Northeast Times

Eat your heart out, river wards

Now its third year, River Wards Res­taur­ant Week can hardly keep up with the culin­ary renais­sance tak­ing hold loc­ally. But there are plenty of good deals to be had.

If you’re the type who ha­bitu­ally col­lects eph­em­era scattered about the win­dowsills of loc­al bars and cafes, you might have no­ticed that next week, Oct. 2-8, marks the third an­nu­al River Wards Res­taur­ant Week.

If not, you are eas­ily for­giv­en. Amid the mind-reel­ing ve­lo­city of res­taur­ant open­ings in these parts of late, the an­nu­al pro­mo­tion of gut-bust­ing deals seems, fairly enough, a side dish.

This com­ing weeks alone, Fishtown wel­comes Bar­cade, a fin­ger-food beer joint on Frank­ford with scads of vin­tage ar­cade games; Bubba’s, a Pine Bar­rens-bred BBQ pit with a full booze menu; and, just last Thursday, “Loco Pez,” a corner bar that trans­lated the old Crazy Fish Sa­loon in­to a tequila and taco spot.

Apo­lo­gies to any up­start missed in that brief list of gast­ro­nom­ic high­lights.

All that razzle-dazzle has left the New Kens­ing­ton Com­munity De­vel­op­ment Corp. — the non­profit or­gan­iz­ing River Wards Res­taur­ant Week — look­ing to the fringes for this year’s as­sort­ment of fea­tured eat­er­ies.

Henry Py­att, a com­mer­cial cor­ridor man­ager with the NK­CDC, said the res­taur­ant week pro­mo­tion, modeled off the suc­cess­ful Cen­ter City Res­taur­ant Week, has some big names but also looks to in­vite diners to places off the beaten path.

“Once we star­ted really hav­ing res­taur­ants open up in these neigh­bor­hoods, we de­cided we had to sup­port them,” Py­att said. “At first, the idea was to try and bring people out and show them the kind of stuff that was hap­pen­ing on the main av­en­ues like Gir­ard and Frank­ford. Now, we’re try­ing to show people that if they check out places that are just maybe five more blocks away from where they’re used to go­ing, they can find some really good things there, too.” 

Among the nine par­ti­cip­at­ing es­tab­lish­ments is a clear heavy hit­ter in Frank­ford Hall — the Steven Starr beer garden (1210 Frank­ford Ave.) whose May open­ing either marked the ar­rival of the river wards din­ning scene or capped off Fishtown’s grand shark jump in high fash­ion, de­pend­ing on who you talk to.

They’ve got­ten ac­col­ades for their soph­ist­ic­ated Ger­man beer hall grub, served along­side gi­ant mugs of frothy Bav­ari­an beers. Look for a deal next week that pairs their Jager­schnitzel en­tr&ea­cute;e — a pork cut­let in mush­room gravy with a side of Ger­man potato salad — with a half-liter of Fran­ziskan­er Hefe-Weisse Dunkel, a dark and malty wheat beer. The deal? Just $14.

Con­sid­er­ing the en­tr&ea­cute;e alone is usu­ally $15, it’s a great op­por­tun­ity to check out the spa­cious open court­yard (com­plete with ping­pong tables) be­fore the weath­er chills and the heat­ers roar in­to ac­tion. 

At the oth­er end of the food-chain spec­trum is the Thang Long Noodle Res­taur­ant, loc­ated on Kens­ing­ton Av­en­ue (2534 Kens­ing­ton Ave.) just south of the Hunt­ing­don EL sta­tion.

Spe­cial­iz­ing in the fresh Vi­et­namese noodle soup known as pho, the four-year-old eat­ery has gained a sol­id repu­ta­tion as a place to get au­then­t­ic eth­nic cuisine out­side the con­fines of Chin­atown.

Op­er­ated by a couple that pre­vi­ously ran a Kens­ing­ton karaoke bar, Py­att said Thang Long will be serving a vari­ety of soups and dishes in the $5 range dur­ing next week’s pro­mo­tion.

At Frank­ford and Gir­ard, Johnny Brenda’s is widely cred­ited with bring­ing soph­ist­ic­ated fare to Fishtown when they opened back in 2003. In­deed, it’s fair to say that places like Frank­ford Hall and Bar­cade wouldn’t have put down roots right around the corner if it hadn’t been for pi­on­eers Wil­li­am Reed and Paul Kim­port tak­ing a chance on the old-school Fishtown tav­ern.

For their part, Johnny Brenda’s is stay­ing true to their theme of fresh and loc­al, but tak­ing it up a notch by of­fer­ing a three-course pre fixe ($25) meal with a tasty fall fo­cus.

Kim­port said pat­rons will a have a choice of “surf or turf” that starts off with an au­tumn ve­get­able salad with green wine vinai­grette.

On the surf side, look for trout roas­ted with fin­ger­ling pota­toes along with saut&ea­cute;ed fall greens and a po­b­lano pep­per and corn rel­ish; turf is a grilled pork chop with a peach and red chili chut­ney on roas­ted sweet pota­toes and turnips along with saut&ea­cute;ed dan­deli­on greens.

And, with what sounds like a great pair­ing with the ro­tat­ing as­sort­ment of loc­al fall craft brews, dessert is apple or pump­kin pie ala mode.

A bit more cas­u­al is the Brindle Cafe, loc­ated a few blocks east at 221 E. Gir­ard Ave.

They’re of­fer­ing a few $10 op­tions that in­clude drinks.

The Was­abi Chick­en Salad Wrap is baked chick­en tossed with fresh chives, scal­lions, onion, cel­ery, toasted ses­ame seeds, ginger, Thai basil and a house-made hot was­abi mayo that pairs a Thai red tea blen­ded with sweetened, con­densed milk.

The Chick­en “El Burrito” is grilled chick­en tossed with a house-made “very spe­cial HOT chili spice blend” a dash of ex­tra vir­gin olive oil, cool sour cream, fresh made pico de gallo, rice and black beans. A ve­get­ari­an burrito is also avail­able, and both come with fresh limeade.

An­oth­er sand­wich shop-style eat­ery on the menu is the Soup Kit­chen Caf&ea­cute;, loc­ated along Susque­hanna Av­en­ue (2146 E. Susque­hanna Ave.) just west of Frank­ford Av­en­ue.

Mas­ters of gour­met food on the go, this laid-back, cozy caf&ea­cute; is a fairly new ad­di­tion to the neigh­bor­hood but is already well known for over-the-top sand­wiches that use qual­ity in­gredi­ents.

Head­ing up to Le­high Av­en­ue, Green Rock Tav­ern (2546 E. Le­high Ave.) is stick­ing with the win­ning combo of their mind-blow­ing bur­ger and a beer from Phil­adelphia Brew­ing Co., all for $10.

Made with loc­al in­gredi­ents — the An­gus beef is from Kissin Fresh Meats, the roll from Met­ro­pol­it­an Bakery, both in Fishtown — the Green Rock bur­ger straddles that rare bal­ance of hearty de­li­cious­ness without fall­ing apart in your lap.

Paired with beer brewed barely a mile away on Martha Street, the spe­cial is a true test­a­ment to the fine fla­vors rendered right in our back­yards. 

Jam­ie Ma­hon, who runs the cas­u­al good-beer bar with his sis­ter Nicole, said they’d have their usu­al bur­ger and a sea­son­al bur­ger that will vary de­pend­ing on the day, and there should be at least four PBC beers on tap to choose from.

Con­tinu­ing north up in­to Port Rich­mond prop­er, Hinge Caf&ea­cute;, a com­fort­able BY­OB at 2652 E. Somer­set St. with one of the best pi­ano bar per­son­al­it­ies in town, also joins the fray, as do Pol­ish spe­cial­ists New Wave Caf&ea­cute; (2620 E Al­legheny Ave.).

At the New Wave, diners can find not only clas­sic Pol­ish com­fort dishes done in a style of home-cooked good­ness, but also an im­press­ive list of East­ern European brews at good price.

Just down the street, River Wards Res­taur­ant Week in­vites food ex­plorers to dabble in a ritu­al en­joyed by gen­er­a­tions of Port Rich­mond res­id­ents — the good cheer, beer, and ap­pet­izers served up at Byrne’s Tav­ern (3301 Rich­mond St).

They’ll be of­fer­ing their “Byrne’s Sampler” for half off all week, in­clud­ing their fam­ous pres­sure cooked, su­per tender hot wings, moz­zarella sticks, broc­coli bites, and chick­en fin­gers with sauces.

For more in­form­a­tion on River Wards Res­taur­ant Week, vis­it ht­tp://river­ward­res­taur­ants.word­press.com.••

Re­port­er Bri­an Rademaekers can be reached at 215 354 3039 or brademaekers@bsmphilly.com.

You can reach at brademaekers@bsmphilly.com.

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