by Kristin Detterline-Munro | March 1, 2010 | Food & Drink
Lobster Cobb salad with sweet potato shoestrings, corn nuts, applewood-smoked bacon and tarragon dressing at Devon Seafood Grill
BOBBY FLAY STEAK | STEAKHOUSE
The gracious Throwdown loser and Iron Chef America master scores points with his chic and swanky Bobby Flay Steak. Its dimly lit lounge is the perfect spot from which to people-watch, glass of wine in hand, and though many come in the hope of glimpsing the celebrity chef, the food is a draw in its own right. The lobster, asparagus and chanterelle salad topped off by a warm bacon dressing is so indulgent you won’t even need a steak, but splurge anyway on the spice-rubbed American Kobe strip and Flay’s down-home Brooklyn hash browns. You might feel too full for dessert, but go ahead, split an order of the caramel pecan and bitter-chocolate baked Alaska for a luxurious new twist on an iconic indulgence. Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, One Borgata Way, Atlantic City, 609-317-1000; theborgata.com
COOPER’S BRICK OVEN WINE BAR | AMERICAN
Since 1987 Bruce Cooper has been feeding appreciative patrons at Jake’s Restaurant, his white-tablecloth spot on Main Street in Manayunk. By 2008 he’d added Cooper’s Brick Oven Wine Bar next door. The menu is—naturally— pizza-centric, offering thin-crust pies with toppings like short ribs, Parmesan cheese, onion and horseradish cream and delivered piping hot from the brick oven in the rear of the restaurant. But Cooper’s has an impressive salad selection, something most pizza joints, no matter how highend, can’t claim. Try the chopped chicken Cobb with bacon, romaine, tomato, croutons, egg, avocado, Roquefort cheese and a red wine-Dijon dressing, or the arugula topped with a delicious, inventive mix of fresh mangoes, feta cheese and candied sunflower seeds in a tangy grapefruit dressing. Don’t miss the regional cheeses that complement Cooper’s respectable wine and craft beer selection. 4367 Main St., Manayunk, 215-483-0444; jakesrestaurant.com
DEVON SEAFOOD GRILL | SEAFOOD
Despite being sandwiched between two of Rittenhouse Square’s most notorious restaurant adversaries, Parisian-inspired joints Parc and Rouge, Devon Seafood Grill sticks to what works: a solid menu, catering to its loyal customers and sidewalk seating that feels genuinely casual. Seafood rules here, from the eight-ounce South African lobster tail to prosciutto-crusted Georges Bank scallops, but there are also steaks galore, which makes a surf-and-turf splurge all the more justified. Entrée salads like the broiled Atlantic salmon salad sprinkled with Montrachet goat cheese over a bed of spinach are light but filling lunch options for working meetings. Happy hour draws a sizable crowd, which likely drops by for one of Devon’s excellent and affordable wine flights.
225 S. 18th St., 215-546-5940; devonseafood.com
EL VEZ | MEXICAN
El Vez is crowded and bustling even on a Wednesday night, with guests spilling out onto the sidewalk. The Stephen Starr Mexican joint is famous for its guacamole (flavors range from original to a goat cheese, pistachio, chili and roasted tomato version), but for a second starter order the queso fundido de hongos; this mouthwatering dish is served as a gooey serving of truffled wild mushrooms and cheese that can be spooned onto warm flour tortillas. Tacos, enchiladas and meaty entreés fill the dinner menu, but for a lighter bite we recommend the tasty Mexican chopped salad, served with your choice of chipotle ranch or cumin-lime vinaigrette. For dessert order the warm Mexican chocolate cake layered with Madagascar vanilla crème anglaise.
121 S. 13th St., 215-928-9800; elvezrestaurant.com
OYSTER HOUSE | SEAFOOD
Sansom Street Oyster House finds fresh appeal as the Oyster House, a revamped version of the enduring Philadelphia seafooder. Thirdgeneration restaurateur Sam Mink helms this comfortably modern space, outfitted in sleek white tile, hardwood floors and overhead lantern light fixtures. The raw bar still rules, a marble-topped meeting place of sorts for suited professionals midday and, later on, the bentelbowed happy-hour crowd that gathers for buck-a-shuck beauties from both coasts. Old-school favorites like hearty clam chowder have returned, but a refocused menu has made way for future classics by chef Ted Manko. Among them are grilled blue fish with warm potato salad or seared scallops with roasted brussels sprouts, turnip puree and walnuts. Fantastic seafood-studded salads include the Oyster House chopped salad, served here with tuna, white beans and fennel, among a handful of other ingredients, or the grilled shrimp Cobb laced with bacon and blue cheese. Familiar concoctions like the old-fashioned and Sazerac grace the stellar cocktail list, but adventurous food-and-drink types will love the oyster shooters, a perfect union of silky mollusks and infused vodkas.
1516 Sansom St., 215-567-7683; oysterhousephilly.com
PARC | FRENCH
When Stephen Starr opened Parc, he brought a little Champs-Élysées to Rittenhouse Square. Along with designer and collaborator Shawn Hausman, Starr scoured markets and antique shops in Paris, importing paneling, doors and fixtures that lend the décor an authentic feel. Worn woodwork and distressed painted signs throughout the spacious dining area give the impression that this bistro has been anchored on the corner of 18th and Locust streets for ages. Start with the escargots with hazelnut butter and then order the poulet rôti for your main meal. Carnivores will crave the steak frites, while the trout amandine with green beans and lemon brown butter will satisfy seafood lovers. Classic French salads such as the Lyonnaise, with frisée, lardons and a poached egg, make for light but satisfying late-day meals. Dozens of café tables create one of the largest and most coveted alfresco experiences in town.
227 S. 18th St., 215-545- 2262; parc-restaurant.com
POSITANO COAST | ITALIAN
If you need to escape from South Philly’s cramped eateries, head north to the expansive Positano Coast. Start your meal with some crudo (Italian sashimi), which changes daily—the razor clam crostini is a standout, as is the bluefin tuna platter. Lunch fare tends toward seafood salads, particularly favorites like the Aldo salad, named after owner Aldo Lamberti, a chopped rendition featuring shrimp, prosciutto, avocado, artichokes, mushrooms, fennel, smoked mozzarella and house dressing, or the tuna niçoise, laced with crispy capers, string beans, radish and quail egg. Entrée plates are small, so sharing is key. Refreshing takes on Italian favorites include stacked eggplant napoleon and salmon limoncello. After dinner finish your bottle of wine in the Sopra Lounge.
212 Walnut Street, 215-238-0499; lambertis.com
SABRINA’S CAFÉ | AMERICAN
The Italian Market, that bustling stretch of Ninth Street studded with curbside produce stands and homemade pasta purveyors, has atmosphere to spare, but its lucky charm might be Sabrina’s, a neighborhood café so popular that it inspired a sequel, Sabrina’s Café and Spencer’s Too, in the Art Museum area. The brunch is worth the hour-long wait on most weekends. Omelets, buttermilk pancakes and the legendary Barking Chihuahua breakfast burrito are favorites, but a bright spinach salad topped with bacon, pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes, a candied poached pear and Gorgonzola cheese with a honey mustard vinaigrette more than holds its own. Vegetarians will be easily won over by Sabrina’s version of the Philly cheesesteak, here made from seitan. After 5 PM, candlelit tables set the scene for an eclectic roundup of mostly from-the-sea specials and BYOB imbibing.
910 Christian St., 215-574- 1599; sabrinascafe.com
SEASONS 52 | AMERICAN
Upscale shopping centers may have finally found their culinary complement in Seasons 52, a thriving East Coast chain with a West Coast sensibility. Warm wood interiors, an open kitchen and a foliage-filled outdoor patio are far from the gimmicky mall eateries of yesteryear. In fact, the only gimmick happening here is that everything on the menu is no more than 475 calories. The health-conscious mind-set translates to paper-thin flatbreads dusted with cheese, robust salads inspired by seasonal produce and filled with lean proteins, and straightforward entrées that soak up the smoky flavors of the wood-fired grill. Selections change with the seasons (hence the name), but a few dishes have sustained interest despite diners’ weather-related food fancies, like the Mediterranean shrimp salad and caramelized grilled scallops served with roasted asparagus and sun-dried tomato pearl pasta. The wine list here is also worth a glance: Some 100 bottles are offered, with more than 60 available by the glass from the award-winning international list. Even desserts are waistline friendly (as long as you stick to just one) thanks to shot-glass serving sizes.
Cherry Hill Mall, 2000 Rte. 38, 856-665- 1052; seasons52.com
SUPPER | AMERICAN
There are many reasons to love Supper: the homey, rustic dining room; the low-key South Street locale; the amiable atmosphere that owners Mitch and Jennifer Prensky create simply by going table to table to exchange a few words with that night’s guests. The aesthetics are a natural complement to the modern American menu and, moreover, the notion that fine dining doesn’t have to be fussy or, worse, intimidating. Dishes are broken down into four categories— hors d’oeuvres, firsts, plates and large plates—to make it easier to sample as much of the menu as you can comfortably commit to. Whet your appetite with the smoked butternut squash soup, a Supper staple, and move on to the sublime Boston bibb and herb salad with bacon, cornbread and the sweetest apples we can ever recall tasting. If you’re still hungry, order the crispy rabbit schnitzel with grain mustard and sage or the shellfish cioppino accented by spicy tomatoes and fennel. In direct contrast to what its name suggests, Supper is also open for lunch. Midday dining offers yet another opportunity to discover Prensky’s culinary skill, particularly the outstanding Supper dog. Trust us—you’ll never look at those ballpark franks the same way again.
926 South St., 215-592-8180; supperphilly.com
STANDARD TAP | AMERICAN
Northern Liberties has plenty of hot spots, but the Standard Tap rules the roost. The Tap’s casual dinner menu, scrawled daily on chalkboards, features selections that run the gamut from standout sandwiches to inspired seasonal entrées (there’s even a raw bar). If you visit on a night when the cheese plate appetizer is featured, start with that. The mashed chickpea wrap is tasty and filling, topped with sprouts, tomatoes and cucumbers, while the house cheeseburger is juicy and generously portioned. The duck salad is a favorite, an upscale twist on the standard grilled chicken versions that dominate other menus. Save room for some sweet stuff, too: Standard Tap’s dessert menu includes crème brûlée sweetened just right and occasionally spotlights seasonal favorites such as homemade cherry pie.
901 N. Second St., 215-238-0630; standardtap.com
WINNIE’S LE BUS | AMERICAN
Philadelphia has no shortage of contenders for the title of best bread bakery. Le Bus’ crusty creations may or may not make the top of your list, but its sole restaurant offshoot, Winnie’s Le Bus, easily takes the title of best all-around dining spot along Main Street in Manayunk. Tightly packed baskets of bread arrive with every meal, even prior to consistently reliable sandwiches like oven-roasted turkey breast (stacked with Swiss cheese and sprouts, slathered with honey mustard and served on dense black onion bread), but you’ll feel far more saintly pairing all those carbohydrates with one of Winnie’s winning salads. We love the summery Le Bus pear salad and the tangy Thai turkey option. Most lunch items are available throughout the day, making them great dine-and-dash dishes for busy weeknights.
4266 Main St., 215-487-2663; lebusmanayunk.com
A NEW SUSHI SPOT FOR CENTER CITY
The west side of Center City has been missing a swank sushi spot for years—until now, that is. Zama, which opened in December in the space formerly occupied by Loie, is the debut restaurant of chef Hiroyuki “Zama” Tanaka, whose résumé includes stints at such venerable sushi destinations as Pod and Morimoto. His traditionalist approach to Japanese cuisine is refl ected in more than 30 à la carte sashimi options and specialty rolls like striped bass with citrus-soy and yellowtail with jalapeño and chili-mango. 128 S. 19th St., 215-568-1027; zamarestaurant.com