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Hungry Pigeon Gets a 3-Bell Win; La Peg 2.0 Impresses Jason Sheehan

Restaurant reviews in Philly have been on quite the upswing

Fred Schaefer (left), Scott Schroeder (middle), Pat O'Malley (right) celebrating their 3-bell win
Fred Schaefer (left), Scott Schroeder (middle), Pat O'Malley (right) celebrating their 3-bell win
Emily Teel

It’s Wine Week and the team at Hungry Pigeon is popping a bottle of pink bubbles — in keeping with the cafe’s Rosé All Day event — celebrating their just-dropped three bell review from Craig LaBan. Following a brief single bell slump (Tredici, Urban Farmer), LaBan is smiling again with three bells to A.Mano, two to Chaat and Chai, and now a comfortable three again to Hungry Pigeon, Pat O’Malley and Scott Schroeder’s Queen Village all-day cafe. He heaped praise on the restaurant’s namesake dish and zeroed in on the restaurant’s propensity to encourage hands-on dining and family-style sharing:

...gorgeously gamey and tender pigeon with oyster mushrooms to a whey-braised goat Stroganoff tangled up in homey ribbons of egg noodles sparked with tart pickles and a fistfuls of dill, to platters served on enameled trays and iron skillets with hot pads that simply oblige diners to grab hold and share.

Admitting to double fisting breakfast options based on O’Malley’s baking, "a whole buttermilk biscuit smothered in Schroeder's silky white sausage gravy while balancing an awesome breakfast sandwich in my other hand." Though he made no mention of the cafe’s desserts, he could hardly have been more effusive about O’Malley’s baking itself.

He's turning out some of the flakiest croissants around, with whorling pastry layers tanged by cultured butter and kissed with local honey. They're even better ribboned with bars of intense Valrhona chocolate...His rolled brioche sticky buns, enriched with ripe bananas, walnuts, and a honeyed vanilla glaze, are the stuff of diner dreams. The crusty sourdough loaves scented with caraway, pure whole wheat, or olives compete with the best of Philly's new-guard breadsmiths, and, when cut into char-grilled wedges, are the ultimate scoop-tools for the deliciously funky molten ooze of baked Red Cat cheese.

Meanwhile, Philly Mag's Jason Sheehan in the same breath mourned the transformation of La Peg, Peter Woolsey’s FringeArts restaurant, from French to American flavors, and also praised the French ethos of execution of the new menu.

But if there's one thing a French chef knows more than the elements of French cuisine, it's that in the entire world of cuisine, there are two ways to proceed: the French way, and the wrong way.

The roasted chicken (again) is maybe one of the best versions I've had in years of grudge-eating this dullest, most workaday of all possible menu items. At La Peg it's roasted chicken, mashed potatoes and pan jus, with peas and carrots as veg, which, I have to think, is almost a kind of laughing middle finger from Woolsey. Of course he's going to pair the most maligned, most TV dinner-ish veg with the roasted chicken. And then, because he's who he is, he's going to do that half-joke of a side better than anyone—mostly by soaking it in butter, cooking it soft, preserving the color of the vegetables, then adding more butter. The chicken is amazing—a leg, a thigh and a breast, each perfectly cooked, juicy, tender, deeply flavored, and jacketed in a skin lacquered like old wood and crisp enough to snap under the blade of a knife.

Though only a two star, "come if you’re in the neighborhood" rating, Sheehan is clearly impressed by the food.

"I love the full-bore crazy of what Woolsey has done here. The space (attached to the Fringe Arts theater) was always beautiful. The bar never seems to get enough traffic (it's even left un-manned on some nights), but when the crowds come in, the place rocks like culture's ground zero. And if you're in the neighborhood and hungering for a re-imagined fast-food cheeseburger (thin patty, potato roll, special sauce and Cooper's sharp cheddar), the oysters your grandfather loved or the best bowl of clam chowder ever, you should dive right in."

La Peg

140 North Christopher Columbus Boulevard, , PA 19106 (215) 375-7744 Visit Website

Hungry Pigeon

743 South 4th Street, , PA 19147 (215) 278-2736 Visit Website