EATING OUT: Queer As Food
OYSTER HOUSE Fisherman’s stew doesn’t sound like a dish you’re likely to be angling for while the weather is still warm, but the bright version at this Sansom Street institution—which Sam Mink’s revitalization has made essential once more—is as refreshing as lemonade. Mussels, squid rings, white fish and exceptionally fresh scallops swim in a saffron-tinted broth that’s advertised as spicy, but is even more striking thanks to a lemony sweetness that might just remind you of the limoncello you’ve got stashed in the freezer back home. Not that you’ll need it: The punches and cocktails here are among the city’s best. And alongside classic Philly catches like shad and bluefish are chef-ly flourishes—think minted calamari with pine nuts and Israeli couscous, or a next-level Nicoise featuring artichokes and crispy shallots—that keep Oyster House as fresh as its titular bivalves. 1516 Sansom St., 215-567-7683, oysterhousephilly.com.
AUGUST It’s been 10 years since MaryAnn Brancaccio and Maria Vanni opened this unassuming BYO—named after the month they met—on the corner of Passyunk Square Park. But inside it seems like time’s stood still. A number of menu jackets feature black-and-white photos of Brancaccio’s mother, and tilapia still comes the way it did in 2003: over a cilantro-scallion risotto as light and lively as the first birds of spring. Brancaccio’s cooking is South Philly Italian with a twist of lime. You can order straight-up veal saltimbocca or al dente penne with shrimp, white beans and asparagus—or opt for understated idiosyncrasies like scallops on greens dressed with lime and ginger. Four blocks and a world away from uber-foodie East Passyunk Avenue, August is the kind of nostalgia trip that draws you in without holding you prisoner. 1247 S. 13th St., 215-468-5926, augustbyob.com.
JAMONERA Philadelphia wasn’t exactly suffering a shortage of Spanish small plates when Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran remade Bindi into Jamonera last year, but it was behind the curve in the sherry department. No longer: The queens of 13th Street have drenched their vampy, bordello-lit bar with the stuff, and the pleasures go beyond a crisp glass of palo cortado. The kitchen anoints foie gras toasts with amontillado, clam-and-chorizo fideos with manzanilla, and mixes a sherry vinegar hot sauce that truly merits its moniker: Cojonudo, Spanish slang for “ballsy.” And those lip-smacking grace notes crown some of the most deftly curated ingredients in town. “Chorizo” could herald any one of five varieties, raw oysters might just bear a confetti of Buddha’s hand zest, and the cheese board runs to tangy Aragonés served with Meyer lemon-gooseberry marmalade. Philly might not have needed a new tapas place, but with Jamonera here, I, for one, need no other. 105 S. 13th St., 215-922-6061, jamonerarestaurant.com.