First Look: Spice Finch, Jen Carroll’s New Restaurant in Rittenhouse

Check out the menu and get a sneak peek of the food and interior before her homage to Mediterranean spice opens later this week.

Spice Finch | Photo by Alex Jones

Spice Finch, Philly native and Top Chef alum Jennifer Carroll’s new Rittenhouse restaurant, is just about ready to open.

While Carroll and her fiancé Billy Riddle, who is co-chef and co-owner of Spice Finch and catering company Carroll Couture Cuisine, are still waiting on final inspections to take place, they’re shooting to open the doors this Thursday, July 12th.

The Mediterranean-inspired concept is Carroll’s first Philly project since she helped Eric Ripert open the Ritz-Carlton’s erstwhile 10Arts Bistro a decade ago. She’s excited to create a casual, exciting dining experience with elevated service after three years working in the Washington, D.C. area.

“The clientele there is a little different,” Carroll explained. “I wanted to do things that were more exciting — cooking with more herbs and spices that were definitely challenging peoples’ palates a little bit.” With Spice Finch, “I didn’t want to do fine dining,” she said. “I want people to come in and relax, with a casual vibe and elevated service.”

Photo by Alex Jones

Photo by Alex Jones

Photo by Alex Jones

Photo by Alex Jones

Carroll worked with an in-house design team to put her own touches on the airy, light space at 220 South 17th Street, which features wicker furniture in addition to maple paneling on the ceilings and bar. There are 168 seats in the main dining room, plus 16 seats outside and two 30-seat private dining areas.

Carroll returns to a Philadelphia dining scene that’s very different from when she left.

“The food scene here in Philly is so exciting and super collaborative — there are so many different chefs here to be inspired by, and so many different ways of eating that weren’t around when I was here,” she said. She’s especially excited to see vegetarian and vegan cuisine in so many neighborhoods — that’s how she and Riddle have been eating for the past few years. The menu at Spice Finch reflects that, too: it’s around 60 percent vegetable-centric dishes.

Garlic yogurt | Photo by Alex Jones

Date truffles | Photo by Alex Jones

Littleneck clams | Photo by Alex Jones

Cocktails | Photo by Alex Jones

Merguez sausage | Photo by Alex Jones

Chicken kebab | Photo by Alex Jones

Date-braised lamb shank | Photo by Alex Jones

Chocolate tahini cake | Photo by Alex Jones

The menu will combine Carroll’s experience North African cuisines (she worked at Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster in Harlem) and Riddle’s expertise from working with Greek food at Kapnos in Arlington, Va.

“It’s not super traditional Mediterranean — we’re taking those flavors and making them our own, using those dishes for inspiration and changing them up a little bit,” Carroll said.

Think mezze-inspired small plates like date truffles topped with a pomegranate and cashew streusel and charred cauliflower with cracked coriander yogurt, plus mains like a Tunisian-inspired burger, shakshuka, and braised lamb shank.

The kitchen will be making own harissa and preserved citrus fruits inhouse as well as fermenting their own pickles — an effort to minimize waste while adding “a pop of acid and crunch” to menu items, Carroll said.

In terms of drinks, Spice Finch will pour craft cocktails and frozen drinks from a 23-seat granite-topped bar; they’ll also serve craft beer and Old World wines.

Spice Finch will serve food Sunday through Thursday from 5 p.m. until 11 p.m. and 5 p.m. until 12 a.m. Friday and Saturday, with the bar open one hour later each night. Look for brunch, lunch, and breakfast service to roll out in the coming weeks.

Check out the full menu below (click to embiggen).