Loved It in '07! Need It in '08!
It was a weird, off-key year for the restaurant scene. Nothing blew our minds--or stomachs. There were few restaurants that we felt really came together in every department--food and beverage, service and atmosphere.
And while many restaurants opened up on the pricey end of the spectrum, we didn't find much in the way of cheap-but-tasty joints, although we loved the tacos al pastor from Los Taquitos de Puebla (1149 S. Ninth St. 215.334.0664).
Yes, we loved, loved, loved the pizza at Osteria (640 N. Broad St. 215.763.0920. www.osteriaphilly.com). We were sad about its high price tag, but we paid it willingly and would do so again. The tagliatelle with chocolate shavings and the potatoes cooked in duck fat at James (824 S. Eighth St. 215.629.4980. www.jamesrestaurant.com) also blew our mind, as did the gorgeous botanical decor. Our favorite dish at upscale Spanish spot Tinto (114 S. 20th St. 215.665.9150. www.tintorestaurant.com) turned out to be the fragile but full-flavored mahon cheese crisps, which also happen to be complimentary. Both the sopes and tortilla soup at Xochitl (408 S. Second St. 215.238.7280. www.xochitlphilly.com) sent us into a tizzy of pleasure.
Two noteworthy restaurants survived renovations and rehabbing with aplomb. New chef/owner Michael Stollenwerk made Little Fish (600 Catharine St. 215.413.3464. www.littlefishphilly.com) into a delicious destination with his spicy Sicilian take on calamari and his scallops with cauliflower gratan and raisin emulsion. Silk City (435 Spring Garden St. 215.592.8838. www.silkcityphilly.com), despite barreling through a succession of chefs in its opening months, has survived and settled into a vibrant hangout with tasty grub, like its sibling N. Third.
Salento (2216 Walnut St. 215.568.1314), the second spot from L'Angolo owners Kathryn and Davide Faenza, surprised us by actually being a really good Italian BYOB in a sea brimming with stinkers. We occasionally wake up in the middle of the night thinking about their heavenly ricotta gnocchi with garlic and mushrooms.
For 2008, we're really hoping for more cheap chow, for even more bars that focus on craft beer, like Jos� Pistola's (263 S. 15th St. 215.545.4101. www.josepistolas.com), and for the city's restaurants to figure out how to train their servers to navigate the middle ground between un-Philadelphia-ish formality and the overly familiar, "How you guys doin' tonight?"
The cheap chow might be the least likely--food costs are skyrocketing thanks to high oil prices--so we'll just pin our hopes on the beer. That's what we normally do anyway. Happy New Year!