The Gastronaut: Hey Santa …
I’ve come to you in years past asking for a lot of stuff for the Philadelphia food scene, but, selfless font of awesomeness that I am, I’m once again using up all my Christmas wishes to make my adopted home as wonderful as possible for those of us who find life’s most sublime joys at the end of a fork.
You’ve already come through for me big-time. When we needed noodle shops, you inspired half a dozen different restaurateurs to open noodle shops. When we needed Cuban food, you got all up in Jose Garces’s head with your Santa magic and made him close Chifa in order to open Rosa Blanca. So, again, being a generous and gregarious soul, I put the question to a bunch of my people. I asked chefs and cooks and food writers and professional drinkers what they wanted for Christmas—what they thought Philadelphia needed to become an even better food city than it already is. Here’s what we came up with.
First, can you have a little talk with Questlove and convince him that opening a Hybird here is a good idea? We already have some pretty good fried chicken, but I’ve tasted the man’s drumsticks (Ha! Get it?), and his contribution to our scene would be greatly appreciated.
My friends in Grad Hospital want a decent BYOB that’s not on South Street. My friends in Point Breeze want a decent BYOB … anywhere. My friends outside of Center City want more rooftop decks for drinking in the sun, and my friends in Center City want more places to get soup. Yeah, soup. Noodle soups we’ve got covered, but one of the things Philly is missing is a serious soup savant to get us all through the cold days and nights.
Venison. I know that’s pretty specific, but a well-known food writer came back to me with that as his one big wish. “Fuck farm-to-table,” he said. “I want gun-to-table. Seriously.” I’m with him on that. Not to get all gangster about it or anything, Santa, but it would be a shame if all of us suddenly developed a taste for reindeer instead. Just sayin’.
Personally, I want every cupcake shop razed to the ground and replaced by a doughnut shop. My pal Art’s mom really wants an old-fashioned butcher shop, but I actually want to go against type for a moment and ask for a straight-up hipster butcher shop: ironic mustaches, tweedy vests, bike racks outside—the whole megillah. I want this because only hipsters have the unique combination of obsessiveness and complete budgetary blindness needed to open a place that caters to the baroque tastes of the foodie class and the more working-class desires of the neighborhood.
One last thing: late-night pizza delivery. Philadelphia has become a wonderland of excellent pies, but try finding one after 10 p.m. I know I’ve asked for various late-night enterprises over the years, but this time I’m serious. Good late-night pizza will benefit all of us. It’ll make everyone’s eyes glow with the giddy joy of children on Christmas morning. And really, isn’t that your thing?
Thanks, Santa. I remain:
Your pal, Jason
First appeared in the December, 2013 issue of Philadelphia magazine.