How Philly Became the Dynamic Culinary Destination it is Today

How Philly Became the Dynamic Culinary Destination it is Today

The City of Brotherly Love is no longer just a food stop-over town sandwiched between DC and New York. Beard Foundation award winners, trendsetters, and serious cooks are making Philly more than just a town known for its cheesesteaks.

“The Philly restaurant scene has vastly improved since I started cooking back in 2001. It has quickly become one of the most dynamic food cities in the country,” said Ben Puchowitz, co-owner, and chef of Cheu Noodle Bar, Cheu Fishtown, Bing Bing Dim Sum, and Nunu. Cheu lands at the top of the list for ‘Must Eats’ in Philly. With a unique approach to menu and interior design, Cheu’s lessons in delivering memorable food experiences make him one of the operators driving the restaurant scene in Philly out of larger cities’ shadows.

Rebellious, Ironic, Different

Crab fries that don’t have crab (just ask Chicky and Pete’s, a Brotherly Loved icon) are only the start. Food anomalies are as easy to find in Philadelphia as rabid sports fans.

What is happening in this old city that is full of new thinking?

Less Fish, More Hip

Philly’s Fishtown neighborhood has morphed into a hipster haven, and proudly so. Suraya, Kensington Quarters, Cheu, Wm. Mulherin’s Sons, and Stock all call the renaissance neighborhood of Fishtown home. You know the type; old warehouses, formerly run-down storefronts, a narrow maze of streets with nearly impossible parking opportunities. Inject cash, reclaimed wood, Edison lights, and a keen sense for what Millennials, Gen X, and Boomers want for dinner, and there is little guesswork.

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“Angeleno” Food Cart Brings Traditional LA Tacos to Philly

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Los Angeles-native Vanessa Jerolmack has been making traditional Mexican tacos all her life, but it wasn't until she moved to Philadelphia that she thought to open up a shop dishing out the craveable bites. Now, on a lot on Baltimore Avenue, Taco Angeleno serves customers fully customizable tacos, burritos and quesadillas with an array of options, even catering to the vegan crowd.

“We make a homemade seitan here, and that's from my vegan days,” Jerolmack explains. “Like, I wanted something meaty tasting that I could eat with all the normal toppings that the other people with a meat taco were eating.”

Using a commercial kitchen ten blocks away, Taco Angeleno preps all its ingredients before bringing them to the food cart to be served. Customizable toppings like Salvadorian curtido, and staples like onions, cilantro, and lime take the tacos to the next level.

Being an outdoor restaurant, Taco Angeleno is only open from May through October to avoid the cold and rainy Philadelphia weather, but you can visit Taco Angeleno year-round by watching the episode above!

 
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Buena Onda's Scratch Kitchen Stands Out in Fast Casual

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Aside from earning the prestigious title of Iron Chef in 2009, Jose Garces has many other claims to fame such as his many restaurant brands in Philadelphia. Volvér, Distrito, and Amada are just a few of his successful concepts. But you don't have to pay an arm and a leg to get a taste of the chef's famed fish tacos.

The Garces Group’s only fast casual concept, Buena Onda, takes Garces’ culinary excellence and serves it up at affordable prices. Take, for example, their 5-dollar margaritas available on Taco Tuesdays! The Vice President of Culinary Operations for the Garces Group, Gregg Ciprioni, helped Foodable understand how Buena Onda is able to create top-level dishes keeping costs low.

“We featured mahi-mahi when we first opened here but there was an issue with overfishing in the past year and so it became prohibitively expensive,” Ciprioni explains. “You have to be really flexible with what you’re serving. You have to find what works right in this concept and we found that [Perch] is super consistent, it’s sustainable and delicious.”

Taking tips from its upscale big brothers, Buena Onda makes its flour tortillas from scratch daily. The tacos are topped with delicious garnishes like pickled purple cabbage, scallions and chipotle remoulade. With all this flavor, Greg also gave us some tips on retaining freshness for delivery. Watch the episode above to see how they’re doing it!

 
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Where Steakhouses Dive, Barclay Prime Thrives

Where Steakhouses Dive, Barclay Prime Thrives

By Kae Lani Kennedy, Foodable Contributor

In the last decade, the focus of fine dining has shifted from the traditional American cuisine to multicultural fusions, locally sourced ingredients, seasonal menus and lighter menu options. In the case of the American steakhouse, many are closing their doors, but in Philadelphia, Stephen Starr’s Barclay Prime is celebrating its 10th anniversary– as well as a record-setting Summer. So how is a steakhouse thriving during this shift in fine dining trends?  

A Cool Ambiance 

According to long time staff members Jason Taylor and Matthew Penn, Barclay Prime’s success can be partially attributed to the décor. Most traditional steakhouses have dark wood tones, oxblood leather, and dim lamps as staple decorative elements, but Barclay Prime’s dining room gives off a softer feel by incorporating light colored leather and a combination of chandelier and candle lighting into their interior design. “This is not a men’s dinner club,” said Penn. “The décor brings out the more feminine side of a steakhouse.”  

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Creative Window Murals Boost Cafe Business

Creative Window Murals Boost Cafe Business

By Kae Lani Kennedy, Foodable Contributor

“Cafes are more than coffee and sandwiches – they’re an environment.  So it’s the environment that you create that sets your café apart from others,” said Kate Egan, co-founder and painter of Buck and Eagle Windows, an artistic duo creating custom murals for business and residential windows. Sitting next to a mural of Aslan, the lion from the “Chronicles of Narnia,” at Milk & Honey located just north of South Street in the South Street Headhouse District, I could see why more and more businesses are following suite, using creative window displays to draw the interest of customers.

A Cafe's Atmosphere is As Equally Important as the Food 

In a city inundated with coffee shops, the “environment” is one of the most differentiating components, and is essential to creating a loyal customer following. Since many cafes serve as an extension of people’s homes, often becoming a workspace for freelancers and remote workers, a café’s environment has to be both comfortable but also conducive to creativity. Many cafes achieve this by incorporating chalkboard art, gallery installations, whimsical décor elements and retro furniture into their spaces. But several years ago, Buck and Eagle Windows’ founders and painters, Egan and Annabelle Buck, discovered a game changing window display: custom designed window murals.

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