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La Colombe in Fishtown: Menu Sneak Preview

By Danya Henninger
September 4, 2014
Photo by: Danya Henninger

“Everything we do is built around coffee. It’s our heart, our backbone.” Much as he reveres coffee, and recognizes its place of honor as La Colombe’s core business, you can tell co-owner JP Iberti is excited about what’s coming soon to Fishtown.

The 11,000-sq.-ft. cafe taking shape on Frankford Avenue will be the 13th storefront for La Colombe (there are nine throughout Philadelphia, New York, DC and Chicago, plus three in Seoul), but it's different from any of the others. Guests who walk into the huge space and up to the long marble counter will be able to go way beyond espresso and coffee when they order. 

Pastries, the only food available at most La Colombe shops, will be made in house, from scones to muffins to macarons. The on-site bakery will also produce more than half a dozen types of bread, with loaves available to grab and go. Even better, that bread will be used for the likes of sandwiches, toasts and panini and will also accompany hearty salads and sizzling skillets.

foods

Wine will be served European style, in juice glasses that look deceptively small but hold generous six-ounce pours, along with a few beers. And while there won’t be a full bar, some spirits will be sold — it only makes sense, since the space also houses a distillery with a custom German still designed by co-owner Todd Carmichael. Different Drum coffee-infused rum will be on offer by the glass or bottle.

Even though it’s much larger and more varied than the other spots Iberti and Carmichael have opened over the past 20 years, the forthcoming flagship location retains the La Colombe spirit. There’s no Wi-Fi, and no frou-frou coffee drinks. Seating is casual, varied and spacious. Despite their booming success, the partners are adamant that the new cafe is first and foremost for the neighborhood. 

“It’s a very European atmosphere, but grounded in Philadelphia,” says Iberti. “This is a cafe for Fishtown.” 

When will it open? Official launch date is October 1. However, if you happen to be in the area a bit before that, you might want to poke your head in — you just might find the espresso machine cranked up and a blaze roaring in the wood-fired oven.

We stopped in to meet the team and get a peek at some of the food that will be served; flip through to check it out.

1335 Frankford Ave.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    French Onion Soup on Toast

    Why did no one think of this before? Iberti has always loved the flavors and textures of French onion soup, but not the mess. Hence, on toast. House-baked ciabatta toast holds caramelized onions beneath melted Gruyère, and will be served with a bowl of onion soup broth on the side, for dipping.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Pan Catalan

    This traditional Spanish dish is toast smothered with garlic and oil tossed tomatoes plus a layer of Serrano ham.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Burrata and Roasted Fig Salad

    Creamy burrata will break open and drip through the arugula, dressed in lemon and olive oil with a scattering of pistachios and roasted figs.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Ham and Butter Sandwich

    A house baguette is generously spread with herb butter, then stuffed with thin slices of smoked ham.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Beet Salad

    The classic combo of beets and goat cheese is updated with sautéed beet greens and the crunch of hazelnuts atop bibb lettuce.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Taryn Goodman is chef de cuisine. She most recently cooked at Talula's Garden, and also spent time on the line at Zahav.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    A full bakery takes up one of the kitchen spaces, and at least six types of breads will be baked daily. Baguettes are extremely airy on the inside and crunchy on the exterior — they will be serious contenders for best in Philadelphia.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    John McGrath is the head baker, and worked with Iberti on developing the different loaves. He's an alum of Parc, so it's no surprise his baguettes are top notch.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Pastry chef Angela Ferri is in charge of sweet bites. Her scones are an excellent rendition of the slightly denser, English variety, and she's working hard to make the blueberry muffins that Philly is desperately missing.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Ferri hails from the pastry kitchen at Lacroix, where she learned to execute macarons, like these salted caramel and ganache versions. "We don't want to have fancy desserts, but when macarons are this good, how can we not serve them?" asks Iberti.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Carmichael is thrilled to have a real distillery at his disposal. "I grew up on a farm, so I've been distilling forever," he admits. "But now I have this incredible system. I designed it, and they built it for me!" In this case, "they" is CARL Artisan Distilleries in Germany. Right now Carmichael is making rum, but there's opportunity to make almost anything here — he has two 3,000-liter holding tanks. "I just love turning fruit into spirits," he says.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    A huge sign welcomes visitors to the cafe. "It looks like a circus sign, right?" says JP. "I like to say that we're a traveling circus — Todd travels, I'm the circus."

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    All guests will order at the counter. A small retail area will offer coffee in bags and coffee equipment to take with you, or you can get your order to stay. If you're getting food, it will be run out to your table when ready.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Toasts and other hot dishes will be made in the wood-fired oven, which Iberti is currently curing. He has one of his own at home, which makes you believe him when he declares, "Anything you put in one of these ovens tastes good." On the other side of the prep area is a panini press for Cubanos, one of Iberti's favorites.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    The menu will mostly stay the same throughout the day, and will include dishes served in cast-iron skillets in combinations like sausages and egg or pork and grits. "I don't want to use the words 'breakfast,' 'lunch,' 'brunch,'" says Iberti. "Sometimes you want a sandwich at 9 AM, sometimes you want eggs at 5 PM."

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Around 80 seats are spread through several areas, from booths to tables to high-tops. Near the back of the cafe space is a lounge area with rocking chairs and low coffee tables. It will also serve as an area to host special events with live music.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    A mural by Steve Powers (aka ESPO) covers one whole wall. Carmichael first met him at when they both gave TED talks around four or five years ago, and they discovered they had friends in common.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Hours are not yet set, but expect service from morning through early evening. This won't be a post-dinner late-night stop, but it will be a place to grab coffee and a pastry on your way to work in the morning and return for a glass of wine and salad on your way home. Fishtown is lucky to have it.

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