Taste: Where We’re Eating: October 2008

The hot spots Philly Mag staffers are eating at this month

NORTHBROOK MARKETPLACE Five nights a week at Northbrook MarketPlace, a pair of well-credentialed chefs (Guillermo Tellez and Rob Boone) turn the bounty of the Brandywine Valley into seasonal meals for a communal table of 22. The setup is a lot like Talula’s Table’s popular farm dinner, but there’s a far shorter wait for reservations. Recent dishes, like the heirloom tomato soup with mozzarella dumplings, and a spicy tuna poke, exhibit both creativity and respect for ingredients. The decor could use some work — a bouquet of sunflowers moldered during one visit — but the $75 local seven-course feast is a memorable experience. 1805 Unionville-Wawaset Road, West Chester, 610-793-1210, northbrookmarketplace.com.
CHELSEA PRIME A.C. has no shortage of steakhouses. All 11 casinos have at least one. Now, so does the Chelsea, the new non-casino hotel by tastemaker/developer Curtis Bashaw, who engaged Stephen Starr to create an extra-swanky oceanfront cousin to Barclay Prime, but with bigger cuts and a better view. The ladylike steakhouse works wonders with both scenery — patent slipper chairs, black-on-white flocked drapes, view over the Boardwalk to the Atlantic — and steaks, particularly the porterhouse for one. The starring starters: sublimely smooth lobster bisque, and hulking iceberg wedges hefty with Russian dressing, blue cheese and lardons. Sides: Toss-up between buttery minted peas and playful tater tots. The Chelsea, 111 South Chelsea Avenue, Atlantic City, 609-428-4545, thechelsea-ac.com.
PAXIA The Italian Market mourned the departure of noteworthy Mexican BYOB Molcajete Mixto, but the consolation prize is another noteworthy Mexican BYOB, Paxia, the brainchild of Dionicio Jimenez — of roundly praised Xochitl — and his chef/partner Ismael Torrez. With a menu of dishes inspired by Mexico City, including a particularly memorable skewer of grilled chicken, shrimp, bacon, steak, onions, peppers and tomatoes, served with a peanut-infused coffee sauce, the restaurant is off to a promising start. Simplicity is the rule of thumb here: The taco platter is basic and authentic, and the los tres quesos are similarly unaffected.

Brewheads love the Taproom’s rotating list of 11 craft beers on draft, but we can’t get enough of chef Jesse Kimball’s nothing-over-$15 carnivore-, vegetarian- and vegan-friendly pub menu. Our only complaint: The tables at this laid-back Port Fishington bar — locals are oddly unparticular about the borders between Fishtown, Port Richmond and Kensington in this somewhere-north-of-NoLibs ’hood — are too tiny for the homey feast. Who wants to choose between the beer-batter kosher dills, beef-filled pasties, and the Port Richmond Platter, a heaping plate of grilled kielbasa, fried pierogies, crisp potato latkes and a mound of sauerkraut?