Craig LaBan usually drops solid praise on chef Peter McAndrews efforts (Modo Mio, Paesano's), but that didn't happen in the case of the one-belled Popolino. LaBan gives props to McAndrew's enthusiasm and creativity, but said that he's opening too many restaurants, way too fast.
"The "tavola calda" at Popolino is the kind of welcome spread you just don't find much in Philadelphia anymore. Set on a long table near the entrance, this feast of colorful antipasti offers a cornucopia of appealing first bites, a dozen plates of room-temperature salads that change with the seasons...it's the inconsistencies of the dishes that followed that left me uncertain whether the world (let alone chef-owner Peter McAndrews) is really ready for yet another Peter McAndrews restaurant."
LaBan loves everyone working at Popolino (GM Stephen Fils gets a big nod from the critic), and the extensive offal menu. But, McAndrews spends more time chatting than cooking, and that's a big concern. He finishes up the review with a simple solution to the issue: "Stop talking. Get back into the kitchen and do what you do best."
Phyllis finally makes it to Honey's Sit N' Eat in NoLibs about 7 years after they opened their doors. As a self-professed fan of Jewish cooking and breakfast, Honey's is the closest thing to Utopia in the world of Phyllis. She gives a big thumbs up to everything she eats, especially the grits.
"The love affair with grits deepened during a year-long stay in Atlanta when I would mosey over to the sweet Auburn neighborhood and dig into cornmeal-crusted chicken livers and grits. Honey's version was the real Southern deal — stone ground and packed with texture. Don't even think they come from the boxed instant variety found in the supermarket. The grits were piping hot, and all they required were lots of butter, salt and pepper."
Phyllis ended up tipping her toque, not once, not twice, but thrice for the Southern Jewish breakfast palace called Honey's.
Brian Freedman avoids his usual elitist wine-soaked reviews this week, and tosses a bone to the burger-eating masses with his visit to Spencer ETA Burger. Freedman has nothing but good things to say about the place, and is particularly impressed by the toppings that join the burger and make an impression all their own.
"The homemade toppings here take center stage, not just over the meatless burgers but over the beef as well. The meat is fine, mind you—plenty juicy and seasoned with a deft hand—but the toppings tend to be so generously applied, and occasionally so baroque in their constituent combination of components, they simply steal the proverbial show."
Don't worry, fans of classic Freedman, as he will surely be back to referencing Proust wherever he eats over the next week.
THE BLOGS: The Beer Lass begins her annual Porktoberfest which is always entertaining; 22nd and Philly does a nice rundown of multiple restaurants on South Street West; Philly Phoodie writes up West Philly's legendary food cart, Magic Carpet.
· All Week In Reviews Coverage [~EPHI~]