With extended hours spent in the kitchen, days off fall few and far between for chefs — so, you better believe they think long and hard about where they’re going to eat during down time. We rounded up ten of Philly’s best chefs to tell us which restaurants they hit when it’s time for someone else to do the cooking.
Damon Menapace, executive chef of Kensington Quarters
"My new favorite lunch spot is Stargazy down on East Passyunk. It's affordable, delicious and unique — plus the specials are always changing. The guys who work there are fun to chat with and there's usually football (not the American kind) on the TV. You can bring a beer or two with you, too, and the crust on the pies (pictured above) and pastries is absolutely amazing!"
Jon Cichon, executive chef of Lacroix
While he might work in Rittenhouse, the Lacroix chef reps hard for Fishtown. Late-night tacos at Loco Pez (pictured above) are favorites. When he’s not pulling an AM shift, it’s Philly Style Bagels or the family-friendly brunch at Frankford Hall with his wife and baby.
Brian Ricci, executive chef at Brick and Mortar
You might think he’d want to get out of the kitchen on his days off, but Ricci takes his son and books it to Cherry Hill's Pradesh, an Indian market. “We stroll through the aisles and find something new each time for him to try. Sometimes it will be a snack — like spice-roasted chickpeas — other times it might be a kulfi pop or some kind of sweet pastry. Then we head back into Philadelphia and talk about the experience and share our thoughts.”
Andrew Wood, owner and executive chef of Russet
Curing charcuterie and crafting menus based on locally sourced produce is Wood’s day-to-day, but it’s all about comfort foods when he’s off the line. “My go-to for a pre-work lunch is George's Sandwiches in the Italian Market. I usually go for the meatball with sharp provolone and 'the seed hot' peppers, which is like a chile oil. We are also often spotted at Percy Street BBQ for the ribs, sandwiches and of course turkey tails (pictured at top).”
Ben Puchowitz, chef and co-owner Cheu Noodle Bar and Bing Bing Dim Sum
Always in the market for a bit of Asian inspiration, Puchowitz is all about soups. “Spice C has the best hand drawn noodles in the city. Get the house special with tendon and brisket and add some of the free preserved mustard greens that are on the table.” He’s also a big fan of Stock (pictured above) where he recently tried one of the best bowls of khao poon (a spicy Laotian vermicelli soup) ever.
Matt Fein, executive chef of Federal Donuts
Living in Logan, Fein has become a big supporter of the Mexican-influenced pizza at Logan Square. “I like to get the al pastor pizza with extra pineapple — it's bomb.” Rittenhouse newcomer Revolution Taco is another fave. “Late night, or anytime of day for that matter. The burritos are big and heavy and really, really good. I like their changing specials menu. You can't get veal tongue tacos at Chipotle, but who'd even want to?”
Adan Trinidad, executive chef Jose Pistola's and Sancho Pistola's
Heading up the kitchen at two bars known for late night kitchen hours, Trinidad’s after-hours eats need to be open way past last call. Twenty-four-hour tuna melts at Little Pete’s (pictured above) do the trick along with fried dumplings and chow fun noodles with spicy pork and black bean sauce from David’s Mai Lai Wah.
Scott Schroeder and Pat O’Malley, chef-owners of Hungry Pigeon
Both Hungry Pigeon owners are big on Vietnamese. Schroeder’s pick is Cafe Thanh Truc (pictured above), a tiny storefront on Eighth Street. “They open at 7 AM so I can go before work. It's simple and really good, awesome pho ga, great banh mis and really great pickled chiles. There’s one lady in particular who is super nice. I think of her as the Vietnamese grandmother I never had.”
Doing the bulk of the baking O’Malley tends to have nights off. “I eat at Nam Phuong about three nights a week. It's always fast, always delicious, close by my house and doesn't make me feel like a disgusting slob after I eat it. Other than that Square Pie is one of the most solid take-out meals in this part of the city, the mozzarella pie is rock solid.”
Erica Gant, executive chef at Continental Atlantic City
Late nights in AC mean that chefs like Gant frequent spots that cater to the nightshift. Open until 4 AM on weekends, Vagabond is all about craft beer and over-the-top bar fare (pictured above). “This is a great spot owned by two local guys. They have a large, constantly rotating craft beer selection, and their food is awesome. The burgers in particular draw a lot of people there, as well as their apps like crab mac 'n' cheese and tequila shrimp bangers. They also always have great events going on and they do a lot to help keep AC awesome!”