Tongue tacos, Italian milkshakes, candy-coated flapjacks and 47 other delicious foods and drinks you should be tasting right now.
Marshall Green, Café Estelle’s chef and owner, once said: “If you have the knowledge and ability to make things in-house, then why not?” Word to your mother. Or grandmother in this case, as Green named the cafe for his. Under hipster-chef accessories—Moses beard, worn Phillies cap, glasses you could only describe as spectacles—is a 28-year-old dude with skills exceeding chefs twice his age. As a sidecar to any of the ethereal egg dishes or sandwiched between sliced ciabatta licked with cranberry mustard, the house-smoked turkey is particularly noteworthy. Green brines the bone-in breasts overnight in a brown sugar-and-saltwater solution infused with three kinds of chilies (ancho, chipotle, jalapeño) and aromatics like allspice, coriander and star anise before dropping them on the hickory smoker outside under the building’s fire escape. Finished in the oven and sliced to order, Green’s extraordinarily flavorful turkey is so delicious and unlike what’s sliced at Thanksgiving and the deli counter, calling them by the same name seems almost insulting. Café Estelle, 444 N. Fourth St. 215.925.5080. cafeestelle.com
Classic Chocolate Tart
Though all Kanella’s desserts dazzle, the “classic chocolate tart” that’s neither classic nor tart is one of the most deep, delicious enigmas we’ve eaten. Tucked into a shallow oval ramekin, the dessert is a highlight reel of all the best qualities of all the best chocolate desserts: the coveted, papery crust of a brownie; the warmth of lava cake; the silkiness of pudding; the lightness of mousse. Currently capped with a scoop of kirsch ice cream, it’s the kind of dessert you sink into, like a dark German cocoa quicksand to which you’ll be happy to succumb. Kanella, 1001 Spruce St. 215.922.1773. kanellarestaurant.com
Korma has roots in India’s royal court, and nowhere does this golden curry fulfill its regal pedigree more than in the fluorescent-lit holding cell of Ekta’s dining room. Enriched with cream and cashew paste, the curry is hardly light, but the cooks’ spicy sorcery (in this case, green cardamom and mace, among other exotics) keeps every bite nuanced. Ekta, 250 E. Girard Ave. 215.426.2277. ektaindianrestaurant.com
Size doesn’t matter in the case of wunderkind chef Johnny Mac’s wings. “Petite” is a generous word, but the 15 wings and drums (pastured and organic from Eberly Farms in Lancaster) are so flavorful you’ll barely notice. Their coating—three parts clover honey and one part whatever whisky is on hand (usually Jim Beam)—is as drippy and sticky as butterscotch, sweet with an unmistakably boozy finish. Before serving, Mac dusts them with “wing topping”—a mix of coarse salt, Turbinado sugar, lime zest and dried pasilla negra chilies. Pub & Kitchen, 1946 Lombard St. 215.545.0350. thepubandkitchen.com
Seven-Course Tasting Menu
In a city overstocked with French bistros, Bibou manages to make you forget the rest. The ultimate way to experience ex-Le Bec skipper Pierre Calmel’s crisp, clairvoyant cooking is the seven-course, $70 tasting menu. Recent dishes include chilled cantaloupe soup, tarragon-laced snails and fava beans, smoked Scottish salmon with beet carpaccio, silky quail mousse and some of the best foie gras in Philly: accented with citrusy, clove-perfumed plum chutney and moist, house-made pumpkin French toast. Bibou, 1009 S. Eighth St. 215.965.8290. biboubyob.com
Here’s what we love about food in Philadelphia: everything. No, seriously. From the street vendor’s commonest cheesesteak to the most subtly spiced French-Asian hybrid delicacy, it’s all good. But some of it? Some of it is awesome. So here are 50 suggestions for dishes, ranging from sophisticated to speedy, that you’ve just got to try—whether you’re in town for the day or here for keeps.
People, you may have noticed, are fat. Real fat. And getting bigger every day. But lost in the endless conversations about the no-longer-new obesity epidemic that threatens to sink our country into a pit of health-care debt we can never pay is a very real and glaringly obvious fact: We’re all a hell of a lot skinnier than we could be.
The first PW reader to document they've had all 50 items on our list wins $100 in gift certificates to fabulous Philly restaurants. It's that easy, and that delicious.
PW's Holiday Guide 2014