The Philly area has landed its first Hash House A Go Go. A what-what? Twisted farm food. Big portions. I'll explain. Also this week, I discuss a new Indian BYOB in Old City and a fun sports bar in University City. Read on for Craig LaBan's rendition of the Paul Simon hit, "50 Ways to Love Your Liver." I jest. He runs down some of his favorite chicken liver dishes. And it ain't (just) chopped liver. That would be offal.
More is more at Hash House A Go Go, the San Diego-rooted, Midwest-theme bar-restaurant that opened its first Philly-area location this month in the Moorestown Mall spot that previously housed Distrito.
Beyond the kitschy tractor at the entrance, the farmland decor, and the freakishly large portions (witness the 10-ounce slab of pork that goes into the "hand-hammered" crispy pork tenderloin sandwich before you) is a from-scratch kitchen that buys locally when it can.
HHAGG is a brunch specialist, opening at 9 a.m. daily and serving breakfast items all day, even till the late-evening closing. Chef Matt Geraghty gets to localize his menu, adding a signature hash (served in a cast-iron skillet with two eggs over fried potatoes) featuring Habersett scrapple.
As for the large portions, managing partner Puri Garzone explains that the dishes are meant to be shared or doggie-bagged. And speaking of to-go: Dishes are garnished with a spring of rosemary, which patrons can take home to their own kitchen to use in cooking.
A Philadelphia location is being scouted.
Angelo's Pizzeria | South Philadelphia
Now open at 736 S. Ninth St. with assorted pies including upside-downs and Trenton-style.
Cava | Rittenhouse
The Mediterranean fast-casual chain's first Philly location is open at 1713 Chestnut St. Free food from 10:45 a.m.-1 p.m. and 5-7 p.m. Wednesday Jan. 23.
The Common | University City
Mediterranean-influenced American cuisine and a well-stocked bar at 3601 Market St. in sleek digs from the crew that runs Nectar in Berwyn.
Makhani Modern Indian | Old City
Eatalia | Port Richmond
Feb. 2 will be the last day of this Italian BYOB after seven years at 2723 E. Cumberland St.
Imperial Inn | Chinatown
One of Chinatown’s oldest restaurants, at 146 N. 10th St., will call it quits after lunch service on Jan. 27.
Hi Kori/Bao Bar, Chinatown Square, 1016 Race St. 5-7 p.m. daily, and midnight-2 a.m. Sunday-Thursday
Maybe spending happy hour in a food court sounds odd, but not when you can belly up to the bar at Hi Kori and its adjacent Bao Bar in Chinatown Square for not one, not two, but five "citywide" specials.
For $6, you can get the ordinary citywide, which is Bud Light and a well shot. For a dollar more, the Korean special brings you Hite and a soju shot, the Chinese special is Tsingtao and a baijiu shot, the Japanese special is Sapporo and a sake shot, and the Philadelphia special is a Yards Pale Ale and a shot of Jameson.
A wordily citywide, in other words.
The happy hour also offers $8 tea cocktails and $6 well drinks, plus on the beer side, $4 Sapporos, $5 Heinekens, and $3 Bud Lights.
There’s a discounted food dish or two, including yakisoba ($6, served with okonomiyaki fries), but the everyday food prices here are low enough, including $5 vegetable gyoza, $5 tempura shrimp shumai, and various “Japadogs” such as a nori dog topped with spicy mayo, nori, onions, and garlic for $4.
Makhani Modern Indian, 7 N. Third St., 267-534-5097
"Makhani" means "with butter" and chef Sanjoy Banik applies the ghee with glee at Shafi Gaffar's colorful, cozy BYOB newcomer filling the longtime Bistro 7 space in Old City. Right now, the 34 seats are on the first floor, but Gaffar plans to expand upstairs and in warmer weather outside.
Both men are well traveled at local Indian restaurants, most recently at Gaffar's family's Tandoor locations.
Banik's specialty is North Indian curries with thick gravies, and he's cooking everything from scratch, using atypical ingredients such as lobster, scallops, and lamb shanks. He also serves complete plates, including rice and sides, rather than à la carte. Menu is here.
Though Makhani opened in late November, it's marking its grand-opening weekend Jan. 25-27 with comp wine and vegetable samosas.
Hours are 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. for lunch, dinner from 4-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m. -11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
The Post, 129 S. 30th St.
When was the last time you went to a beer hall and left raving about the food? Try 10 days ago for me.
The Post, a cavernous, family-friendly fun house that just opened under the Cira South parking garage near the FMC Tower and 30th Street Station, has put as much into the pub grub as it has to the 16 beers on tap and the collection of games.
While my kids grooved on fried pickle chips and the trademark-suspect Bloomin' Onion, I dug chef Richard Cusack's two great contribution to the city snack scene: Cheesy Poofs, which, unlike the fictional bagged snack popularized on South Park, are addictive fried cheese balls served with a cheese sauce, and his lusciously appointed mini cheesesteaks, served three to an order and built on Liscio's rolls. Oh, there's a soft-serve sundae bar, too.
Hours are 3 p.m.-midnight Sunday to Thursday, till 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
The Phillies plan to open a beer garden, bar, pizzeria, and sports pub at the stadium. Also, a Shake Shack will set up a restaurant with seating.
Reader: Call me strange, but I’m crazy for chicken liver. Do you have any favorite dishes around town?
Craig: Liver lovers unite! We may be an exclusive club, but we are enthusiastic. My Jewish roots certainly led me more than halfway to liver appreciation. But it was an acquired taste. I hated chicken livers when I was a kid because they were too often overcooked.
But once I learned what a well-prepared chicken liver can be, in all its forms, I realized they are one of the bird’s most underappreciated assets. They also are among the most versatile, seared to a delicate crisp with faint pink centers and tossed with pasta, chopped into classic deli spread for toasted rye, or turned into the silk of a French-style mousse.
How a chef interprets and handles their livers is a telltale signs of a kitchen’s skill. But the deep flavors, range of textures and creative possibilities of the liver dishes you’ll find in Philly prove its value as a local specialty worth its own quest.
The CookNSolo restaurants offer fantastic modern Jewish updates to the delicacy, including pastrami-onion jam for the chicken liver mousse at Abe Fisher (1623 Sansom St.) and a stunning Israeli interpretation at Zahav (237 St. James Pl.), where last year chef Michael Solomonov spun crunchy kataifi nests around liver mousse dusted with pistachios atop tart pomegranate jam.
Of course, the art of chicken livers — and, for that matter, using every part of the animal — is an international pursuit. The most memorable chicken liver dish I ate last year was at Lebanese-inspired Suraya (1528 Frankford Ave.), where perfectly pink nuggets were glossed in a wickedly sweet-tart pomegranate molasses that cut their gamy savor.
Garnishes with acidity with sweetness are always a plus with liver. At Nunu (1414 Frankford Ave.), the new izakaya from the team behind Cheu Fishtown, little morsels of liver come threaded on yakitori skewers and turn simultaneously creamy and crispy over the grill before being topped with a tart green apple relish.
I was recently at Osteria (640 N. Broad St.) and the sublimely rustic rigatoni tossed with chicken liver ragù remains one of the best dishes on Jeff Michaud’s menu, the coarse-chopped livers blended with lots of sage and cippolini onions, then emulsified with pasta water into a sort of magical, earthy cream. Good luck getting a photo of that mud-gray dish. There may not be a less photogenic ingredient in the cook’s pantry.
That said, a number of chefs have found inventive presentations for liver that are outright beautiful. Like the stroopwafel cookies sandwiched around liver mousse with blackberry agrodolce at In the Valley (1615 E. Passyunk Ave.). Or the rhubarb jelly-glazed slice of tart stuffed with chicken mousse I savored a couple years ago at Mica in Chestnut Hill (8609 Germantown Ave.), so creamy and rich, it was as close to dessert as offal will ever come.
But true liver aficionados, I suppose, do not need pretty pastry diversions to pique their passion. A perfect mousse — the kind that anchors charcuterie programs from Andiario to Parc — is sufficient. And the most satisfying version I sampled last year was at Friday Saturday Sunday (261 S. 21st St.), where Chad Williams served his gorgeous round of whipped pink liver mousse with rhubarb-apple preserves and sweet dots of caramelized foie gras sauce. Which is about right. A truly great chicken liver dish not only can share the stage with foie gras, it can play the starring role.