I never thought I’d be a kale-chip guy. The Obama generation’s answer to potato chips always seemed too trendy, too precious. Plus, there’s the whole issue of my never having had any kale chips that I found to be any more interesting than most other low-fat and healthy snacks: By my past measure, these vaguely vegetable things always existed somewhere between rice cakes and low-fat potato crisps.
But then I snapped my first mouthful of the kale chips at High Street on Market and actually swooned. With its fermented soy-bean and yeast savoriness and a perfectly seasoned dusting of love on top, this was, indeed, the veg-chip that changed my life—or at least changed my perception of so-called healthy snacks.
Fans of what Ellen Yin and Chef Eli Kulp have been doing at Fork these past several months won’t be surprised, then, when they see the way these two have transformed the former Fork:etc space into High Street on Market. It’s still a phenomenal market and cafe during the day (and even better than it was before, to be sure). At night, though, it’s a must-visit for one of the most interesting, accomplished dinners in town: a decidedly casual yet still sophisticated affair.
“When Eli came to Philly, he was really excited about the concept of a destination sandwich shop by day and chef-driven restaurant at night,” Ellen Yin explains in an email. “After we reinvented Fork, we decided that in order to change people’s perception of the space (Fork:etc), it would require a complete rebranding/reconceptualization. This would allow it to become an independent restaurant with a unique identity—a fresh, new destination.”
That’s precisely what they’re doing with High Street on Market. For the daytime, the sandwich selection has been completely reimagined, and the breads are among the best in the city. Even the space itself has been overhauled with a particular focus on “craftsmanship,” as Kulp says, for the “space, materials, service and food.”
It’s the dinner, though, that I expect to really take off as soon as locals and visitors alike get wind of the magic that’s being performed at High Street. I recently had a chance to taste through much of the menu, and I fully plan on spending many nights this winter dreaming about: the potted shrimp with nutmeg and whipped foie gras; the squash hummus with black sesame oil and long-hot chermoula, all of it sopped up with an amazing seeded ginger bread; and, the seaweed bucatini with scallions and an ingenious homemade lobster botarga shaved over it. When paired with the wines and cocktails overseen and developed by Paul Rodriguez, one of the top beverage professionals in the city, this is recipe for something special, indeed.
Kulp sums it up well, noting that for dinner the gastronomical maestros “want to offer a unique dining experience while keeping the food grounded and the atmosphere a relaxed one ... With much of the food, we look to Philadelphia and it’s surrounding areas and cultures to shape our menu. Also, the menu is vegetable forward and [we] try to give equal play to vegetables and proteins.”
My family and I moved out of Old City just before High Street on Market opened. After experiencing what they’re doing there now, I may have to move back.
PW's Taste of Philly 2014