From the Magazine: El Rey Reviewed
The September issue of the Philly mag features the first reviews from our new restaurant critic Trey Popp, who we introduced you to in July. In addition to a new reviewer, we’ve also instituted a new rating system. Restaurants will now be rated on a four-star scale: Four stars signifies an “extraordinary” restaurant, three stars is “excellent,” two stars is “good,” one star is “fair” and no stars is “poor.”
First up: El Rey, Stephen Starr’s Mexican restaurant, cheffed by Dionicio Jimenez, formerly of Xochitl. Here’s an excerpt of what Popp thought of the spot …
What better way to signal that a dingy hole-in-the-wall isn’t what it used to be, which in this case was the Midtown IV Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge? Although much of the interior actually still is the grotty diner: Beneath a checkerboard of beige acoustical ceiling tiles, the same scalloped lunch counter sits above the same old floor, and wood-veneer booths jut out from the original faux-stone walls. Decorative updates – wildly mismatched ceiling lamps, exuberantly clashing colors, a ribald assortment of prison pencil drawings, classic Mexican movie posters and Tijuana flea-market art – cap off this outré aesthetic like a trucker hat worn for winks. It all gives El Rey the atmosphere of a Mexican border bar. Or a seamy Steak and Ale.
Perhaps the difference is slim. Either way, it’s a new look for Starr, and a testament to how far Philadelphia’s Mexican dining scene has come. In 2003, when El Vez opened, it took a rotating gold-plated low-rider bicycle and roving guacamole stations to lure Center City into having fish tacos for dinner. Now we can be trusted to order corn-smut quesadillas under a portrait of a hardened felon fingering a chain-link fence.
Popp also checked out Alex Capasso’s new Collingswood, NJ restaurant, West Side Gravy. Read that review by clicking here.