Tag Archives: brunch

Aksum: A Hidden Gem in West Philly

Apologies for the lack of posts as of late, readers.  After 2 weeks stuck in bed with the mother of all colds, I am finally well again, and doing some much-needed catch up on blogging before heading off to spring break.  Reflecting back on the many meals I’ve had over the past few months, one that continues to stand out in my mind is brunch at Aksum, a new(ish) Mediterranean BYO in West Philadelphia.

As a resident of West Philly, I think Aksum is a welcome addition to the neighborhood.  The space looks polished and new, brightening up an otherwise nondescript block of Baltimore Ave.  The Mediterranean-inspired menu is also very appealing, as are the BYO and hookah options.

But what really drew my friends and I to Aksum was the promise of brunch–with free mimosas, as advertised on a sign outside the restaurant.  And Aksum delivered on both those promises.

I ordered the shakshouka ($11), a Middle Eastern brunch dish that I’ve been dying to try.  Shakshouka features eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce, served with pita bread to soak up all the deliciousness.  I’m not yet a connoisseur of shakshouka, as this was my first taste of the dish, but I was expecting it to be much spicier.  I thought the sauce could have used some extra heat, and the eggs a little less cooking (as the yolks were powdery).  But overall, it was a pleasant, albeit mild introduction to shakshouka, a dish I hope to be having more of.

My friends ordered the egg mezze platter ($9) and the sweet corn griddle cakes ($13, not pictured).  The mezze platter looked very refreshing, and from the bites that I stole sampled from my friend, it tasted that way as well.  My other friend really enjoyed her sweet corn griddle cakes, which were not overwhelmingly sweet and came topped with a blueberry compote.  And best of all, the three of us were able to wash down our meals with delectable complimentary mimosas.

I will definitely be back for more mimosas, and perhaps for a BYO dinner and some hookah.  With an appealing menu, inviting atmosphere, and affordable prices, Aksum remains a hidden gem in West Philly–and hopefully with more buzz, it won’t be so hidden anymore.

Aksum
4630 Baltimore Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19143
(267) 275-8195
Aksum on Urbanspoon

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Splendid Sunday Brunch at Supper

As I’ve said before, I’m not a huge fan of brunch.  It takes a lot to excite me enough to write a review on eggs and pancakes.  But every now and then, there are some brunches that blow me away, that have me swearing I’ll wake up early every Sunday morning for it.  Brunch at Supper had this very effect on me.

Both the ambience and the food make Supper one of the most pleasant dining experiences in Philly.  The restaurant is deceptively spacious.  Boasting two floors, the first floor is bustling and lively, with patrons sipping bloody marys at the bar and eager diners watching chef Mitch Prensky and co. in action through the open kitchen.  By contrast, the second floor offers a much quieter, more serene environment, perfect for a relaxing and leisurely Sunday brunch.

Even more splendid than the setting was the elegantly rustic brunch fare.  Chef Mitch Prensky incorporates local, seasonal ingredients and Southern flavor into his dishes, updating many tired, overdone brunch classics into something magical.  Take his Supper Benny ($15), for example.  While retaining the requisite poached eggs and hollandaise sauce, he replaces the english muffin with buttery grit cakes and adds mustard greens and country ham, which is more reminiscent of prosciutto than Honeybaked.  The result is better than the original, especially with the sides of crispy breakfast potatoes and crusty bread.


The same can be said for Supper’s chilaquiles navidad ($14) and dixie biscuit ($13).  The chilaquiles were zesty and smoky, with the addition of chorizo and tomatillo-braised corn tortillas.  Two perfectly poached eggs sat atop the tortillas, making for a hearty meal.

The dixie biscuit was even heartier (and artery clogging, in a good way): two scrambled eggs, country ham, and pimento cheese tucked inside a flaky buttery biscuit, served with creamy grits on the side.  It was love at first bite with the biscuit, and the grits were addictively delicious.

In addition to savory egg dishes, Supper offers “sweet stuff” as well, including red velvet waffles, gingerbread pancakes, and a cereal buffet.  I will definitely be back to try the rest of the menu.  And when I do, I’ll blame Supper for successfully converting me into a brunch addict.

Supper
926 South St.
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 592-8180
Supper on Urbanspoon

**Note: Just fyi, this is my 100th post!  Thanks to my readers for your support!

Stay Simple at Sabrina’s

I’m really a simple girl at heart.  Though I am always up for trying the newest dining trend, I am not really one for haute cuisine.  What I really love is simple, down-to-earth comfort food—food that reminds you of home, family, and friends.  So when my good friend Erika came to visit me in Philly, I recommended we try Sabrina’s Cafe—a place known for their fabulous brunch menu, featuring comfort food dishes kicked up a notch.

Because we had been forewarned of the notoriously long lines, we decided to wake up early and arrived at Sabrina’s around 10am on a chilly Saturday morning.  Though not terribly crowded, there was already a 30-minute wait.  None of us minded though, as we spent the entire time perusing the voluminous brunch menu.

Sabrina’s has two locations: the original is located on South St. and its second, slightly larger location is near the Art Museum.  While I can’t speak to the South St. location, the Art Museum location is warm and friendly.  It had a retro coffeeshop vibe to it, with wide counter seating, large booths, and a bright interior.  The crowd seemed to be very family friendly, with lots of strollers and high chairs being toted around.

Even after 30 minutes, my friends and I were at a loss when our waitress seated us and came to take our order.  The menu had so many appealing options, from stuffed French toast with bananas and vanilla bean syrup to sandwiches to omelettes galore.

We finally settled on huevos rancheros, a tofu scramble, and two of the (many) specials: French toast stuffed with cream cheese, nutella, and hazelnuts with a peach syrup on the side and a sweet potato-corn pancake wrapped around chicken, black beans, plantains, and peppers topped with a cilantro sour cream.  We also ordered La Colombe coffee (a local Philly roaster known for its dark roasts), which arrived in adorable oversized coffee mugs.

My friends and I really enjoyed the huevos rancheros and the tofu scramble.  The huevos rancheros ($10.99) included two fried eggs sitting atop 2 crispy blue corn tortillas, topped with a spicy chorizo sauce (which, in my opinion, could have been spicier), avocado, cheese, and pico de gallo salsa, with rosemary potatoes on the side.  All of the ingredients were fresh and well-prepared, making this a memorable version of huevos rancheros.

The tofu scramble ($7.89) was also excellent and flavorful.  The texture was strikingly similar to scrambled eggs (which most tofu scrambles don’t get right).  I was also impressed with—of all things—the toast!  Sabrina’s serves Le Bus multigrain bread, another local Philly establishment.

On the other hand, we were not so impressed with the specials.  The French toast itself was tasty: a rich, slightly chocolate mascarpone filling slathered between two huge slabs of brioche.  However, the peach syrup that accompanied the dish was a mystery to all of us.  It did not enhance the dish at all; in fact, it didn’t taste good at all.  And thank goodness our waitress warned us to order it on the side!  Even on the side, we received a behemoth bowl of sweet, fruity syrup that, had it been dumped onto the French toast, may have made the entire dish inedible.  I would have much preferred some good old-fashioned maple syrup, and perhaps less of the mascarpone filling.

The sweet potato corn pancake dish was also a letdown.  It was kind of a bizarre burrito, wrapped in a pancake instead of a tortilla.  But there were so many ingredients to the dish that they all seemed to overpower one another: heavily seasoned chicken, sweet plantains, zesty peppers, black beans, and cilantro sour cream.

One thing that I can’t complain about, though, is the portions.  You certainly get your money’s worth at Sabrina’s, even if the dishes are not spectacular.  Overall, I enjoyed my meal at Sabrina’s: the friendly atmosphere and appealing menu made for a lovely brunch.  The classic dishes seem to be Sabrina’s strengths.  It’s when the kitchen tries to do too much that the dishes lose their appeal.

Sabrina’s Cafe
(Fairmount/Art Museum)
1804 Callowhill Street
Philadelphia, PA 19130
(215) 636-9061

Sabrina's Café and Spencer's Too on Urbanspoon

Cafe Lift Perks Up Your Mornings

I’ve never been a fan of brunch.  Waking up early on a Sunday and waiting an hour for some eggs benedict never had much appeal to me, especially after reading Anthony Bourdain’s harrowing account in Kitchen Confidential.  In short, brunch is not my fave.

After dining at Cafe Lift, however, some of my reservations about brunch have been lifted.  Located in Philly’s Spring Garden neighborhood, Cafe Lift is tucked among loft apartments and industrial warehouses.  On a Sunday morning, the area seemed abandoned except for Cafe Lift, which was bustling with hungry patrons.

The word “funky” certainly comes to mind when describing Cafe Lift’s interior. Contemporary paintings and quirky chandeliers add some fun and liveliness to the otherwise minimalist dining room.  Exposed ceilings and floors pay tribute to the area’s industrial feel.

The brunch fare is the real draw at Cafe Lift, where fresh ingredients and attention to detail set the dishes apart.  The menu is divided into savory stuff (such as eggs), sweet stuff (with decadent dishes like pumpkin cannoli french toast), paninis, and salads.  Since everything sounded so tasty, we had a hard time deciding what to order!

We finally settled on the buttermilk pancakes topped with strawberries and bananas ($7.50), the breakfast burrito ($8.50), and a side of spicy fennel sausage ($3.00).  The pancakes arrived under a pile of freshly cut fruit on top, dusted with powdered sugar.  The pancakes were light and airy, just the way buttermilk pancakes should be.  My only complaint (if you can even call it a complaint) was that instead of butter on the side, they gave us whipped cream.  Interesting, and not bad, but not what either of us were expecting.

The breakfast burrito ($8.50) was a behemoth of a burrito filled with scrambled eggs, roasted peppers, mushrooms, sweet onions, and jack cheese.  It was served with fresh pico de gallo salsa and homemade hot sauce, which added nice spice to the dish.  The burrito was so flavorful, and the freshness of each of the ingredients really shown through.  Though it was heavy, I powered through and finished the entire dish, potatoes as well!

The only disappointment of the meal was the spicy fennel sausage ($3.00).  I couldn’t taste the spice or the fennel, and it was cut down the center and cooked flat (see above photo, in the back).  Sausage, in my opinion, is supposed to be juicy and I thought by cooking it flat, it lost a lot of its flavor.

Our meal ended with the hugest cappuccino ever–and a steal for only $3.  Made with La Colombe coffee, a local Philly favorite, it was smooth and frothy, just as a cappuccino should be.

In short, Cafe Lift is sure to satisfy brunch lovers and haters alike with its fresh fare and moderate prices.  Weekend mornings just got so much better.

Cafe Lift

428 North 13th St.

Philadelphia, PA 19123

215-922-3031

Open Tues-Sun 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

Cafe Lift on Urbanspoon

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Founding Flurries

The White House, covered in white

Like most DCers, I woke up Saturday morning to a wintery surprise: snowpacalypse 2.0! Since I missed snowpacalypse 1.0 back in December, I was more than excited to see the snow falling. My boyfriend, on the other hand, was less than thrilled to be dragged outside to play in the snow, but he grudgingly indulged my requests. Bundled up in our warmest jackets, we decided to walk to the White House (pictured above), which was beautiful and pristine in the freshly fallen snow.

Entrance to Founding Farmers

Needless to say, we were freezing and famished after our trek. Founding Farmers, located just a few blocks from the White House, seemed like an oasis at the time–a warm and welcome respite from the cold. The restaurant occupies a sleek and expansive 2-story space below the IMF building. But even with two levels, the restaurant was packed when we arrived (apparently, lots of people had the same idea). Luckily, we were able to find 2 seats at the bar–complete with flat screen TVs showing the Duke v. Georgetown game, which my boyfriend was ecstatic about.

FF really does mean homemade!

Founding Farmers (FF) is a Certified Green restaurant and DC’s first Certified LEED (Gold) restaurant. Its cuisine is described as “farm-inspired American true food and drink in a modern, casual and eco-friendly setting”–which means homemade products where possible (e.g. breads, pasta, sausage, sauces)  and everything else made from  locally sourced, sustainably farmed ingredients. While all of  these endeavors are quite admirable (and ones that I wholeheartedly support), they sadly did not translate into the high quality, flavorful cuisine I was expecting from FF.

The menu is quite expansive, offering everything from pancakes and bacon lollis to handmade flatbreads and pasta to enchiladas. Honestly, I think the all-encompassing menu is part of the problem. For the life of me, I couldn’t decipher what the restaurant’s specialty was. Was it the handmade pastas? Or one of the many comfort food dishes? Or maybe it was the random steak enchiladas, the lone Tex-Mex item on the menu?

Sausage, mushroom, and spinach scramble

After much debate, my boyfriend and I finally settled on the  sausage, mushroom, and spinach scramble served with leek hash browns and a homemade English muffin ($12) and the southern pan fried chicken served with mac and cheese, gravy, and waffles ($16). When I read the description for the scramble, I was expecting a huge amount of food (and I was ready to eat it all). So you can imagine my disappointment with the small portion of eggs and hash browns which arrived. Nothing on the plate stood out in my mind–the eggs, potatoes, and even the in-house-baked English muffin with homemade strawberry preserves were all just blah (for lack of a better term).

Pan fried chicken

While the scramble was monotonous throughout, the pan fried chicken had more ups and downs. The chicken itself was very good: moist on the inside,with a crisp and flavorful crust on the outside. The creamy white gravy perfectly balanced the saltiness of the chicken. Sadly, everything else on the plate went down hill. The mac and cheese was mediocre at best: the cheese sauce was watery and the pasta overcooked. The waffles would have been fine, if they hadn’t been drowned in a sea of melted butter. And the broccoli that came with the meal seemed to be more of an afterthought than an accompaniment–soggy and flavorless.

Despite the underwhelming food, I wouldn’t write off Founding Farmers completely yet. It has a fun atmosphere, convenient location, admirable mission, and potential for improving given the high quality ingredients it uses (which may help to justify its higher than average prices). Unpaid gourmets looking for a cheap and delicious bite to eat shouldn’t head here, but if you’re caught in the snow and near the White House, Founding Farmers will suffice.

FF interior

Founding Farmers

1924 Pennsylvania Ave. NW (IMF HQ2)

Washington,DC 20006

202-822-TRUE

Founding Farmers on Urbanspoon