The Gastronaut: Hey Santa …
First things first, I have to thank you for being so good to Philadelphia since the last time I wrote you. I asked for a lot of things on behalf of the city last year — outdoor drinking and BYOs and soup and more delivery options — and you came through in spades.
This year, my requests for Philly are a little bit darker. Rather than asking for things we need, I’m asking for things to go away. This is mostly because we’ve had such a good year already, and because our neighborhoods are so full of amazing restaurants and chefs doing the best work of their careers. Hard as it might be to say, what Philly is due for is a cull. To keep the scene healthy. And Santa, sometimes hard choices need to be made.
Which is why, for starters, I’m asking for you to cut down on our mixologist population by about a third — starting with anyone who calls himself or herself a “mixologist.” It’s not that I don’t love a well-made cocktail, but at this point, we’ve got so many people slinging crafty, small-batch Prohibition-era libations that we’re approaching a point where a bartender has to concoct stunt drinks just to appear relevant — and where the less critical among us accept this, because it’s hard to fault something with booze in it, even when it’s smoked gin, Velvet Falernum and chicken Kiev-flavored vodka, shaken and served over hand-carved ice and garnished with unicorn tears. To avoid my asking you to do anything felonious, how ’bout just opening a fancy new mustache-wax factory or an artisanal bitters shop a couple states over? That ought to lure away just enough of those sonsofbitches to freshen things up around here.
Now let’s talk about restaurants. We need to lose some of the deadweight. Therefore, Santa, I’m asking for you to work your Christmas mojo to accomplish the following:
- No more Italian. We have enough. If you’re not already better than Le Virtù, Amis, Vetri, Zeppoli, Brigantessa, Il Pittore, Melograno and Lo Spiedo, maybe think about opening a sandwich shop instead.
- Crazy cheesesteaks, cheap regular steaks and Asian fusion are no longer legitimate concepts on which to base a new restaurant. Also, all places currently offering the above should probably close immediately. Except Cheu Noodle Bar.
- No more restaurants named Blank & Blank. I’m looking at you, Bank & Bourbon, Crow & the Pitcher, and pretty much every Irish bar ever opened.
In a larger sense, I’d like to see some street other than East Passyunk attracting our best chefs — for some brave pioneers to follow the lead of chefs like MacGregor Mann of Junto and look to the suburbs for new possibilities — and for restaurants to give up completely on Walnut Street and just let our old Restaurant Row fade with some dignity. I’d like to see fewer collaboration dinners and street festivals, so our chefs can focus on doing what they do best — running their own kitchens. And finally, as always, would it be asking too much for you to give us one solid, high-end Thai restaurant in town?
That’s it, Big Guy. I know you can help me out here. And in any event, I remain
Your pal, Jason Sheehan
Originally published in the December, 2014 issue of Philadelphia magazine.