January 18, 2011

Stephen Starr Goes Gastro: Dandelion

As stated before on this blog, we're big fans of the gastro pub. We don't mind spending a few extra dollars for interesting beers and a better burger, plus the best gastro pubs are often cozy, homely places you can always count on for a good meal.

That's why I was excited to hear that Stephen Starr was venturing into English gastro pub territory with his latest establishment, The Dandelion. It took over a prime corner spot, across the road from Tria on Sansom Street. We ventured in, sans reservation, last Friday night to a solid meal with few kinks.

First off, I would highly recommend only going when you can get a reservation. Like any new Starr hot spot, its going to be packed nonstop for the next several months. We were told the wait could be anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes, which isn't terrible for a Friday night so we hit up the [extremely jam packed] bar. Did I mention the bar was packed? It's a tight space, so prepare to get bumped around.

We both were impressed with the drinks - Bradd with the large beer selection that included four cask beers, a rare find in Philly. (Standard Tap has them too). I thoroughly enjoyed the Tatanka, a cocktail with vodka, apple juice, lemon and cinnamon. Apparently, its a traditional Polish drink. At $10 a drink (even for beer), the tab adds up quickly but that's to be expected at Starr restaurants.

We ended up sitting in the bar area too (the primary dining is upstairs; I ventured up and it looked pretty cool, but suspect the non-reservationers get put in the bar. oh well.) and right next to the main door so a 23 degree breeze whipped through every time it opened. A spry, argyle-vested manager was nice enough to come acknowledge my obvious chill, saying they are installing a curtain to help block the cold air. They already have a funky-looking, round velvet curtain covering the bar area door. Regardless, trust me - if you go before, say, April, make a reservation for the main dining room. 

Ok, food. It was fantastic. The lamb shepherd's pie was perfectly hot with slightly browned mashed potatoes on top and non-mushy veggies, plus it comes in a well-sized portion that will not send you rolling home in gluttony. Bradd's fish n' chips were also great, albeit just a single piece of fish. Most places give you at least two, but people go to The Dandelion for quality (and "experience!") not quantity.

An Inquirer reporter said he loved the fish n' chips too. He also complimented the rabbit pie, which I debated getting but I really really don't care for mushrooms. Slightly regret that decision, however the shepherd's pie was pretty awesome. Oh, and the sourdough and honey oat bread you get at the table is delish too.

Bradd said it best, immediately upon scanning the menu: The Dandelion is just like 22nd & Philly favorite, Pub & Kitchen, but at Stephen Starr prices. It's true, plus Dandelion has more menu options, a longer wait and more Burberry coats and Tory Burch shoes. I'm not sure which has better tasting food, although the gastro pub menu staple, welsh rarebit, is definitely a better starter at P&K. Had it at Daniel Stern's Mid-Atlantic once too, where it was also better than Dandelion's.

We'll have to wait for Spring to see what Starr has planned for outdoor seating, a major attraction for P&K. In the end, P&K is the best everyday, go-to gastro pub west of Broad while Dandelion is better suited for a pre-planned, free-spending night out. Get their early if you can and try to score a seat on the couch near the mezzanine level fireplace while you wait. Now that looked cozy.

The Dandelion on Urbanspoon


Julianne said...

Thanks for the insight on the welsh rarebit- now I'm thinking about a trip to P & K! I like the comparison of The Dandelion and P & K as well-- if I'm feeling the need for British-inspired food, I'll head to 20th and Lombard.

paganosmarket said...

Thanks for writing and sharing with us.

Unknown said...

A and J - we can't stay away from Pub and Kitchen! Just went there again after the snow on Thursday. Their current rarebit is a cheddar, equally delish.

tinseltine.com said...

The Cast Beers are wonderful! I interviewed Jay Willard the Beverage Manager of Dandelion on my blog Tinsel & Tine. Check it out -http://www.tinseltine.com/2011/03/philly-restaurant-dandelion.html