Do You Believe in Magic? Palizzi Social Club Reviewed

PALIZZI SOCIAL CLUB_DETAIL_0702 FINAL Credit Jason Varney

Photo courtesy Jason Varney

You know it’s open when the neon is on, glowing gently in the window of a rowhouse on 12th Street just off Passyunk Avenue. You know you’re in the right place when you see the door with no knob, the buzzer, the little window with the eyes behind it, and hear the voice asking if you’re a member.

This is the Filippo Palizzi Club, chef Joey Baldino’s experiment in a very intimate, very social, very (sorta) private kind of dining.

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What We Need Right Now: Veda Reviewed

Veda1

It started with the naan. With that crisp bite and barely risen chew, its weirdly rustic Rorschach shapes and delicate, lacy swirls of golden-brown clarified butter. The naan— that’s what won me over.

Admittedly, I already liked Veda a lot. From the minute I sat down, the minute I smelled it. But that naan? That’s what cemented it. So simple, so utilitarian and so right. I want it every day.

But caring so much about naan is pointless, I know. Naan is everywhere in Indian food. There isn’t an Indian restaurant anywhere that doesn’t offer one or two or 12 varieties, sometimes good, sometimes not. To go bonkers over naan is like going bonkers over the hamburger buns at McDonald’s.

And yet still.

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Next Big Thing: Res Ipsa Reviewed

Photo by Will Figg

Photo by Will Figg

“So, how was dinner?”

I get this a lot. Obviously. Life that I live, things that I do, people I know, it’s the most common question I hear. Or second most, maybe, behind You want another drink? or What’s that stain on your shirt?

“So, how was dinner?” From friends, colleagues, editors, 10,000 servers, my mom. Always the same. And seeing as how it’s my actual job to answer precisely that question all the time, you’d think it would be easy. That I’d always have a fast and ready answer.

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Aiming For The Middle: Cinder Reviewed

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I go to Cinder on a gray afternoon, looking for comfort and distraction, and find it at the bar—two giant TVs showing football on one side, talking heads silently shouting about sports on the other. It’s quiet because I’m there between services—too late for lunch and too early for a meal to reasonably be called dinner—but I’m not alone. A two-top in the corner is occupied, as are a couple tables on the floor. At the bar, some beer nerds are taking advantage of owner Teddy Sourias’s unapologetic ode to the newest retro-fad among drinkers: cider. Sourias already has BRU, which focuses on beer and sausages, U-Bahn (his Berlin-subway-theme bar) and Uptown Beer Garden (which, obviously, is a sushi bar). In other words, he’s got beer covered and has always put together good lists of interesting brews, generally braced by the things people like to eat while drinking.

Cinder falls solidly inside that bull’s-eye. Everything about it, from the highly polished bar and hi-top tables to the orange glow coming from the mouth of the big oven in the open kitchen, speaks to this moment in Philadelphia’s edible history. It’s an efficient and highly designed concept restaurant masquerading as a neighborhood bar and aiming for that sweet spot of two-notches-better-than-you-expect—the benchmark level of acceptable quality in Philly these days.

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Have You Eaten Here Yet?

In the basement of Double Knot | Photo via Double Knot

In the basement of Double Knot | Photo via Double Knot

Summer is a tough time in the restaurant industry. Things get quiet and weird when the mercury climbs. People eat later. They leave town. They abandon their regular haunts for beer gardens, beach bars and rooftop decks. Autumn is solid. Winter is dependable–there’s the run-up to the holidays, and then the post-New-Year slump. Even spring has its own kind of rhythm, with reservations and walk-ins increasing in direct relation to the calendar ticking forward through March and April and May.

But summer? Summer is fickle. Summer is flighty. Summer is something that most restaurants just survive.

The good news? The season is almost over. We’re rolling inexorably toward September now, toward Labor Day and back-to-school. But before we slide into fall and all of fall’s new openings, this seems like a good time to look back over the past six (or seven) month’s worth of reviews and see where we stand. To measure what we’ve gained, what we’ve lost and where you should still get to (or get back to) before all the new kids on the block get up and running for the season.

And the most obvious place to start is…

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The Leftovers: Double Knot

DoubleKnot2

Stray thoughts, random musings and extraneous details from this week’s review of Michael Schulson‘s new izakaya/cafe, Double Knot.

  • “This is one of the best restaurants in Philadelphia!”

That came from the comments on yesterday’s review, and the guy who wrote it is absolutely right. It is one of the best restaurants in Philadelphia. It’s one of the most ambitious, the most daring, the most exciting in a long time. So why didn’t it score 4 stars?

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So Have You Eaten There Yet?

bud-marilyns-Cheese Curds 940

We have a wall at the office entirely given over to a Post-It Note snapshot of everything happening in the Philly restaurant world at this given moment. Hundreds of yellow squares, on which are written the names of restaurants, initials, arrows and mysterious heiroglyphs that only Art and I (and mostly I) can understand.

The Post-Its move. Get grouped, get broken up. The restaurants we love and the restaurants we hate are all represented (in wildly unequal numbers). Restaurants that are coming–addresses chosen, opening dates optimistically scheduled–have their own space, as do established and open restaurants whose reviews are in the works. Lately, that particular section of wall has been growing crowded. There are just so many goddamn restaurants coming (it’s spring, that happens) that it feels overwhelming.

So with six months of (mostly) weekly reviews behind me, and dozens of new openings incoming, I figured this might be a good time to look back and highlight the best moments of the past six months–places that you might’ve missed, places that you really ought to get to (if you haven’t already) before the lure of new-new restaurants becomes too overpowering.

So let’s start with…

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5 Things I Learned at Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! at the Mann Center

Photo courtesy of Derek Brad Photography

Photo courtesy of Derek Brad Photography

On Thursday, a live recording of  Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! was held at the Mann Center. Hosted by humorist, Peter Sagal, the podcast game show is a hilarious review of the past week’s current events. I braved the stormy weather for what turned out to be a highly educational experience. In addition to catching up on on my current events I also learned some fun facts about elusive Fresh Air host Terry Gross.

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REVIEW: John Legend at The Mann Center, 8/2

On Saturday night America’s fiancé–and Penn alum—John Legend, arrived at the Mann Center with a singular mission: to get Philadelphia laid. The silken-voiced R&B crooner played a tight 100-minute set attended by cool, late summer breezes that whispered sweet nothings into our ears.

Legend is touring on the strength of his three current love songs, “All of Me,” “Made to Love,” and “You and I,” all written for his model wife of eight months, Chrissy Teigen. He is as wholesome as an artist who is constantly singing about intercourse can get. In this respect, and so many others, Legend is the anti-Robin Thicke. The latter blew into summer 2013 with the monster hit “Blurred Lines,” and then spent the ensuing months on an extended musical bachelor party. And not a nice bachelor party, either. Like, a bachelor party with two groomsmen who have probably committed a misdemeanor held at a strip club where mobsters make deals in the movies. Meanwhile, with the success of this year’s singles, Legend continues his 10-year streak of cranking out mid-tempo jams and ballads in an effort to corner the market on making everyone pregnant.

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By The Numbers: A Fantastic Year For Philly Restaurants

Never did this finely wrought food feel fussy.  | Photo by Jason Varney

Photo by Jason Varney

I was talking with Philly mag restaurant critic Trey Popp the other day, and we were discussing (as we so often do) the state of the restaurant scene in Philly. More specifically, how weirdly awesome this past year has been for restaurants in general, but for restaurants in Philly in particular. It’d gotten so that he was actually concerned with the numbers of 3 star reviews he’d been handing down lately–not because any of the restaurants on which he’d bestowed the stars were undeserving, but because he was worried that, after a while, a whole lot of 3 star reviews in a row just become noise.

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