Rooster Soup Co. — the subterranean Center City luncheonette with a philanthropic mission — has been converted into a Jewish diner-style deli called The Rooster. The change is effective immediately.
The Rooster (1526 Sansom St., eight steps below the street) will maintain its practice of donating profits to Broad Street Ministries, which provides meals to homeless and hungry Philadelphians. It is still a partnership between Broad Street Hospitality Cooperative and restaurateurs Steven Cook, Michael Solomonov, and fellow Federal Donuts founders Tom Henneman, Bob Logue, and Felicia D'Ambrosio.
The menu is still anchored by matzo ball soup made from the unused backs and bones of Federal Donuts' chicken. Cook and Solomonov had hatched the idea of turning FedNuts' trimmings into something salable, whose profits would be donated to charity. A Kickstarter campaign raised nearly $180,000. Rooster Soup opened in January 2017.
But, as the partners learned, the word soup proved to be a tougher sell in the summer. They needed to boost business.
Rooster's menu now hews to the Jewish stylings of their other restaurants, including Zahav, Abe Fisher, and Dizengoff.
The Rooster's abbreviated deli menu carries the essence of Yehuda Sichel, chef of the nearby Abe Fisher. Montreal-style pastrami — the most popular dish on Abe Fisher's menu — inspires Rooster's smoked-meat sandwich, which is topped with a horseradish sauce and onion and served on a Martin's potato roll.
The sandwich list also includes hot corned beef on house-made rye, patty melt, smoked whitefish bagel, turkey club, and beet Reuben. (The beet Reuben, by the way, is vegetarian, subbing beets for corned beef.) The wine list has been shuffled; the beer list continues to focus on local drafts. Cocktails include Dirty Martini, Deli Manhattan (with Pastrami Rye), and Spicy Margarita.
The concept change helps to explain the recent departure of chef George Sabatino, who joined Rooster Soup in February. Jarrett O'Hara, Sichel's former sous chef at Abe Fisher, is now Rooster's chef. (On Sunday, Sabatino said he was taking a break from executive chef's work as he plots his future.)
Rooster Soup, which opened to a blizzard of national media attention, was named to both Food & Wine and GQ's lists of best new restaurants in America. It also received a two-bell review from The Inquirer's Craig LaBan under opening chef Erin O'Shea.
Despite the accolades, Cook and Solomonov have not been shy about tweaking the operation. Three months after opening, they eliminated weekday breakfast.
In April 2017, they opened Goldie, a falafel shop, above Rooster Soup.
Two fun facts:
The partners apparently unwittingly unearthed a pun in naming their Jewish diner-deli. The Yiddish word for rooster is pronounced "hon" — same as the greeting dished out by diner waitresses everywhere.
Also, old-timers surely will remember one of The Rooster's previous incarnations as Charlie's Water Wheel, a Jewish deli at heart, bringing this story full circle.