This week in restaurant reviews, the Inquirer's Craig LaBan heads out to Ardmore, "the hipster-iest corner of the Main Line," to check out Tired Hands Fermentaria. He's easily impressed by the beer, and less enthusiastic about some of the food, but it all shakes out to a solid two bells.
One only need witness the faithful camping out at that cafe in lawn chairs early on a Sunday morning for a chance at one of Tired Hands' monthly limited releases to understand: These beers aren't just strange, experimental, and contrarian. They are also delicious, and frequently brilliant.
But you won't likely see LaBan queueing up for any of the fried foods coming out of the kitchen, as in a disappointing platter of fried chicken where "tasty chunks of brined chicken were encased in a crust so thick it fell off the bird at first bite like armor." A handful of other errors in execution marred his meals as well, but "the menu's instincts here are good," and "a series of fun taco riffs" (pro tip: visit on Monday evenings, when they're all $2 off) and an "incredibly juicy" burger saved the day. The food could use some tweaking, but as it stands, LaBan suggests it's already worth the train ride out to Ardmore.
· City Paper's Adam Erace seems enchanted by Vietnamese NoLibs newcomer Same Same, where "a contented, languid feeling pervades the place, like just waking up from a good nap" and the Vietnamese chicken salad proves a dish he could gladly eat on a daily basis. While chef and co-owner Chad Kubanoff's background lends the cooking "a real sense of authority," he notes, he "[doesn't] think anyone's going to mind" if the exemplary bread pudding is less than authentic. (NB: LaBan's review of Same Same will be out this weekend, so if you've been meaning to check it out, this week might be a good time to do so.)
· South Philly Review's Phyllis Stein-Novack brunches at Fourth and Cross in Pennsport, finding nostalgic vibes, the "finest hot cakes [she's] enjoyed in recent memory," and thoughtful touches (like butter and syrup served at room temperature, not cold) that make the diner "exactly what a neighborhood restaurant should be." It's a performance worthy of an impressive three-and-a-half tips of the toque.