Farewell James on 8th

Awoke this morn­ing to a few tweets between Kristi­na Burke of James on S. 8th St. and for­mer cheftes­tant Jen Car­roll that sug­gest James is shut­ting down oper­a­tions in South Philadel­phia.

What a great restau­rant. Loved the atmos­phere, the ser­vice, the drinks and the food. Helen and I went exact­ly twice: first for her 30th birth­day and then Valen­tine’s Day this year. Both meals were prob­a­bly the best I’ve ever eat­en. Always felt that James deliv­ered an amaz­ing food expe­ri­ence with­out feel­ing like a Stephen Starr expe­ri­ence, which is to say, great food in a some­times car­toon­ish atmos­phere. I guess he’s on to some­thing.

Here’s to what­ev­er incar­na­tion the Burke’s dream up next. What­ev­er it is, I know I’ll eat there.


We Ate at Zahav

I promised Helen at least 12 date nights last Christ­mas and I’ve been doing my best to keep up my end of the bar­gain with the help of friends and fam­i­ly. We final­ly got around to Zahav last Fri­day. (Fair warn­ing: their web­site enables sound. It’s loud.)

We got the three course tast­ing menu, along with the wine pair­ing. We weren’t dis­ap­point­ed. Tried lamb tartare, called kebbe naya, and it blew my mind. It was so lus­cious it just melt­ed in my mouth and the grilled avo­ca­do was a pleas­ant fin­ish. Drank arak for the first time, too. If you’re into licorice-fla­vored liqueurs, I high­ly rec­om­mend.

If you’re look­ing to try some­thing new, def­i­nite­ly hit it up. They have some great hap­py hour spe­cials if you’re just look­ing to try it out before you get a reser­va­tion.

Drinking Eating

Have You Been to Kraftwork?

I’ve been to Kraft­work a num­ber of times now and I think I like it. I mean, it’s okay. There’s that one sand­wich that’s real­ly deli­cious, but not much else that real­ly stands out on the (recent­ly recon­sid­ered) menu. The draught list is amaz­ing, although it’s like doing surgery with a shot­gun; put enough beers on tap and you’re sure to get some­thing right, no?

But you can fix menus and curate beer lists to make it seem like you know what you’re doing, rather than not want­i­ng to get it wrong. What you can’t real­ly change is phys­i­cal plant. If you want to be clubbed over the head with con­cept, Kraft­work is the place. With­out even men­tion­ing the clunk­er of a name, you know it’s styl­ized to a fault, which real­ly dis­tracts from the things that prob­a­bly brought you there in the first place. Did I men­tion how NOISY it is? Now, I know I’m get­ting old­er, but when you have a DJ spin­ning dance music dur­ing din­ner, at a place that does­n’t have a dance floor, you’re going out of your way to seem sil­ly. I mean, at least the Abbaye had sen­si­ble brunch DJs.

Thing I hear from fans of craft beer and gas­trop­ubs in gen­er­al though is that the prices are sim­ply too high. I can get a pint of Russ­ian Riv­er Blind Pig for less than I can a tulip of the same at Kraft­work. And while the taps are more plen­ti­ful than oth­er neigh­bor­hood bars, I don’t get the sense that more thought went into select­ing what’s on them. Instead of feel­ing like you’re get­ting a deal on some­thing that’s been care­ful­ly con­sid­ered, you know you’re over­pay­ing for some­thing you can prob­a­bly get some­where else in town.

Will I keep going back? Absolute­ly. I have faith that Adam Rit­ter will get it right and, hell, who I am to say any­thing: the place is usu­al­ly full to over­flow­ing, which is a good prob­lem to have in this econ­o­my. If they can build a tasty, inex­pen­sive menu around their beer can chick­en sand­wich, then they’re already on the right track. Where else can you get a Mikkeller Break­fast Beer Geek Impe­r­i­al Stout at 10:30 on a Sun­day morn­ing?