February 8, 2012

Our Take on Craig LaBan's Favorite New American BYOBs

Despite the snow, this week is a hot one for the The Philadelphia Inquirer's food section, with restaurant critic Craig LaBan releasing his updated list of four-bell establishments, as well as his top picks across a few key categories for local eaters. While an expert review from LaBan has been known to make-or-break a restaurant's immediate future, we often hear people comment that they read them with a grain of everyman salt. The majority of us aren't quite as worried about whether the chef's complex inspiration shines through or the flavors display the intricacy of a snowflake. Good food, strong drinks and pleasant service is all we ask for.

On this blog, we've always admitted to having an untrained eye and simply reporting back whether a restaurant meets the average person's expectations. In light of Mr. LaBan's newest "it list" of restaurants (which we willingly read and appreciate, with the aforementioned grain of salt), here are our takes on a few of his favorite New American BYOBs, released today. Tomorrow he'll reveal his favorite gastropubs, Italian, full service New American and more, so we'll provide a similar summary of our views.

Light, flaky skate. My favorite at Pumpkin.
Pumpkin - The menu changes each week but Pumpkin maintains a hallmark of fresh, local ingredients, lovely presentation and creative mix of seasonal flavors. The $35 tasting menu on Sunday is the best deal; check out our review for recommendations on who to take with you and other key things to know before you go.

Blackfish - I'm sorry, but it just wasn't that amazing. It wasn't bad... we had great fun with friends but the food just didn't knock our socks off like other reviews have claimed (except the beignets, I'll give 'em that). Perhaps that's why we haven't been motivated to write about it. I know, we should go back. Maybe.

Matyson - We went about two years ago and I remember it being good - and a little bit noisy - but that's about it. For whatever unrelated reason it never made the blog but yes, we can vouch that it is good. Top 5? Eh, I guess not in our book otherwise we'd remember it better.

We have not been to The Farm and the Fisherman or Fond yet. On the list.

LaBan's list only looked at "New American" BYOBs, but of course there are dozens more in Philadelphia serving international cuisine. Among our favorites are Koo Zee Doo, which we recommend to anyone who wants to deviate from the norm with rich Portuguese flavor and menu options. Melograno is also a top Italian BYOB pick, but perhaps it will make LaBan's Italian list tomorrow. Here are all our BYOB reviews for browsing at your leisure.

Be back tomorrow with the rest of LaBan's top picks...

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