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Photo Preview: WokWorks in Rittenhouse

By Danya Henninger
November 4, 2013
Photo by: Danya Henninger

Brennan Foxman is not a chef, nor has he owned a restaurant before. These minor inconveniences weren't nearly enough to stop the audacious 22-year-old from following his post-college inspiration: to open a better-than-fast-casual restaurant that offers unique Asian flavors at affordable prices.

Though he grew up in South Jersey by the Shore, Foxman’s family is originally from Philadelphia, and he decided the current culinary boom here would be a great place to get his start. When WokWorks opens its doors in Rittenhouse this week, Foxman’s dream will have successfully come to fruition

Judging from our preview tastes this past weekend, we all get to reap the rewards. In addition to build-your-own wokked dishes (noodles or rice, protein and veggies, sauce), the storefront at 1935 Chestnut offers a great selection of bites, all of them so tasty you quickly forget they're relatively good for you.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Similar to nearby honeygrow and Agno Grill, you can select from pre-designed combos or build your own wokked dish. Choose lo mein, soba or chow fun noodles (our favorite) or go with rice or quinoa. Add pork, wild-caught shirmp, beef or chicken (or more than one), and then choose your sauce.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    There are eight different sauces, and developing was one of the steps to launch that took the longest, Brennan tells us. He worked with a specialized company to build on traditional Asian flavors - orange sauce, curry sauce, teriyaki, etc. - and give them an extra edge while keeping what makes the classics so good.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Once you choose your combo, your dish is wokked to order with a standard base of cabbage, egg and onions. The whole cooking process takes less than six minutes and is accomplished in true, old-fashioned steel woks.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Quick as anything, you have a relatively huge, healthy but filling dish that could easily feed you for lunch and leave you something to nibble on as a latenight snack. Prices vary since you can add as many components as you want, but expect a standard order to come in around $11 or less.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Don’t miss out on the other bites available. The buns that hold either BBQ pork belly, shrimp with pickled cucumber or charred beef with peanuts and garlic are sourced direct from Chinatown ($6 for a pair).

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Sides of veggies are also a good bet, like the maple-caramelized squash, which comes tossed with bacon and carries the welcome surprise of shaved coconut over the top ($4).

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Brussels sprouts in ginger-garlic-orange-soy sauce channel everything good about Chinese flavors, including a decent amount of spice. “I love spicy stuff, so some of the sauces are hot - it’s noted on the menu,” Foxman says, continuing, “I noticed Philadelphians seem to love hot food, though.” (Good eye!)

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Grab-and-go salads sit next to housemade pickles in several varieties, and dumplings and miso soup are also on the menu.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Dry Sodas are available in addition to WokWorks’ signature drink the Kelvin citrus tea slush. Foxman worked with Kelvin Natural Slush Co., a Brooklyn-based Vendy Award winner, to develop a blend of frozen green and black teas, which are served laced with a fresh mango purée. Aside from a dose of brain freeze, it’s good stuff.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    For a young dude, Brennan has quite a lot of savvy - he is funding most of the operation with his own line of credit. He tapped Philly-native Tulane collegemate Colin Casciato to be his general manager, and with other friends they designed and built the shop, which is fronted by an order counter and contains 24 seats at stools and tables. A long banquette sits beneath a living wall, which will provide herbs to be used in cooking.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Once it launches, Wokworks will be open 1130 AM-10 PM, Monday-Saturday and 11:30 AM- 9 PM Sunday, so there's no excuse not to swing by for a taste.

    1935 Chestnut St.; 215-644-9127

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