Next to me at the counter, two women are talking about dead bodies.
It’s only one of the conversations. One of the small groups — twos and threes and fours — that cycle in and out of Middle Child all morning and afternoon. They know each other. They know the crew working in the galley kitchen. They call out names and hellos and orders, and it all seems like a bit of a mess, but it’s a mess that works — a kind of Brownian motion that keeps this new luncheonette on 11th Street jumping and vital and alive.
The women beside me work at the hospital nearby. In the morgue, or somewhere equally grim. But they’re laughing and in for lunch — for Phoagies with hoisin-glazed eggplant and avocado, onions, herbs and “pho sauce” on a Sarcone’s roll. For turkey sandwiches with blueberry masala jam, cut in half and spiked with little flags. I’ve already plowed my way through scrambled eggs, loose and runny like I like them, hash browns, toasted potato bread and bacon made in a panini press. And now I sit at the counter and listen to them as I watch the line at the door ebb and flow — customers and friends and neighbors coming and going through the bright, spare, Eagles-green space.
Middle Child is owner Matt Cahn’s homage to Philly’s great and long-gone diners — to those places like Little Pete’s and Snow White that used to live on breakfasts and lunches. It’s his answer to the machinery and anonymity of fast-casual culture where no one knows your name. The place is basically your typical greasy spoon, but instead of overcooked eggs and terrible coffee, the kitchen sports some real talent (Keith Krajewski, ex of Marigold Kitchen), sandwiches with cranberry miso mayo, and local Elixr coffee.
The breakfast sandwich is stellar — just eggs and arugula and a slice of American on a potato pullman from Philly Bread. The So Long Sal is a killer South Philly tribute sandwich, with salami, prosciutto, provolone and raw-onion-and-artichoke spread, all on a Sarcone’s roll. Middle Child is a simple place. Comforting and straightforward. The kind of up-jumped and very Philly concept that says, You want a turkey sandwich for lunch? Cool. Here’s our version. Betcha come back.
And when you do, you’re already a regular.
Two Stars — Come if you’re in the neighborhood
0 stars: stay away
★: come if you have no other options
★★: come if you’re in the neighborhood
★★★: come from anywhere in the region
★★★★: come from anywhere in the country