By JESS MOSS
Philly's food scene is exploding -- and it's a lot more than hoagies and cheesesteaks. Star chefs are experimenting with new spaces and styles, and menus are popping up with everything from vegan pizza to international street food. If you're going to the city of brotherly love, here are four foodie trends you've gotta try:
Wood oven cooking
There's a lot of wood fire cooking going on right now at Philadelphia restaurants. Pizza is a big part of this -- Philly, like much of the country, is in a pizza boom. (There's even a pizza museum!) You can get expertly crafted pies at places like Capofitto in Old City, which installed an authentic Italian wood oven. Pizzeria Vetri doesn't stop at pizza -- its custom-made wood fire oven roasts calzones, a dessert Nutella pizza and even salads. At Lo Spiedo, an Italian restaurant by Marc Vetri in the Navy Yard, a wood fire cooks octopus, ribs and steaks. Over in the Rittenhouse Square area, Vernick has a wood fire oven that roasts chicken and fish dishes.
Chefs who cook their own food
While the empires of big name Philly chefs like Marc Vetri and Stephen Starr continue to grow, a counterculture of sorts is also picking up speed: chef-owners actually doing the cooking in their own restaurants. "Top Chef" winner Nick Elmi cooks at Laurel, a tiny 22-seat South Philly BYOB. When asked why he was making what looked like a "backwards" move, Elmi said this way he can "touch every plate, every table." Elmi isn't alone. You can find chef-owners Townsend Wentz and Greg Vernick are manning the kitchens at Townsend and Vernick, respectively.
This isn't a new trend, but if you're new to Philadelphia it's one you've gotta try. Many Philly restaurants allow you to bring your own alcohol to drink with your meal, often with a corkage fee that varies from $5 to $15. And no, these aren't your cheap college spots or places that just haven't gotten a liquor license yet -- some of the city's best eats allow you to BYO. Some top spots to try include: Kanella (Greek), Will BYOB (French) and Noord eetcafe (Northern European).
Philadelphia is developing a national reputation for vegan cooking -- it's so good that non-vegans are lining up, too. Vedge is one of the city's top vegan picks (chef Rich Landau was recently nominated for a James Beard Award). Over in Rittenhouse, V Street is a new vegan bar that's reimagining street food from around the world. There's even a vegan pizzeria, Blackbird Pizza, which makes things like wings, pizzas and sandwiches with absolutely no animal products.