Philadelphia’s restaurants are riding a wave of trends that are sweeping across the nation. Here’s a glimpse of what to try now … and what’s slated to come during the New Year:
The cupcake trend is still going strong - multiple places have opened up to cater to our cravings and the offerings are wildly creative. It’s a Cupcake (958 N 2nd St.) opened this past summer in Northern Liberties and touts a signature flavor of sweet potato pie, as well as cupcake collections – including one that highlights savory ingredients. Sounds like we can have dinner and dessert here.
The Main Line-based Cupcakes Gourmet is on the verge of launching another location, in Wayne’s Gateway shopping center. And Philly Cupcake just opened Dec. 10 at 12th and Chestnut Streets.
Cupmakes opened up this past July (520A S. 2nd St.) and they’ve already earned the nickname crackmakes because their sweet concoctions are so addictive. They’ll even let you customize your own icing and toppings.
And have you tracked down the cupcake truck yet? That leads us to our next fixation, food trucks.
Philly has a number of gourmet trucks hitting the street with a variety of good eats, and most of their locations can be tracked via twitter or the web. Buttercream (@buttercreamphl) makes five stops per week, selling its homemade cupcakes. Owner Kate Carrara quit her job as an attorney and began making stops around town just this past October.
Hub Bub Coffee (@hubbubcoffee), a coffee truck in University City, started rolling in mid-October. Expect everything you can get at a Starbucks; they’re selling Oregon’s Stumptown Coffee Roasters coffee drinks and gourmet treats for just $2.
Coup de Taco (@coupdetaco), another University City truck, debuted in early November offering fusion style tacos. Only three varieties of tacos thus far, but they’re impressive – like sweet Thai coconut taco served with a savory peanut sauce and citrus marinated apples.
Convenience and good food seem to be attracting us, because there’s multiple gourmet stores opening up in the area. Out in the suburbs, Wegmans new Collegeville store houses the chain’s first-ever pub restaurant. But most notable is the ability to purchase beer by the bottle or the six-pack – there’s a phenomenal selection of brews.
This fall brought the opening of Good Food Market (www.goodfoodmarket.net) in Chestnut Hill. Chef Amy Kunkle prepares a variety of homey entrees from local ingredients, and partners with local suppliers like DiBruno Bros. to bring an array of gourmet offerings.
This month look for two store openings. Fresh off a big win on The Next Iron Chef, Jose Garces and his team are opening a food and wine store called Garces Trading Company, which will have three functions: commissary, market and café/restaurant. Garces will launch his new coffee line there. Customers are encouraged to pick out a wine in the shop and then sit down to a specially paired meal.
Katie Cavuto Boyle, also a recent reality star on the The Next Food Network Star, is opening a store this month too, as part of her catering service, Healthy Bites To Go (2521 Christian St.). The shop will offer her prepared healthful meals. Look for cooking class offerings too.
Lastly, barbecue is taking hold as a hot concept for many local restaurateurs. Last spring, two barbecue spots debuted. Bebe’s BBQ opened in the Italian market at South 9th St., featuring Memphis-Style ‘cue served with your choice of a vinegar-based East Carolina sauce or a tomato-based Lexington sauce. And Kevin and Janet Meeker morphed the Philadelphia Fish & Company spot into Q Barbecue & Tequila Bar, which offers beef, pork and even casual Mexican street fare.
Smokin’ Betty’s offers a broad menu of comfort food at 11th & Sansom, also opening its doors this past spring. Dishes like red quinoa chickpea salad will appease vegetarians, meat addicts can spring for a tur duck en burger –duck rillette surrounded by ground chicken and turkey topped with orange cranberry relish.
On 9th & South St., Percy Street Barbecue opened to much buzz this past fall. Michael Solomonov, Steven Cook and Erin O’Shea head this place, bringing a wealth of experience with the Philly food scene from restaurants like Zahav, Xochitl and Marigold Kitchen. Find meats dry-rubbed and wood-smoked in pits – brisket, ribs, chicken and more.
Whether you’re looking for sweet, savory, gourmet shopping or a swift food stop, looks like Philly’s got you covered. And I can’t wait to see what great tastes 2010 will bring.
Foodservice Monthly, January 2010