I booked a trip several months ago to visit my friends Mike and Sarah in Philly and before heading to NY for a conference. The plan was to hit three restaurants so I could experience the best of Philly cuisine. So, one for apps, one for mains and then a final one for dessert.
After much thought, we decided we were going a bit insane and should just have dinner at Vernick, which is one of Mike’s favorite restaurant in Philly right now and then heading to R2L for dessert. Mike and Sarah have been friends for a while and love food and know how obsessed I am about finding good meals.
Vernick couldn’t have been more spot-on! I wish there was a Vernick London so I could go at least monthly. When people asked me what type of food I struggled explaining but all that matters is that it is food you want to eat, yummy delicious dishes from creative toasts to start to incredible over roasted mains.
What we ate: They told us we HAD to start with the toasts, which are their specialties so we had three:
Broccoli, bacon jam and cheddar toast: this was a daily special and it was extremely special and my favorite toast. In all of the three we tried, tall crunchy hearty bread, charred well and topped with some fun ingredients. The bacon jam was smoky and very slightly sweet with contrasted brilliantly with the sharp cheddar sprinkled on top of bright green well cooked broccoli. One of the tastiest things I have tried in a while.
Pumpkin and brown butter toast: this one was less memorable as the textures were mushier and was a bit sweet. I like the pumpkin one at ABC Kitchen better. Could also be because we were eating it at the same time as the other two toasts that packed more flavor and were truly amazing.
Peas and bacon toast: I rank this number two among the toasts. The peas were mashed on top of crunchy toast and under very think and delicate and not crispy bacon. Delicious.
Striped jack with avocado and grilled jalapeno oil: the jack was gorgeous fresh fish with an avocado mousse/puree dolloped around and everything got a nice drizzle of jalapeno oil.
Beets with smoked ricotta: this was compliments of the chef as Mike and Sarah go to the restaurant once a month (I would too…). The yellow and red beets, perfectly al-dente were placed on top of a whipped smoked ricotta which added creaminess and complexity.
Warm parmesan custard & red wine braised artichokes: this was INSANELY good. The parmesan custard had a crème brulee texture but maybe slightly creamier. The artichokes sat on top and were lovely but the main star was the custard, which we ate every last drop of and almost licked the plate clean.
Buckwheat fettuccini, shiitake mushrooms, meyer lemon: Sarah doesn’t love mushrooms so we limited the ordering to one mushroom dish. But her issue is the texture and in this case, the shiitakes were not slimy at all. The pasta was perfectly cooked and on the light side, with green onions, some chili for kick and mushrooms tossed in a lemony sauce.
Black pepper pappardelle, Tuscan kale, boar ragu: this pasta was amazing. I had never tried black pepper pasta before and you could definitely taste the kick from it. The sauce was rich and abundant (you can barely see the pasta underneath) which is the way I love it. Very meaty and delicious.
Organic Amish chicken: Mike told me in advance their chicken was amazing and I said I didn’t want to order as I rarely order chicken when I am eating out. He said I needed to and said I wouldn’t regret and was the one dish he wouldn’t budge and would make part of our meal (the rest I could choose). He was right, Stewart pronounced it best chicken he has ever had and I agree. They brine it for over a day before roasting it in their wood-fire oven with lemon and herbs. The skin was very flavorful, The chicken was the most tender and juicy ever and was really perfection. We had debated ordering a half or whole chicken and based on just the bones left on the pan, I am glad we had the whole.
Crispy potatoes and shishito peppers: we ordered this as a side to the chicken (part of the Mike’s must eats). Stewart and I rarely go for potatoes but these were crispy and soft at the same time and served as the perfect mopping vehicle to soak all the lemony chicken juices from the pan. The shishito peppers were surprisingly hot.
Black pepper roasted cauliflower: this is a season dish and the manager told us when we got there that it was back and Mike and Sarah almost jumped with joy. Another perfect side to the chicken. Stewart didn’t even have the chance to try as the three of us devoured it so quickly. To be fair, he was too focused on eating all the chicken and was not paying attention to anything else around…. We skipped dessert at Vernick as they wanted to take us to R2L but on the next visit I am trying the desserts too as everything else was perfection.
In sum: perfection! One of the best meals ever. And I don’t have to try anywhere else and can certainly say best restaurant in Philadelphia. I also love the casual and modern vibe. The only criticism is the waiters are almost too present, you drink a sip of water and they refill immediately but I guess this means it was really flawless.
Vernick Food & Drink http://vernickphilly.com/index.html
2031 Walnut Street Philadelphia PA 19103