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New ‘Homegrown’ Restaurants We Can’t Wait Try In 2012

Beautifully composed plates fill the menu at Sbraga on Avenue of the Arts. Photo courtesy: Sbraga

Philadelphia is a leader in the local food movement, no doubt about it. Over the the past year a number of new restaurants have opened that subscribe to the main tenants of local food – they work directly with farmers, they have seasonal menus and they source all they can, from as close as they can, to Philadelphia.

The Inquirer also recently declared that ‘Farm-to-Table’ appears on more menus than not these days; a solid victory in our book. However, while we believe this shows positive signs about locally sourced ingredients becoming the norm, we also agree there are some more honest players in the field than others.

In thinking about eating in the new year, we wanted to highlight a few of the meals we’re most looking forward to devouring. We focused on restaurants that have opened within the last year, or are slated to open VERY soon, and were shocked at the sheer volume of new homegrown spots.

New(ish) Philly Homegrown Restaurant Picks

a.kitchen
Bryan Sikora, formerly of Django and Talula’s Table, returned to Philadelphia this year with a.kitchen, a modern bistro housed in the AKA hotel in Rittenhouse Square. It has great outdoor seating (when it’s not 40 degrees outside) and it showcases an open kitchen where you can peep the chef preparing some his celebrated dishes. You can opt for one of the ever-changing four course pre-fix menus for $48 or dive right in to a Wild Boar Chop or Chorizo Meatballs with Calamari.

Ela
An inventive new American bar and restaurant from chefs Jason Cichonski and Chip Roman, Ela has become the one of the hottest tables in town. The menu is seasonal and is complimented by a thoughtful wine and cocktail list. We are dying to try their Diver Scallop Noodles and who wouldn’t love a warm bowl of Short Ribs with Sweetbreads in the middle of winter?

Heirloom
One of Chestnut Hill’s most recent restaurant openings (and there have been a lot this year) comes to us from the folks who own Warmdaddy’s, Relish and Green Soul. Heirloom is dedicated to using seasonal, local ingredients in traditional American recipes. This BYOB is also conveniently located next door to a state store at the ‘Top of the Hill’. We are looking forward to trying their Chestnut Smoked Salmon Pastrami, the Grit Crusted Black Bass and the Pennsylvania Rack of Lamb with a red chile honey glaze.

Jamonera
Valerie Safran and Marcie Turney are enhancing their 13th Street empire by replacing Bindi with Jamonera, a cozy Spanish tapas bar. It’s named after the clamp that holds down an Iberian ham for slicing and is expected to open in January (can you hear our stomachs growling?). More on this soon but we are excited to see what the ladies of 13th Street do with this menu!

Lemon Hill
A continuation of the innovative partnership between The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co. and Supper that began last spring, The Franklin’s Managing Partner Mike Welsh and Supper Chef Mitch Prensky have opened Lemon Hill in Fairmount. It goes without saying that the cocktails will be amazing and Chef Prensky works exclusively with Newtown’s Blue Elephant Farm to source ingredients. Our friends at uwishunu have the menu posted and we can’t wait to try their Pastrami Fried Chicken Wings or the House-made Beer Cheese.

Molly Malloy’s
Located in the heart of Reading Terminal, Molly Malloy’s opened this past fall in the Terminal’s old beer garden space. Backed by the Iovine Bros., who also own the largest produce market in the Terminal, Molly Malloy’s is a locally sourced gastropub that boasts 24 beers on tap and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. We can’t wait to try their Crispy Pork Belly with Whipped Cauliflower or some of Chef Bobby Fisher’s homemade pickles, tomato jam or carrot ketchup.

Mica
Chestnut Hill’s Mica is a 35-seat progressive American-style restaurant located in Chestnut Hill, just 10 miles north of Philadelphia’s city center. The menu is seasonal and changes almost daily to accommodate local ingredients. Known for its multi-course chef’s tasting, Mica also has a robust a la carte menu for those not ready to commit to a full 5 or 7 courses. We will say, however, that going for the full chef’s tasting menu is certainly on our Philadelphia restaurant bucket list!. We would devour their Salt-roasted Beets, the Carnaroli Risotto with Chestnuts and Black Truffle and the Lancaster County Poulard easily and maybe even in that exact order!

Sbraga
Sbraga, the flagship restaurant for Chef Keven Sbraga, of Top Chef fame, opened with much acclaim this past fall. Sbraga’s modern American and seasonal menu is loosely structured on a four-course pre-fix for $45/person. Highlights include, Clams with Orecchiette and Fennel and Squab with Lentils and Grapes. Sbraga also gives dinners the option of a wine pairing for an additional $30/person.

The Twisted Tail
The Southern inspired menu at this Bella Vista juke joint has our full and undivided attention. Aside from their amazing line-up of live blues music and their extensive list of bourbons and whiskeys, The Twisted Tail has a strong commitment to working with local farmers and keeping their menu seasonal. We’ve got our eyes on the Lamb Sliders with cranberry aioli and the Pulled Pork Sandwich with a Bourbon BBQ Sauce. And, aside from their delicious dinner menu, they have a late-night menu that runs until 1PM and are also open for lunch and brunch. Did we mention they have fried pickles?

Vedge
When vegan haven Horizons closed earlier this year, we all felt a collective tear roll down the faces of those who are otherwise vegetable inclined. Fortunately the brains behind Horizons – the husband and wife team of Richard Landau and Kate Jacoby – didn’t leave us hungry for long. Opened this past fall, Vedge is a modern ‘vegetable’ restaurant with an incredibly innovative menu. We can’t wait to dive in a bowl of their Peal-n-Eat Lupini Beans with Piri Piri or the Roasted Maitake with Celery Root, Seared Turnip, Truffle and Red Wine. Vedge also has one of the more creative cocktail menus we’ve seen and would be happy to enjoy any one of them during their daily happy hour.

Food Trucks:
We would be remiss to not include some of our favorite new food trucks that have popped up over the past few months. We immensely enjoy the Lucky Old Souls Burger Truck which uses local grass-fed beef to make their burgers. They also offer wonderfully inventive milkshakes like the Maple Black Pepper.

We also have totally fallen for the Rival Brothers Coffee Truck which makes regular early morning showings at Love Park. They locally roast small batch blends and have, in our opinion, produced the perfect cup of coffee. Aside from buying coffee by the cup, you can also purchase a bag of their beans to enjoy at home.

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