Adam Erace Adam Erace battles adult on-set diabetes and cankles as the restaurant critic for the Philadelphia City Paper. He also writes about food and travel for publications like Details, Fodor's and Southern Living. He lives in South Philly with his wife, Charlotte, and two rescue mutts, Lupo and Marco.
When you think of businesses on the west side of weary, dreary Washington Avenue, what springs to mind? Granite warehouses. Hardwood fabricators. Scratch-and-dent appliance depots. Big boxes of buildings, filled with things to make things and populated by a blue-collar cast. Stereotypically not the folks who crave an almond frangipane tart inlaid with vanilla-glazed apricots and micro-sage after rewiring a house.
Home to that stunning tart and dozens of other pastries, cakes and confections, Kermit’s Bake Shoppe at the intersection of 22nd is rewiring their appetite. Owner Adam Ritter originally planned Kermit’s, for the laundromat across from his Sidecar Bar, but relocated the bakery south to Washington when plans fell through. He calls Kermit’s “a bridge between the two neighborhoods,” Graduate Hospital and Point Breeze.
A tattoo of dusky pink flowers vines up the concrete facade, adding panache to the bakery’s industrial exterior. Inside, bakers in white aprons hustle behind glass cases displaying pastry chef Chad Durkin’s gems: trays of sugar cookies, passion-fruit tarts topped burnished meringue, delicately spiced linzers whose heart-shaped peepholes are red with raspberry jam. Recovering chunks, enter at your own risk. Durkin sexes up his cinnamon buns with chai spices and bakes flaky pate-brisee Pop-Tarts.
Brian Lofink, chef of Sidecar and Ritter’s other pub, Kraftwork, handles Kermit’s savory side, creating soups (watery chicken-spaetzle, velvety zucchini-corn) and fiery housemade “sausage and peppers” and gooey cheeseburger hot pockets, his crave-able take on the British pasty.
Served whole or by the slice, pizzas are Kermit’s other calling card, topped with cheffy items like spinach pesto, cracked Gaeta olives and crucolo cheese only the guys at Di Bruno’s have heard of. The straight-up traditional pie is respectable, too, with four cheeses and a complex, crimson pizza sauce that tastes like proper pizza sauce and not like plain tomatoes. But while I enjoyed Lofink’s toppings, I expected more structure and character from Durkin’s dough, especially because it’s made with an eight-month-old sourdough starter. Maybe I’d like the gluten-free version better?
Either way, I know who’ll be making my birthday cake this year.
Kermit’s Bake Shoppe | 2204 Washington Ave., 267-639-4267, kermitsbakeshoppe.com. Hours: Mon.-Fri.,11 a.m.-11 p.m., Sat.-Sun., 8 a.m.-11 p.m. Sweet $2-$8; savory $4-$20.
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