed up from rough-hewn farm tables, from their plates of artisanal charcuterie and pork belly with rich-yolked local egg, and beheld the bygone incandescence of the tungsten age.

On the second day, there were Clover Clubs and Aviations. Barmen wearing arm garters and handlebar mustaches shook Prohibition’s elixirs into the Facebook era.

Oh, but on the third day our souls willfinally sing, for the jazz club will rise again! Read more »

Act Two: Parlor Reviewed


Trio of pizzas at the Parlor | Photo by Danya Henninger

Confession of a city critic: Whenever I have to schlep out to the suburbs, I can’t help but grit my teeth. Expectations drop beyond the county line. For every Junto, there are three Saint Jameses, and there goes an hour’s worth of unleaded into the ledger of our atmospheric doom.

But I exaggerate. The Saint James’s awfulness lay far beyond the reach of replication, much less in triplicate. Yet trepidation nevertheless filled the family wagon as we made our way to its replacement in Ardmore’s Suburban Square. Owner Rob Wasserman rebooted the ill-starred concept in March as a pizzeria called Parlor, where pies bearing somewhat distressing names such as Buffy and Beastmode awaited us. Read more »

Restaurant Review: Vesper

Vesper Bar | Photo by Neal Santos

Vesper Bar | Photo by Neal Santos

Two men walk into a bar.

“May we go downstairs?” one asks, gesturing toward a bookcase that conceals a secret stairwell.

“Do you have the password?” the hostess replies, flashing a flinty sidelong stare. Read more »

Adam Erace Ranks Heritage In His Top 10 Philly Restaurants

The bar at Heritage.

The bar at Heritage.

Heritage, a newcomer to Northern Liberties this spring, surprised and impressed City Paper critic Adam Erace. So much so, in fact, that the restaurant now holds a spot in his top 10 Philly favorites despite its relative youth. Lauding the mature and thoughtful cooking, Erace explains:

 “Lately I feel that, spoiled by recent years of plenty, we’ve slid into a period of casual-sex restaurants: They feel good, sure, but do they challenge us? Do they have a point of view? Are they adding something to the conversation? At first glance, Heritage seemed to be just another lemming, offering a couple hours of pleasant distraction with the same ol’ new-American menu of kale salad, crudo and smoked things. Reading through online, the list felt inexplicably wintry. It was 95 degrees. I didn’t want to eat brisket with cabbage, trout in truffled broth or duck confit. I didn’t want to eat at Heritage. Now, thanks to chef Sean Magee, I can’t wait to go back.”

Heritage shines in Northern Liberties [City Paper]
Heritage [f8b8z]

Of Vinyl, Ramps and Stinging Nettle: Helm Reviewed


Tortellini with brussels sprouts | Photo by Jason Varney

You knew this was coming. In Philadelphia, where chefs are constantly popping up in one another’s kitchens or dueling each other at Cook, it was only a matter of time before two of them would notice a FOR RENT sign as they carpooled home one night and decide to take the next logical step and move in together. Read more »

Fast Fish: Buena Onda Reviewed

Fish Tacos | Photo by Jason Varney

Fish Tacos at Buena Onda | Photo by Jason Varney

Strange things are afoot in Fast Food Nation. McDonald’s, whose 2013 Mighty Wings promotion left the chain sitting on 10 million pounds of unsold chicken, is so deep in a corporate identity crisis that it just gave the Hamburglar a makeover as a suburbanite hipster. Meanwhile, Shake Shack’s stock hit a P/E ratio nearly 10 times higher than Facebook’s. And now Jose Garces is leaping into the quick-serve sweepstakes with a value proposition of his own: $3.50 fish tacos, and free beer while you wait. Read more »

Adam Erace Calls Opa a “Great Restaurant”

opa-Bobby-Saritsoglou-400Adam Erace was already a fan of Bobby Saritsoglou’s cooking from Saritsoglou’s time at Santucci’s. There, Erace realized the pizzeria was also a really good neighborhood BYOB. Now Saritsoglou is cooking Greek food at Opa and Erace says the Midtown Village spot is now a “great restaurant.”

[M]eat was where Saritsoglou really shined, whether in the bite-sized dolmades, smoky charred grape-leaf bundles rolled around aggressively spiced keftedes that positively quivered with juiciness, or the shareable Meat Board, a carnivore’s playground that shortly will become a new must-have dish in Philadelphia. Inspired by Greece’s kebab-and-beer psistaria, this scene co-starred four perfectly cooked proteins on a butcher-block backdrop: oregano-rubbed chicken so moist, the word “confit” hardly does it justice; uncased pork-and-beef soutzoukakiasausages shot through with woodsy za’atar; a take on loukaniko, a true sausage deeply perfumed with orange zest and fennel seed; and bifteki, which was like the most unearthly delicious burger patty you’ve ever eaten. The bifteki sat on a thick slice of tomato, a king on a scarlet cushion. I cut into the crunchy caramelized crust of the pan-fried 80/20 beef patty (a light dredge in flour is the key), revealing a glistening interior as red as the fruit it sat upon.

A new chef brings a fresh new menu to Opa [City Paper]
Opa [Foobooz]

Three Bells for Mainland Inn

Courtesy the Mainland Inn

Courtesy the Mainland Inn

Craig LaBan finds a much needed wake up to the farm-to-table trope at chef Ezra Duker’s Mainland Inn in Harleysville. La Ban finds lots to praise in Duker’s use of Quarry Hill Farm, the farm two miles away that is owned by Sloane Six, who also owns Mainland.

The extraordinary lamb dish, meanwhile, was a snapshot of two farmyard generations on one plate. A roulade made from a yearling, its braised neck meat shaped into a disk glazed coal-black with olive puree, anchored one end, while the long bones of two amazingly tender chops from a milk-fed baby arced over a spring montage of new onions, favas, and a salsa verde piquant with sorrel and boquerones.

Three Bells – Excellent

Mainland Inn: Direct from the farm, with flair and flavor [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Mainland Inn [Foobooz]

Retro Week: Revisiting Ralph’s

Photo by Stephanie Viggiano

At Ralph’s Italian Restaurant, where a century’s worth of footsteps have buffed the dining room’s floor mosaic as smooth as the inside of an oyster shell, the idea of a regular customer takes on a genealogical hue. Five generations of the same family have owned and operated the place, which was founded by Francesco Dispigno in 1900 and has occupied its current location for 100 years. But one of their biggest points of pride is a clientele whose claim on the tables is almost as ancestral.

“We have three and four generations of families as customers,” marvels Jim Rubino, the 53-year-old great-grandson of Francesco, and grandson of Rafael Dispigno, whose Anglicized name the restaurant bears. “It’s a remarkable thing.”

Read more »

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