Taste: Where We’re Eating June 2008

TIME Jason and Delphine Evenchik, who also own 13th Street’s Vintage Wine Bar, could have called their new restaurant Decision Time; the former Ludwig’s now lets you choose among a cozy bourbon bar, a second-floor lounge, and a breezy eating area with a large bar, framed by oversize windows that open for pseudo-alfresco dining, where bartenders sling Pimm’s cups and mint juleps. The menu is reminiscent of Vintage’s mostly straight-up French cuisine, with ample appetizers like the stuffed lobster roll, tomato-and-mozzarella stack and shrimp cocktail. If you crave cow, the mostly-beef entrée list will suit your fancy, although the roasted chicken breast served with corn flan and asparagus is just as comforting.

LES BONS TEMPS The doors of what most of us still know as Odeon — despite the many eateries and clubs that have filled the space in the decade-plus since that closed — have finally reopened. This is Les Bons Temps, the first city venture for chef John Mims, long known on the Main Line for his Cajun-Creole restaurant, Carmine’s. Walls the color of a magnolia at dusk and generous greenery have transformed the sweeping staircase into something fit for Scarlett O’Hara, without slipping into Southern stereotype. The same is true of many of the kitchen’s creations: Jamabalaya, rich with duck, is reshaped into hearty croquettes; unexpectedly creamy eggplant stars in crisp, savory beignets touched with Tabasco and powdered sugar; Mims’s perfect fried oysters appear in a miniature po’boy.

This new spot with equestrian portraits decking its mahogany walls could slide into any city, anywhere, filling the niche of “ubiquitous steakhouse,” with merely passable salads, a solid (not stellar) bone-in rib eye, and a bland “house special” side of lobster Newberg potatoes gratin. That said, Cherry Hillers should embrace the swank little bar, a weekend pianist with serious chops, a handful of menu standouts (we like the double-cut pork chop in lemon-maple chili sauce), and classic cocktails made with house-infused liquors and fresh-squeezed juices.

The bar alone is enough to lure you in — 16 craft brews on tap, like Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse and Victory HopDevil, and nearly 100 in bottles (look for Dieu du Ciel Péché Mortel), plus a staff that really knows beers. But this new South Philly lair throws in a dark-wood bar, a red ceiling and a two-sided fireplace. The menu is gimmicky (would you order “Death Valley Nachos”?), but the tasty mussels swim in Smuttynose Portsmouth Lager, garlic, herbs and butter, and are topped off with hand-cut pommes frites, and the hanger steak is cooked perfectly, then covered with a sinfully rich bordelaise.