After more than three years of planning, chef Adam Diltz is just about ready to debut Elwood, his new BYOB in Fishtown that draws from the cuisines of Pennsylvania’s past. Diltz, who’s originally from northeastern PA, is in testing mode now and expects to open the eatery at 1007 Frankford Avenue on Wednesday, May 1.
The chef is taking inspiration from his Pennsylvania Dutch family and from the Colonial, Federal (late 1700s), and Victorian (mid-1800s) eras of the region. Talking to him about the menu, it’s clear he’s done his research.
“I’ve definitely gone down the rabbit hole,” Diltz says. “I’m not a crazy history buff — I don’t have a fetish for the Civil War or anything like that. But if you’re passionate about cooking, you might be eating cod, and you want to know more so you start reading about the cod industry. And it weaves you through all these other facets of history, because food is related to everything.”
The menu at Elwood is a mix of recreated historical dishes, with Diltz’s own spin, and ingredients commonly used in the region’s past but translated to entirely new combinations. He’s interested in what people used to eat and in serving things diners don’t usually see in Philly today, like catfish and waffles with pepper hash. “Philly used to be known for catfish and waffles — there were German-owned waffle houses up and down the Schuylkill,” he says.
The turtle soup he’s serving is a nod to another dish Philadelphia was famous for, and the braised celery with Hootenanny and Royer cheese plays off a Victoria-era celery fad.
His great grandmother cooked the ham pot pie on the menu. The lettuce (Black-Seeded Simpson) with hot bacon dressing and pickled quail egg is also “an homage to her,” he says.
Diltz is starting out with several appetizers, just a few individually sized entrees, and a few larger dishes made for two or more to share, like the whole rabbit from Brooke-Lee Farm in Berks County and the hay-roasted chicken from Keiser’s Pheasantry in York County. The sharing plates come with seasonal accompaniments — “a bunch of little things.”
Diltz is married to an architect, Jenny Ko. She was in charge of designing the small space, done in neutral grays with prints of historic paintings on the walls and seats for 26.
“We went to antique shops to get things like old pitchers, but it’s all Jenny’s design,” Diltz says. “I just chilled and cooked stuff.”
Elwood’s general manager, Ryan Smith, was most recently at Cuba Libre.
Diltz previously worked at Johnny Brenda’s, also in Fishtown, and at Farmicia in Old City. Outside of Philly, he spent time at notable restaurants No. 9 Park in Boston, Blackberry Farm in Tennessee, and Everest in Chicago.