First Look: Wm. Mulherin’s Sons
Potentially edging Charlie Was A Sinner out for most esoteric restaurant name in town is Fishtown newcomer, Wm. Mulherin’s Sons. The restaurant takes its name from the facade of the building itself, a 1890’s whiskey blending and bottling facility just across from the El Bar and the Good Spoon Soupery at Front and Master.
Together, the three businesses are, in fact, dead-on examples of how Fishtown is changing. The El Bar is a long-established stalwart–a proper dive bar with karaoke, live music and cheap beer. Good Spoon Soupery arrived a few years ago, a seasonally-focused food business looking to set up in an area where local entrepreneurs had begun to migrate. Now, Wm. Mulherin’s Sons represents something new; the Fishtown of fresh new condos, glossy live/work spaces, and that particular Mumford & Sons aesthetic of a perfectly worn-in vintage leather jacket. It’s an ethos that matches the old and industrial with the fresh and new already on display in La Colombe’s distillery and cafe and in the very bones of what Kensington Quarters does. Fishtown is so hot with development that it’s only fitting that someone add a wood-fired pizza oven.
Wm. Mulherin’s Sons is incredibly chic, the structure of the old building restored to immaculate condition, a giant skylight added, and historic fixtures replicated and honored. Quirky murals by artist Stacey Rozich (Father John Misty fans will recognize her style from his album covers) adorn the entryway, and the mosaic floor is emblazoned with “Winner,” one of the labels of the Mulherin family’s whiskey. Order a coffee and it will arrive in an eggshell-thin ceramic cup, stamped with the restaurant’s name on the bottom. It’s a painstakingly crafted place, so perfectly perfumed with woodsmoke, so beautiful and on-trend that it makes your teeth ache.
You had better get over that feeling quickly though, because chef Chris Painter—formerly of Il Pittore—is offering a menu of Italian flavors that would appeal to almost any diner in town. Begin with meaty slices of hamachi crudo adorned with pink peppercorn, pistachio, grapefruit, and basil; or Berkshire pork ribs, simply grilled, then stacked over a vermillion pool of colatura (the Italian answer to fish sauce), with mint, scallion, pickled chili and lime. Hand-crafted pastas hold down a substantial corner of the menu, from the traditional rigatoni all’amatriciana to lesser known forms like curly messinesi with pork ragu and an intentionally rakish swipe of ricotta. Spring flavors of peas and porcini appear in a special of Duroc pork ravioli with robiola cheese.
Those missing Il Pittore will smile to see some of their favorite flavors replicated here, and nowhere is that truer than with the veal cheeks, braised until jammy, atop cubes of Roman gnocchi. The squares of semolina cooked with bone marrow, like polenta, are so irrepressibly rich that it seems criminal. A confit of spring garlic and fresh peas prevents the dish from sliding too far into November territory.
Jonah Fliegelman and Nathan Winkler-Rhodes of Pitruco Pizza are doing what they do best, and the array of pizzas on the menu joins with the other dishes as beautifully as the butterfly joists in the woodworked walls. These pizzas break from the form of the Beddia pies that people are still lining up to try, but the additions are just as rigorous. Yes, you’ll find the traditional Margherita, as well as smart combinations like Speck & Egg with caramelized onion, garlic cream, and fontina; or the Spicy Jawn with pepperoni, hot coppa, caciocavallo, provolone, and strips of roasted long hots. Large enough to split and all $17 or less, they’re the weeknight alternative to big, special occasion dishes designed for two, a 32-ounce tomahawk pork chop or a 24-ounce dry aged porterhouse.
Whether you mourn the old Fishtown or you’re excited for the new, Wm. Mulherin’s Sons is aiming at both. If the Fishtown growth is any indication, that pizza oven isn’t going cold anytime soon.
Wm. Mulherin’s Sons [f8b8z]