Grilled cheese is the queen of sandwiches. Say what you will about its simplicity, its lack of intrinsic finesse (only rule: don’t burn), but it is precisely this lack of complexity that makes it perfect. Grilled cheese is tabula rasa—a blank slate onto which can be written anything (a love song for a hundred cheeses, a lust for tomatoes or bacon, a treatise on the comforts of childhood, of moms and dads, of easier times or poverty or innovation)—and that is what makes it so beloved. The grilled cheese sandwich demands nothing, but there isn’t much you can add to a grilled cheese sandwich that will ruin it (broken glass, gum, broccoli). It is, as it is, ideal. But infinitely customizable.
DanDan on a Friday night is a mess in the best possible way—a riot of people and bags and plates, with servers squeezing through the spaces between while the bartenders do their best to keep up with the crush that keeps backing up to the door.
The place is small, but not small-small. Downstairs, the bar takes up an inordinate amount of room, and everything else is just squeezed in. Two-tops press up against the big windows looking out onto the hustle of 16th Street, and more are tucked under the overhang of the lofted second-floor seating area. The hostess stand half-clogs the only passage between the main floor and the stairs leading up. It would be a terrible place to eat if it weren’t also such a fun place to throw yourself into. There’s a mosh-pit sensibility to it: You can get where you’re going, but not without bouncing off a few bodies first.
I sit in the corner at the bar with a sweating Tsing Tao, slurping cold sesame noodles that have a nutty, sweet kick and working through a plate of cumin pork that leaves my tongue slick with a mix of dusty-hot cumin and peppers. Even the fizz of the beer won’t wash it off.
You’ve got to be pretty confident to think about opening a vegan restaurant in a town that already has Vedge in it. That’s kind of like going to Williamsburg to open a trendy cocktail bar with a lot of pickles on the menu. Like heading for Yountville with the intention of showing those poor saps what real modernist cuisine looks like.
Locally, it’s like opening a high-end Italian restaurant right across the street from Vetri. That doesn’t happen by mistake. You don’t go through all the effort of opening and then just look up one morning and say, “Huh. I wonder when that Vetri character opened there.”
No, vagaries of real estate aside, when you do something like that, it’s a very deliberate move. You’ve got to believe you have something Marc Vetri doesn’t. And doing vegan—a vegan bar, really, offering lunch and dinner, Latin flavors, margaritas and caipirinhas—right down the street from the vegan bar opened by the people behind Vedge is the same kind of crazy.
The best time I had at Stargazy was on a rainy afternoon when I was going somewhere else. I hadn’t even been thinking about pies (which is odd for me), but then there I was—like a block away, walking through the drizzle—and I thought, You know what would go nicely with this weather? A sausage roll.
I pushed in through the door and watched the cooks in the tiny backroom kitchen squaring pies on sheet pans. The sausage roll cost something like four bucks and was hot and greasy enough to stain the bottom of the brown paper bag it came in. Perfect, in other words. I stepped back out into the gray and ate it walking, in its c-fold wrapping, picking apart the crisp, flaking crust with my fingers. That was a good day.
Jeremy Nolen—chef at Whetstone, the man behind Brauhaus and Wursthaus Schmitz, lonely local champion of modern German cuisine and a fella who knows an awful lot about tube-shaped meats—stopped by our table somewhere between the drinks arriving and the menus being taken away. He looked distracted, tired— sucking breath like a boxer in the third round suddenly realizing that the guy across the ring from him is more of a fighter than he’d expected. Read more »
My problem with Bud & Marilyn’s is that I always want to be drunk before I go.
There are reasons. This isn’t me confessing to some latent alcohol problem, or anything so pedestrian. No, it’s because they have this chop suey on the menu, and this chop suey in particular (this chop suey more than all other chop sueys I’ve known) is maybe the most perfect drunk food ever created.
I know. No one eats chop suey anymore because chop suey was, is, always will be the avatar of Americanized Chinese food. There are a million stories of its creation. All of them are probably true. And it’s a dish that has lingered in the American consciousness for a century, staling and growing hoary with legend until it’s become the kind of thing you’d expect to find in some tiki’d and Buddha’d gold-flake dining room in suburban Milwaukee in 1977.
Every restaurant has an inaugural “regular,” and for Vernick, it was me.
At least that’s what chef Greg Vernick divulged, with a chuckle, when I called to ask a few questions about a late-spring meal. It was news to me. It seems that after I paid my third visit — a bit too quickly on the heels of my first two upon its 2012 opening — general manager Ryan Mulholland giddily proclaimed that the restaurant’s first serial patron was officially in the bag.
Whereupon I returned once more — and then completely disappeared for almost three years. Read more »
There’s only so much you can tell about a restaurant from its staff’s sartorial choices. But Triangle Tavern’s bar — whose bulbous edge gleams darkly with decades’ worth of varnish — offered a fascinating study in contrasts as I settled in amid drifting speckles of disco-ball light. A bullet casing swung from my bartender’s pale white neck as she stirred Dubonnet into gin. Nearby, a slender crucifix tagged its owner as a South Philadelphian of a more iconic stripe. And passing between them was a young black man rocking a Portland Trail Blazers jersey. Read more »
With the final days of Friday Saturday Sunday under owners Jamie and Weaver Lilley coming up quickly. We reached into the Philadelphia magazine archives to find the 42-year old restaurant’s first review.
The review is by restaurant critic Jim Quinn, who in the October 1973 issue of the magazine reviewed Friday Saturday Sunday and Thursday Too (as it was known) as well as Astral Plane and Frog, two other restaurants that history shows were part of what we now refer to as, Philadelphia’s first restaurant renaissance. Even in its earliest days, it was clear that these restaurants were something special.
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 »