Everyday People

After nearly three decades, Friday Saturday Sunday still pleases.

By Robin Rinaldi
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Jul. 3, 2002

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261 S. 21st St., 215.546.4232
Cuisine: American/ Continental
Prices: $15.50-$25
Hours: Lunch 11:30am-2:20pm Tues-Fri; Dinner 5:30-10:30pm Mon-Sat, 5-10pm Sun.

When a little storefront restaurant has survived 29 years in a town (and industry) where 29 months is closer to average, it has to be doing something right. Actually, it has to be doing most things right. Tucked away on a quiet corner of 21st Street near Spruce, Friday Saturday Sunday obviously has a formula that works. It goes something like this:

Walking into the small two-story space, we immediately feel like we've arrived at someone's private house party. Banquettes mix with warm wooden tables, and the purple space is aglow with candles, mirrors and a thin pencil of lavender neon running the circumference of the room.

We're shown upstairs, where a bar takes up the front half of the room while a tiny dining area occupies the back. About half of the tables are corner tables, and the purple theme is finished with billows of fabric hung from the ceiling to resemble a low tent. It is the essence of coziness, my favorite atmosphere for eating.

The menu, eclectic takes on basic Continental fare, entices without overwhelming. It offers several salads, seafood-oriented appetizers and a lineup of entrees that covers all the bases: poultry (chicken, Cornish hen), seafood (salmon, tilapia, scallops, tuna), meat (steak, lamb, pork) and two vegetarian dishes.

The wine list--about 40 bottles each of red and white, with eight half-bottles and eight by the glass--includes tasting notes and helpful food recommendations, with each bottle priced at $10 above retail. I'm beginning to think this restaurant is sending a message, something to do with friendliness and accessibility, comfort and ease.

Because we're ordering entrees of duck and crab cakes, the waitress suggests a 2000 C�tes du Rhone that's not listed by the glass. It sounds interesting, and when we ask her to describe it she brings over a taste. A refreshing and spicy white wine, it proves an excellent suggestion. Everything our server does from start to finish bears this same mark of unpretentious, warm efficiency.

The weather's too hot for FSS' famous cream of mushroom soup, so we opt instead for a salad of delicate greens dressed with a honey and walnut oil vinaigrette, garnished with warm goat cheese and toasted walnuts, and an appetizer of lobster ravioli in creamy sun-dried tomato sauce.

Both are simple and perfectly executed, the salad a quiet love-in where sweet, smooth, grainy, crunchy and nutty cavort; the ravioli a marriage of savory filling and smoky, almost meaty sauce with nothing coming between them but al dente pasta.

The duck--breast and thigh roasted crunchy--is another lovely pairing of tastes, its reduction of veal stock, Grand Marnier and orange zest providing an intense complement for the rich, fatty meat. That same sauce, when it inevitably comes in contact with the accompanying soba noodles, is overpowering but not unpleasant.

The crab cakes are a toothsome medley of jumbo lump crab and piquant breading, and plunging forkfuls of them into tangy roasted-pepper sauce only adds to the merriment. The roasted potatoes are a red-hot surprise on the tongue, and the baby carrots add a soothing crunch to it all--perhaps too much crunch, as they could have been cooked a minute longer. This is my one and only complaint of the evening.

Dessert is apple bread pudding, a firm, doughy custard topped with browned apples, sitting in a moat of whiskey-infused cr�me anglais.

Meanwhile, what's that soundtrack the bartender's spinning? Could it really be Sin�ad O'Connor's album of torch songs, followed by the Eagles' greatest hits, followed by Annie Lennox's Diva? The mix confirms a self-assuredness that permeates the mood at FSS, and because I'm the only other person I know with the balls to declare publicly my love of Sin�ad O'Connor, this is the finishing touch.

Now some people like to pose while they're eating. They need a well-lit, high-decibel backdrop where they can flaunt their looks or money or both. For them the dining experience is theater, and they are each stars in their own little mini-dramas.

This is all well and good, but at FSS the focus is on intimate conversation and splendid food. And it's not historically been pegged as one of Center City's most romantic spots for nothing--somehow I find myself repeatedly running my fingers through my husband's hair. The effects of C�tes du Rhone, candlelight, or perhaps Annie Lennox singing "Why"?

I don't know, but I'm going back soon, and I suggest you do the same.

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