Taste: A BYOB for Old City


Bistro 7 is a BYOB, which, in the parlance of the Philadelphia restaurant scene, means much more than the absence of a liquor license. Today’s successful Center City BYOB is a lively, if barely decorated, dining room with a coat closet hidden somewhere beyond the kitchen. It is housed in a transformed storefront on an awkward block. It is owned by a charming couple who bring quirky personal touches to their restaurant. It is proud of its menu, printed daily and displayed in the window, of locally sourced ingredients, which is sure to include seared scallops and braised short ribs. And it is impossible to get Saturday reservations on short notice.

Matyson is that BYOB for Rittenhouse Square. Pumpkin is that spot for Graduate Hospital. Now, Bistro 7, which opened in February, wants to fill the role for Old City.

The 45-seat dining room, painted a striking shade of green that chef-owner Michael O’Halloran describes as somewhere between pea and asparagus, has so few decorations that the steel ductwork on the ceiling seems like art. This space used to be home to pancake mecca Blue in Green, and the ­graffiti-scarred blue-and-green-tiled exterior remains. (No sign; it’s a historic building.) Chef O’Halloran, who knows seasonal, local foodstuffs from years at White Dog Cafe and Fork, and Bistro 7 co-owner Sophia Lee, a lawyer, are a charming couple who have set the tables with their delicately filigreed family silver. And depending on the season and the whim of the chef, the scallops may be prettily plated over creamy potato-
cauliflower puree, and the short ribs surrounded by a moat of mascarpone-radicchio risotto. Or the menu of $20 entrées may feature potato ­gnocchi dotted with butternut squash and sage-scented brown butter, and thick, smoky lentil soup. Already, Saturday-night reservations are hard to come by.

Bistro 7, 7 North 3rd Street; 215-931-1560. Dinner only. Closed Monday.