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Critic Deems Garces’ 24 More Efficient Than Lovable

But in Berwyn, LaBan finds brews with personality

24 Wood Fired Fare

— Jose Garces’ Italian restaurant on the Schuylkill, 24 Wood Fired Fare, is in the critical spotlight again this week, after getting double-reviewed last week. This week, Foobooz’s Jason Sheehan is there and he’s a whisker more positive than the shrug-like “it’s good enough, I guess” reviews last week. It’s certainly a qualified kind of approval, although it’s much more positive than the headline (saying 24 is “not built for love”) would suggest. 24 is an exceedingly smooth operation, writes Sheehan, although “nothing remarkable is being attempted here”, in a conceptual sense. Sheehan’s descriptions of 24 make it seem a little on the soulless and robotic side: “a machine constructed specifically for the speedy trade of meatballs and pizza for money”. But Sheehan has few gripes with the actual product — soft, rich, and tender meatballs are “excellent”, and brussels sprouts Caesar salad is interesting, and the kitchen takes a few risks with options like the cauliflower pizza and rabbit agnolotti with cherries — all done effectively. Two stars. [Foobooz]

La Cabra’s Hefeweizen
La Cabra Brewing

— Over at the Inquirer, critic Craig LaBan takes the beer train west into the suburbs, visiting new-ish microbrewery La Cabra in Berwyn, from homebrewer turned professional Dan Popernack, who used to distribute his brews free, via a mailing list. The centerpiece — those beers — have personality, declares LaBan, with options that offer small twists that don’t overstep into novelty territory, such as one brew laced with green tea, and honeydew melon notes on the Beauregard pale ale. On the food side again, it’s personality that shines moreso than finely-honed expertise. The menu has eyes on Latin America, and LaBan notes that chef John Hearn “has little experience with Latin cooking, and it shows.” But Hearn uses good ingredients and care — pork belly cooked sous-vide for 12 hours with an amber brew, and vacuum-cooked steak is done perfectly and comes with a bright chimichurri. Not all is perfect — the quail is “incinerated” and one of few vegetarian options, a burger, is “mush”, but it shows promise. Two bells. [Philly.com]

— Lastly, Courier-Post critic Emily Teel is even further afield, at Swedesboro, New Jersey comfort food spot The Red Hen. Teel agrees with the restaurant’s slogan of “deliciously simple food”, although she notes that “nothing on its own will necessarily make the restaurant a star.” That said, the burgers, cooked right with perfectly done fries and a structurally excellent kaiser bun stand out. Some options are so simple as to verge into dullness, though — Teel points at the grilled veggie wrap as one such example. But the execution is very much on point: a fried calamari app features “thin and shatteringly crisp” batter, as one such example. Three-and-a-half stars overall. [Courier-Post]

La Cabra Brewing

642 Lancaster Ave, Berwyn, PA 19312 (610) 240-7908 Visit Website

24 Wood Fired Fare

2401 Walnut Street, , PA 19103 (215) 333-3331 Visit Website

The Red Hen

1301 Kings Hwy, Swedesboro, NJ 08085 (856) 467-3058 Visit Website

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