October 16, 2013

Brunch at Dandelion

Did you guys know I'm obsessed with brunch at Parc (warning: link to an OLD post!)?  I think I've mentioned it a few times :)  There's just something magical about the combination of delicious food, authentic atmosphere, and really great service (something you can always count on at the Starr establishments).  Just a few blocks down the street, another Starr spot delivers an equally magical brunch experience: the British-style pub, The Dandelion, provides a very fun experience with delicious eats.

When you're catching up with a few girlfriends, an order of scones for the table is a necessity to start ($9.25).  Round, dense, and crumbly, they're pretty darn near perfect (minus those pesky raisins, which I admittedly childishly picked around).  The house-made raspberry jam was a key component, adding a bit of bright sweetness and additional moisture to each bite.

We split a couple of dishes between the two of us since we struggled to decide what to order from the fairly expansive menu- always a problem with us.  The English Breakfast ($16) is filling enough for two, since almost every item on the plate is particularly hearty.  It includes two eggs (any style; over easy for us), a fat, juicy Cumberland sausage link, baked beans, crispy bacon, fried brioche toast, a small side of roasted tomatoes and mushrooms, as well as a piece of black pudding (for the more adventurous of us.. not my favorite).  That's a heck of a lot of food!  I might be one of the few people I know who actually wants to eat baked beans in the morning-- I think I'd fit in well in England.

To accompany that hearty breakfast dish, we also split a bowl of the fresh tomato gazpacho, which I don't believe is currently offered on the menu-- it's such a summer dish!  It was a wonderful counterbalance, with lots of acidity and nice garnishes of crispy toast with olive tapenade, watercress leaves, and some high-quality olive oil.  Super refreshing and light, and can I please comment on how adorable the china is?

Another super popular dish at The Dandelion is the burger, which both of our friends ordered.  I've actually reported previously on the burger (found here), which has gone through some transformation since that first visit long ago.  A little pricier at $16.50, but a LOT better.  This is definitely one of the best in the city, with all of the best burger components served just right- a buttery bun, shredded lettuce, thinly sliced red onion, bacon, pickles, and a "Churchill" sauce (alright, that's a new one).

The burger comes with a cute little tin of triple cooked "chips" or thick steak-cut fries (my favorite!).  Even though there are so many authentic British dishes on the menu, this burger is seriously worth an order here.

Although I didn't fall in love with The Dandelion when I first went for dinner (almost three years ago), I'm completely sold on the brunch experience.  The intimate spaces and bright sunshine streaming in the bay windows is a completely different atmosphere than the dark, "pub-y" nighttime vibe.  Take your girlfriends, your mom, or your lover here for brunch, and pretend you've woken up in England if just for a couple hours.

The Dandelion Pub
18th and Sansom Streets

October 6, 2013


Since the parents became native Philadelphians, they've wasted no time diving right into the restaurant scene.  Although my dad is currently taking a "concentric circle" dining approach- eating at restaurants starting as close as possible to their Rittenhouse condo and moving outwards from there- I recently convinced him to take a nice walk down to Passyunk Avenue with me.  His half-Finnish heritage made Noord, the new-ish Scandinavian restaurant, a good choice.


The owner, Joncarl Lachman, has a very noticeable presence in the dining room, checking in on patrons and even pouring water.  He showed us to a small two-seater smack in the middle of the restaurant- a longer, narrow room that seats 35.  Nice weather allowed wide-open windows and a nice breeze, though the noise levels did get a bit high with the outside traffic and inside BYOers.

We were treated to a big hunk of house-baked barley bread and soft butter chock full of roasted garlic.  The haphazard shape gave it an uneven char and required some slightly awkward ripping, but we were glad to get our hands dirty.  Dense and ever so slightly sweet, this crusty loaf is a good enough reason to pop in.

The menu has plenty of options and had us stymied for quite some time.  Almost every entree was a contender, but unfortunately there were just two of us and decisions must be made.  And honestly, the menu is VERY approachable.  It really isn't all herring and lingonberries. 

However, we did start with a couple of rather "traditional" appetizers.  The bitterballen ($10) are advertised as fried pork meatballs, but forget ground meat.  A thick, crispy, hush-puppy-like outside gave way to a creamy, nutmeg-scented pulled pork filling.  A sharp, grainy mustard sauce and a few sprigs of baby lettuce finished the plate. These aren't IKEA's Swedish meatballs by a long shot.


My dad has an affinity for pickled herring, so the Holland Sliders ($9) were an easy choice.  Lachman sources his herring from the local purveyor Samuels & Son, already packed in a wine sauce.  Here, the fish is served simply on fluffy potato rolls with a sweet, crunchy bread and butter pickle.  A little plain for my taste- I try not to order things at restaurants that I could make at home.

For the main course, we compromised and decided to split one fish dish (seafood makes up half of the options) and the braised pork shank ($23), a dish I would expect to see at Cochon.  A huge piece of slow-cooked, super tender, bone-in pork is nestled in a pile of firm brown beans and cider-braised collards.  Comfort food at its finest, with pieces of a potent vinegar-infused apple gastrique revitalizing our tastebuds from time to time.  Lachman told us that this was standard dinner fare growing up in South Philly, separating his family's identity from that of their lasagna and meatball-eating Italian neighbors.

Choosing a fish was difficult- they all sound amazing- but we settled on the stuffed rainbow trout ($25), complete with head and tail.  The flaky white meat was easily accessible under the thin skin, complemented by artichokes and sweet onions layered between the fillets.  Braised collard greens made another appearance here, but the best part by far was the dill and white wine broth.  The creamy concoction really showcased every flavor, soaking up essence of fish, sweetness from the onion, and just an overall richness without being overpoweringly buttery.  This fish and that bread and I'm all set. 

The best part of the experience, apart from the delicious food and casual four mile round trip stroll from Center City, was the interaction with Lachman.  He is the definition of friendly, with a genuine smile, warm laugh, and engaging personality.  Even though he was constantly attending to other diners, checking on food before send-out, and generally running the show, he took a few minutes to chat with us without seeming at all in a hurry to rush off to something else.  It truly made the dining experience memorable.

1046 Tasker St. (corner of 11th and Tasker)