Our friends know that as a rule we haven’t been huge fans of BYO restaurants in the suburbs near our NJ home. It’s mostly a factor of the settings. They tend to be situated in dreary strip shopping centers that make them unappealing. I’m sure many are serving good, maybe even great food, we’ve heard reports that is often the case, but we never seem inspired to go. And I question whether the better ones really save you much money because the menu prices tend to be higher, but it’s more the location thing for us.
Living part of the time in Philadelphia as we are currently doing has changed our perspective. We can walk from our apartment to a number of good BYO options, or easily take public transit to others, and there is usually a watering hole near by if we opt for a pre-dinner cocktail. But mostly the urban settings are significantly more engaging. Two recent meals are examples.
At the Helm
Helm is one of the many “farm-to-table” concepts that seem to be a thing wherever one goes, but this one seems to be quite popular. We went to the original location on North 5th Street in the Northern Liberties section. It’s on the corner in a largely residential neighborhood and is very popular with the mostly young local residents. It features a blackboard menu that changes frequently, especially during the summer growing season. At the top of this post is the winter menu. The base proteins don’t change much but the preparations do. Off the above menu I had the porcini/kale/ricotta starter on the lower left and the lamb dish. The starter was actually a tart and quite delicious. Pat had the hake and the carrot starter; the latter is something that evidently has been on the menu since the place opened. There is now a second location on Rittenhouse Square that has a full bar. Not sure if we will make the effort to go to that location, but I could see us venturing back to the original to see what twists to the menu they come up with during the summer growing season.
Our second BYO visit was to Noord in South Philadelphia, off Passyunk Avenue near the singing fountain. Earlier in the year we had visited Fond, which is directly across the street and was covered in a prior post. As the name implies, it features foods and preparations associated with the Nordic countries. It’s another small restaurant with an engaging menu. It quickly filled up on a weekday night visit; I think only a single four-top table wasn’t used while we were there, which is good for place that’s been open for several years.
Pat had the seafood special, which can seen above adorned with a fried egg, while I opted for a pork roast special. I can’t say we have any background in Nordic-style dining. We’ve been to Copenhagen and stayed long enough to have a couple interesting dinners, but we were basically in and out of Stockholm ahead of a cruise and we’ve not been to Norway. But I would say that if the food at Noord is any indication, it could be inventive.
And as we said at the top, there’s often an amenable watering hole nearby, in this case Stateside, located across the plaza. It’s hopping in the summer, we’ve been to it in the past, and generally a comfortable spot to stop at any time of the year.