Where We’re Eating: Three Retro Restaurants Reimagined
1320 Chancellor Street
This newest spot from Mark Bee (who’s already established himself with N. 3rd and Silk City) reaches back to a day when the club/ restaurant was owned by a boxer named Frankie Bradley. Frankie entertained and fed the likes of Liz Taylor and Eddie Fisher, but today, Bee is courting the mutable segment of the population known as millennials. On weekends, that means deejays and live music in the upstairs club. At happy hour, it means top-shelf liquor and a mixer for $6, as well as bargain appetizers. Late at night, it’s the red glow of the walls and the sexy curves in the paintings that draw the crowd. And at dinner, Franky Bradley’s is relying on a menu that dabbles in nostalgia without becoming a slave to it. The French onion soup is a reassuring ode to the surroundings — a classic for an old-timey dining room. The chicken Parmesan sandwich straddles all the worlds in which Franky’s lives: It’s a great base for drinking, the perfect drunk food, and good enough that it could be your regular order. Like the whole menu at Franky Bradley’s, it’s better than it needs to be. — Arthur Etchells
447 Poplar Street
Are you scared to eat in the shadowy glimmer of an octopus chandelier? Has Fishtown’s rise wiped Northern Liberties off your mental map? Then why aren’t you eating at Bardot? Basque-style wine-and-cola-braised short rib comes with sunchokes three ways — roasted, pickled and chips. Three types of cauliflower stud and suffuse a saffron-turmeric spaetzle. And yet no more than three tables were taken during my cleverly varied dinner and overachieving brunch. Chef Rhett Vellner errs on the side of butterfat in this bordello-like barroom, but bright notes abound. Sherry-and-orange-braised squid perk up squid-ink spaghettini cloaked in squash cream and chorizo. Bitter radicchio invigorates sweet-and-sour broccoli florets freckled with puffed rice. The cassoulet was too soupy with tarragon-mustard cream, and over-sugaring marred my sherry-glazed pork belly, but those defects shrank next to dishes that more often rang two or three pleasure bells at once. Bardot isn’t perfect, but it could be the most unjustly overlooked place in town. — Trey Popp
The Olde Bar at Bookbinders
125 Walnut Street
They no longer come from Delaware River marshlands, but turtles are back at Old Original Bookbinder’s: 15-pound Florida snappers, coaxed into an uncommonly delicate departure from the gummy soups of yore at Jose Garces’s revival of Philly’s most iconic bar-room. Garnished with a hard-cooked quail egg and bracing sherry foam, it’s one of many winning efforts to leaven culinary preservationism with contemporary flourishes. Fish and chips is another — the cod hunks sheathed in featherweight shells conjured out of vodka-lightened batter pressurized in ISI guns. The almond broth that bathes chorizo-studded mussels is another terrific departure from this address’s ancient culinary past—which really does benefit from alternatives to big-ticket throwbacks like lobster Newburg. Yet a host of small details — from photos of bygone presidents to the veritable swarm of gray-aproned barmen ushering your drinks out on the double — ensure that nothing ever breaks the nostalgic spell that’s the main reason to come here. –Trey Popp
Originally published in the June 2015 issue of Philadelphia magazine.
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