POURING OVER: a.bar is home to some of our top glasses of the year.
In the words of Bob Shane, or perhaps, more familiarly, Frank Sinatra, it was a very good year. We’re not just talking about the sheer volume of restaurant openings, but also the high quality. This year, we asked our intrepid food-and-drinks contributors to line up their top five superlative eating endeavors of 2013.
+ Adam Erace, restaurant critic
Meal: I would eat breakfast at High Street on Market (308 Market St.) for any meal of the day. With the house yogurt, scented gently with ginger, the powerful Forager sandwich with its umami-bomb King Oyster mushroom and chewy kale, the jewel-like pastries, amazing breads and silky Rival Brothers cortados, it’s hard to imagine a more perfect morning.
Restaurant: Call me predictable, but to Serpico (604 South St.) this award must go. Gorgeous space. Intuitive service. Smashing food. Right now, there is none better in town.
Drink: Smoky and sauve, mezcal is one of my liquor cabinet go-tos, and no cocktail does it justice like the Mezcal Mule at La Calaca Feliz (2321 Fairmount Ave.). A take on the Moscow Mule, this one introduces cucumber and passion fruit to the equation.
Food/Bev Professional: Apologies for sounding like a broken record after last week’s review of Boot & Saddle, but praise for George Sabatino bears repeating. The guy has proven himself a creative workhorse in his overlapping gigs at the Pier, the Boot and the Lodge, and the way his chefs talk so highly of him, I think we’re looking at a future talent mentor of the Vetri/Garces/Turney variety. Can’t wait to see what he and his wife, Jennifer, have planned for their own spot, Aldine, coming this spring.
Cheap Eats: By South Philly standards, unassuming El Maguey (1538 S. 10th St.) is an old head on the taqueria scene. I checked out the spot only recently — and promptly fell in love with their clacoyos, a trio of turnovers, somewhere between a quesadilla and an empanada — an entree masquerading as an appetizer.
+ Caroline Russock, food editor
Meal: There’s nothing groundbreaking about my most memorable meal of 2013. It was much more a matter of impeccable service and a very rare opportunity (please pardon the pun) to sample three varieties of dry-aged New York strip, side by side, at Barclay Prime (237 S. 18th St.).
Restaurant: When it came to choosing a place for out-of-town guests, special occasions and all-around good times, Fork (306 Market St.) was it. Begin with smoked-trout caviar and everything-bagel toasts; there’s really no better way to go than chef Eli Kulp’s house menu.
Drink: With tequila, mezcal, pepper syrup, lime and broccoli rabe, High Street on Market’s (308 Market St.) A Trip to the Chinese Doctor reads like — well, let’s just say that it’s boldly going where few cocktails have dared. But somehow when the heat from the pepper and tequila meet smoky mezcal and vegetal rabe, something magic happens.
Food/Bev Professional: In a state where Yellow Tail dominates state-store sales, Tim Kweeder of a.bar and a.kitchen (135 S. 18th St.) is doing wonders to change the wine-drinking landscape of Philadelphia with magnum pours of muscadet, pineau d’Aunis by the glass and daylong homages to the glories of sherry.
Cheap Eats: In a stretch of the city where “Cash for Gold” signs dominate, Hamifgash (811-813 Sansom St.), a tiny kosher Turkish storefront, is serving the most thrilling Middle Eastern fare in the city short of Zahav.
+ Carly Szkaradnik, food correspondent
Meal: The most memorable meal of my year was at Noord (1046 Tasker St.). The diver scallop over mustard soup and konijn in het zuur, or rabbit “confit” over Dutch sauerkraut, hit all the best comfort-food notes.
Restaurant: A near-impossible choice this year, but the new place that I find myself wanting to return is Cheu Noodle Bar (255 S. 10th St.). There are always new things, they’re somehow always great, and it’s priced so that you can actually keep going back.
Drink: I’m the type of person who often orders her wine by saying to a waiter, “I dunno; you pick something.” So I’m a big fan of the new proliferation of relaxed spots with no-brainer wine menus, like the draft options at Pizzeria Vetri (1939 Callowhill St.), limited to “red” or “white,” but well-chosen by smartypants Steve Wildy.
Food/Bev Professional: Having resolved to eat more fermented things, these days I’m feeling very warmly toward Amanda Feifer of the blog Phickle. It’s one of the most flat-out useful local blogs, as well as the most honest — Amanda doesn’t shy away from telling you which recipes might get gross.
Cheap Eats: I had mixed feelings when Xi’an Sizzling Woks (902 Arch St.) opened, because I was excited for some local Xi’an food, but also loved the restaurant’s predecessor, Szechuan Tasty House. I got over it, though, thanks to liang pi noodles for about five bucks.
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