Where We’re Eating: The Fat Ham

The Fat Ham | Country fried chicken lobster

Country fried chicken lobster | Photo by Vanessa Beahn

Despite the insane amount of development in UCity in the past decade, the area’s dining scene has lagged behind. There are plenty of just-decent restaurants and some notable ethnic choices, but not many spots for a truly memorable meal. Kevin Sbraga’s second restaurant, though, is a big step in the right direction. It’s also a welcome Southern dining addition to a city that, inexplicably, still has few. On your first visit to the Fat Ham, go for anything fried, with the hot chicken (a Nashville staple) and fried oyster sliders on the must-have list. After that, you’re on your own, but there are very few wrong paths to choose here. My party of four tried something like 18 dishes, and there was only one we didn’t like. But then, why the heck did we order hummus at a Southern restaurant in the first place?

The Fat Ham [Foobooz]

First appeared in the March, 2014 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

Sbraga Takes His Shot at Southern Cooking at The Fat Ham


Lemon Bar by pastry chef Marqessa Gesualdi

Adam Erace approaches Kevin Sbraga’s The Fat Ham with a bit of a raised eyebrow. Can Kevin Sbraga really cook Southern food and is it good?

And mostly, it is. When dishes started arriving, clean execution and confident flavors quickly trumped geographic culinary authority. The sweetest lobster tail got country-fried (and countrified) in a buttermilk batter that cooked up crunchy and thick. The panko casing on wheels of juicy green tomato was different — light, crisp and laced with Locatelli Romano.  Boiled peanuts replaced tahini in a smart hummus that was delicious (albeit fridge-direct frosty) and paired with superior house-baked rye-and-wheat bread.

Kevin Sbraga’s sophomore effort, The Fat Ham, brings a shot of Southern comfort to University City [City Paper]
The Fat Ham [Foobooz]

City Tap House Celebrates Nick Foles With Catfish

foles number 9University City’s City Tap House is honoring Eagles quarterback Nick Foles with a dish, Catfish #9. The entree is Foles’ favorite, fresh catfish. At City Tap House, chef Chad Vetter is soaking the fish in buttermilk and then deep frying it. The catfish is accompanied by cornmeal crusted green tomatoes, Andouille white cheddar grits and Creole cocktail sauce. The Catfish #9 is $21 and 25-percent of the sales will be donated to the Eagles Youth Partnership.

Chef Vetter, who specializes in Southern cuisine was excited to learn the red-hot quarterback’s favorite food is fried catfish. ”We’re big Eagles fans here at City Tap House, and we have caught Nick Foles mania over the past few weeks” said Vetter. He and his staff might even don number 9 jerseys this week.

The Catfish #9 will only be available for a limited time. Foles, will hopefully remain hot for a long time.

City Tap House [Foobooz]

The Fat Ham Opens on Walnut Street


Philadelphia’s Top Chef winner, Kevin Sbraga is opening his second restaurant today. The Fat Ham will bring a broad swath of the South to 3131 Walnut Street, just across the Schuylkill River in University City.

We stopped in yesterday to take a look at a restaurant still very much being touched up for its premiere, despite hosting a couple of nights of friends and family dinners this week. Among the local culinary dignitaries that stopped in, Jose Garces and Georges Perrier. Perrier held court on the deck and even brought his dog with him.

Photos of the interior and dishes » 

First Look: Kevin Sbraga’s Opening Menu For The Fat Ham

The Fat Ham | Country fried chicken lobster

Country fried chicken lobster | Photo by Vanessa Beahn

In just a few days Kevin Sbraga will open the doors at The Fat Ham–his new Southern-inspired spot in the former Tria wine bar space at 3131 Walnut Street. Obviously, there will be pork in abundance, but you can also expect inventive veggies as well as dishes and flavors that pull from all over the South. Here’s our first peek at the opening night menu.

Read more »

Where We’re Eating: Twisted Tail


Back in 2011, on the day Joey Vento died, I attended a “media night” at Twisted Tail with a dozen or so other writers. That night, I walked out before the entrées came, because the food and service were just plain terrible. Subsequent reviews by critics pretty much backed me up on that. Well, I am happy to report that a recent meal—featuring both a new chef and a revamped menu—was remarkably better. Standout dishes included the oxtail rillettes, a fantastic Pennsylvania trout, charcoal-grilled corn and oyster mushrooms, and a simple but delicious mac-and-cheese that had our table of six fighting over the last bite. Quite the turnaround.

Twisted Tail
509 South 2nd Street

First appeared in the October, 2013 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

Redemption at Twisted Tail


Adam Erace returns to Twisted Tail two years after its opening and finds the addition of chef Leo Forneas has made the Southern restaurant and bar, a destination worth checking out for more than just the bourbon and shuffleboard.

Back for dinner, he [Leo Forneas] redeemed himself with an array of vibrant tapas cooked on the Maine hardwood charcoal-powered grill: strips of smoky veal bacon in a garland of pickled red onion; tender marinated quail whose dainty legs I dragged through tomatillo chimichurri; lime-splashed pork-belly squares not unlike the kind Forneas ate as a kid in the Philippines. Forneas comes from a family of food people. His grandfather owns a butcher shop, his grandmother a fishing boat. The chef is at his best when pulling from his heritage, connecting dots between the tropical island of his youth and the American South of his imagination — dots that seem to surprise even him.

Once disappointing, the Twisted Tail makes good with a new chef [City Paper]
Twisted Tail [Official Site]

Photo by Neal Santos

Kevin Sbraga Opening a Second Restaurant, The Fat Ham


Kevin Sbraga is opening his second restaurant in University City this fall. The Fat Ham promises to bring the heart of the South to Philadelphia. The Fat Ham will replace Tria Wine Room at 3131 Walnut Street. Sbraga was inspired to open a Southern cuisine restaurant in Philadelphia after the reception his country fried lobster received at his eponymous restaurant. Sbraga’s menu at The Fat Ham will be pork-centric, reflecting dishes found at Sunday suppers and on country porches across the South. Look for house made pickles, hot sauce, buttermilk, and fresh macaroni to share the menu with chef Sbraga’s twists on country ham, chicken-fried steak, and hot fish.

Menu items and the cocktail program » 

Strangelove’s Gets Some Love


Leigh Maida, Brendan Hartranft, and Brendan Kelly are the gastropub virtuosos of this city, and their transformation of the almost-cursed location is really quite impressive. Brian Freedman had some high praise for the Southern-esque beer bar in Washington Square West:

This is where Strangelove’s finds its greatest success: in its rendering of classics, often with a twist. To that end, fried catfish bites, all creamy and tender inside their crackly carapace, were lovely on their own and even better when dragged through a spicy-tart remoulade. Mushroom torta, constructed on a base of Mexican-style flatbread, proved to be a clever reworking of the more familiar ones that have grown so tired lately. And its topping, like the best of the dishes here, managed to be both restrained and rewarding: arugula, lemon, a truffle vinaigrette and a spread of butter-cooked corn pureed with honey. Even the fried green tomatoes, if their crown of crabmeat ravigote, tomatoes and cucumber was a touch too wet, ultimately won me over with the sheer pleasure of its flavors.


Strangelove’s takes bar food to a whole new, exciting level  [Philadelphia Weekly]
Strangelove’s [Official]

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