There’s good eating aplenty along the Northeast Corridor
- Last Updated: 4:13 PM, August 5, 2011
- Posted: 3:45 PM, July 25, 2011
PHILADELPHIA and Boston aren’t exactly better food cities than New York, but their chefs could teach ours a few things about diversity and taking on projects that might seem out of your comfort zone.
Andrew Carmellini has become one of New York’s most buzzed-about chefs after going from haute French food at Café Boulud to Italian cuisine at A Voce and Locanda Verde and now to American fare at the Dutch. For the most part, though, we know what to expect from our top chefs: Scott Conant and Michael White cook Italian, David Chang and Zak Pelaccio riff on Asian flavors, April Bloomfield elevates pub grub.
But in Philadelphia, 2011 James Beard Award winner Michael Solomonov has an Israeli restaurant (Zahav), a Mexican restaurant (Xochitl) and a Texas barbecue restaurant (Percy Street Barbecue). And he’s about to unveil Federal Donuts, serving Korean fried chicken alongside its donuts, in South Philadelphia. (At a recent tasting, our favorite donut had a cardamom-orange glaze with crushed pistachios.)
Zahav, as we’ve noted before, is a revelation — with plates of rich, smooth hummus slicked with olive oil; salads redolent of striking spices like fenugreek and harissa; and delicately salty smoked sablefish piled on buttery toasted challah bread with an unctuous fried egg. So it’s a surprise to visit Solomonov’s barbecue joint and find smoky pork ribs, juicy brisket and hot links that wouldn’t be laughed out of Austin. And shocker, the pork rinds and tortilla soup at Xochitl wouldn’t be laughed out of Austin, either.
Also in Philadelphia, chef Marcie Turney is queen of her own section of 13th Street. She’s got a Mexican restaurant (Lolita), an Indian restaurant (Bindi), a gourmet food shop/catering service (Grocery), a home furnishings store (Open House) and a boutique shop (Verde) where she sells jewelry and artisanal chocolates. Her latest spot is Barbuzzo, a Mediterranean restaurant that’s one of the hottest spots in town.
Barbuzzo is especially impressive because it really does put Italian and Spanish food together in a coherent way while also offering farm-to-table flourishes like heirloom pork and a chalkboard listing the serious collection of daily vegetables. One good way to attack the menu: Start with some local greens and then go whole hog — house-cured chorizo, stuffed pork and short-rib meatballs, paccheri with a smoky pork ragu and maybe even a locally sourced pig special. And then get a seasonal dessert: The cherry-prosecco sorbet we recently tried was as summery as fruit pie.