Better Than Best: Food

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Saad’s Halal Place is serious about a lot of things: delicious falafel, halal certification and staying off your cell phone. If an unsuspecting customer decides to start babbling about her weekend plans in this “quiet car” of Middle Eastern restaurants, Saad Alrayes, the restaurant’s generally gregarious owner, will turn on the microphone and deliver a short but cheerful rebuke: “No cell phones, please!” Watching Saad regulate annoying customers is the perfect thing to accompany a delicious falafel sandwich or a halal cheesesteak—the latter being in high demand for local Muslims.

Saad’s Halal Place, 4500 Walnut St. 215.222.7223

Best Organ-Handler

“I had no idea something that smelled so fucking awful could be so delicious,” says Mike Solomonov of tripe. He’s talking specifically of his former boss Marc Vetri’s tripe with spaghetti, which was Solomonov’s gateway drug to the offal addiction evident on Zahav ’s recently renovated menu. Think ribbons of lamb tongue (with lamb leg and tamarind-glazed lamb ribs); coal-grilled duck hearts over baharat-dusted “dirty rice” mined with duck livers; and sesame-speckled sweetbreads over a tangy, jammy sauce made from barberries, a fruit ubiquitous in the Middle East, or as Solomonov calls it, “nature’s Sour Patch Kid.”

Zahav, 237 Saint James Place. 215.625.8800. zahavrestaurant.com

Best Homemade Soda

Whether “made in-house” is a term that rolls your eyes or curls your toes, the movement toward curing, brewing, smoking, baking and butchering within the restaurant kitchen ain’t going nowhere. Soda will never be healthy, but fish chef/owner Mike Stollenwerk’s house-made ginger ale is so light and effervescent you won’t hold it against us for telling you otherwise. The menu calls it ginger ale, but the gingery heat is a bit too precocious for that category—but it’s also too tame to hang tough with ginger beer and its sneeze-inducing homies. Stollenwerk’s soda exists somewhere in between, as satisfyingly fizzy on its own as it is in the restaurant’s take on the Pimm’s Cup.

fish, 1708 Lombard St. 215.545.9600. fishphilly.com

Best Use of Breakfast Food as Dinner

“With chicken and waffles it’s, here’s your chicken, here’s your waffle,” says Mitch Prensky, chef/owner of Supper . “They never really come together.” Enter his riff on the Harlem duo, starring luscious duck confit posed over what may be the best waffle we’ve ever eaten. Chopped sage and crushed pecans fleck the savory power-grid, bringing crunch and a woodsiness that makes the chichi confit actually seem kinda butch. Here, protein and carb really do come together, over an aurora of sherry-maple reduction and a smattering of floral pink peppercorns that fill the waffle’s pockets like flowers in a valley.

Supper, 926 South St. 215.592.8180. supperphilly.com

Best Use Of Dinner Food As Breakfast

Batty old nonnas might decry what Green Eggs Café has done to parking in their Passyunk ’hood, but the new eco-friendly bruncherie has transformed a half-abandoned, dust-caked antiques operation (and a neighborhood eyesore) with café windows, slate floors and a fireplace. That’s one reason to dig it. Another is the quinoa porridge, which is sort of like oatmeal on steroids. Chef Keith Cleary boils the protein-packed Incan supergrain like pasta, then simmers it in a pan with cream, agave nectar, cardamom and cinnamon. The results, served up in a cute coffee mug topped with four-berry compote and fresh mint, are so delicious you won’t believe it’s good for you.

Green Eggs Cafe, 1306 Dickinson St. 215.226.3447. greeneggscafe.net

 Best Fro Yo

At the risk of sounding like Snooki or the Situation, Italians do, in fact, do it better. Consider frozen yogurt, the suburban mall staple turned urban and urbane by coast-colonizing Asian chains like Pinkberry and Red Mango. Boot-based Yogorino reveals Italy ain’t just a gelato town. We love them not only for their superthick, spiraling turrets (unflavored only, but dressed with bittersweet Italian chocolate, nutty pistachio sauce like pale-green silk and requisite fresh fruits) but also for making Philly the first location in the United States.

Yogorino, 233 S. 20th St. 267.639.5287

Best Back-From-the-Dead Baked Good

When talented chef David Gilberg departed the Ugly American in 2008, it wasn’t his regional red-white-and-blue cookin’ we missed most. It was the swoon-inducing, honey-butter-slathered buttermilk biscuits baked by his wife Carla Gonçalves that had us making melancholy mixtapes. “It’s a really simple recipe,” the Portugal-born Gonçalves laughs. But what she conjures from mere earthly effects—flour, butter, buttermilk, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar—are like clouds from heaven. So when Gonçalves and Gilberg announced the opening of their BYOB KooZeeDoo last year, “but will there be biscuits?” was the breathless question pouring from fingertips of every local foodie with buttermilk memories and a Blogger account. Yes, there were biscuits, during lunch, when KZD opened in October. And they were glorious. “They’re not so authentic to Portuguese cooking,” Gonçalves admits. As if we care.

KooZeeDoo, 614 N. Second St. 215.923.8080. koozeedoo.com

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COMMENTS

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1. Ryan MYK said... on Feb 24, 2010 at 12:56AM

“I wasn't aware that the neighborhood was about to make a key acquisition to the struggling restaurant scene. Pretty disappointed things fell apart. But what's with bashing the neighborhood?! I grew up in Manayunk and yet I don't disagree with your perception that it has changed into a "brahville" their are still some very decent spots up our way and some certainly worthy of a little love!! The" best cockblock of Manayunk award" just kills the chance of people that never visited MYK to even consider it.”

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2. Jay C said... on Feb 24, 2010 at 05:01PM

“I take offense to the reference of Collingswood, NJ as a cultural wasteland. For most Center City folk who are afraid to cross the bridge, you should check us out. We even have parking.”

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3. Nick said... on Feb 24, 2010 at 10:33PM

“Parc does by far have the best looking staff! I go every weekend to see this hot bartender serve Sunday brunch”

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4. great divide said... on Feb 25, 2010 at 12:01AM

“no wheat beer can ever be the best. what a joke.”

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5. The SS said... on Feb 25, 2010 at 10:33AM

“@ Great divide... have you tried the Exit 11? I wouldn't throw out that opinion till you've had it... this ain't no blue moon”

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6. Laurie M said... on Feb 25, 2010 at 11:39AM

“Wow I can't say I'm surprised by the lack of professionalism by the writers, it seems to be routine. Grow up. You are offending your readers and probably ruining your chances for ever having a real journalism career. Shame on you and shame on your editors.”

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7. michs said... on Feb 26, 2010 at 10:38AM

“I also take offense to the Collingswood reference. I was born and raised in Philly and will always call it home but moved to Collingswood recently and love the small town feel and closeness to center city. It may not be Rittenhouse Square, but it's a great place to live.

P.S. - we even got ourselves a library here.”

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8. Jake P said... on Feb 26, 2010 at 02:49PM

“Due to the crippling* blizzard, the office is slow today. So, we attempted to grab lunch at Savoy. The store was "bare-bones" alright. The front door was locked and no one was home. Seemingly, for good.

Great rec.

* I don't think so Glenn "Hurricane" Schwartz”

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9. Lissa said... on Mar 1, 2010 at 04:21PM

“thats why this is called the opinion section...get it, an opinion...i found this article to be informative and ill be visiting some of the places with my husband. thank u vry much. and i completely overlooked they nj comment despite the fact that ive heard my whole life thats where they dumped all the garbage....in jersey. so new to philly 2 yrs. i love food. and was raised on some of the best. im a louisianian. :)”

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10. Lissa said... on Mar 1, 2010 at 04:21PM

“thats why this is called the opinion section...get it, an opinion...i found this article to be informative and ill be visiting some of the places with my husband. thank u vry much. and i completely overlooked they nj comment despite the fact that ive heard my whole life thats where they dumped all the garbage....in jersey. so new to philly 2 yrs. i love food. and was raised on some of the best. im a louisianian. :)”

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