The Dandelion, An Empire & A Bit of London in Philly

May 2012

There were many motives for a Memorial Day Weekend in Philadelphia:  friends in need of a vistit, family, a variety of restaurants from which to choose, a cultural pull, the pulse of a bigger city and a bit of scheming that led me to a very special dinner. There’ll be more, much more, on that dinner later.  Once my special one agreed to support my Quelcadelphia whims, I began setting my food goals.

Hamburger research put The Dandelion high on my list of restaurant goals. Its metropolitan hommage reminded me of the very grand, inaugural adventure my special one and I made to London.  Consequently, the dapper and Dandy Lion introduced me to a well known name for Philly foodies, a name that is synonymous with “Philly food scene”- Stephen Starr.   At the young age of 21, Starr entered the restaurant business.  Fast forward a few decades, and his name is now behind several concept restaurants in Philly, a couple in New York and then some in Atlantic City and Florida (I have no goals for sampling from those last two locations).  After experiencing The Dandelion and a brunch spot, which I shall address in another post, I understood why the man had become an empire.

From street level, a tall, corner locale with a dim, warm glow from ornate bay windows caught my eye.  As I took in its stately elegance, my view shifted to the text on the streetlight style lamp above the door- The Dandelion!  We had arrived!

The Dandelion
18th and Sansom St
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Neighborhoods: Rittenhouse Square, Penn Center

Scotch Honey Suckle
Dewar’s scotch, dry vermouth, honey, lemon, rose water

Smoky and floral all at once.  A solid choice for a slow sip.

Bourbon Ginger Fizz
Bulleit bourbon, ginger, lemon, bitters, egg white

Refreshing like a high quality soda.  I would have slurped this too quickly had it been my own rather than offered to me for a few sips.

Dandelion Salad
mixed greens & dandelion leaves, cucumber, avocado, lemon vinaigrette

This salad was the obvious choice based on its name, and for a simple salad with a few green accents, it packed a complexity of flavors stemming from the bitter (in a good way) greens and the extra buttery kick of the lemon vinaigrette.

Oysters Of The Day 
with shallot mignonette sauce

My special one is the oyster expert in our duo, and he said these were just the way he likes them- vinegary.  I can barely keep oysters and mussels straight (much to my special one’s disbelief), but oyster indifference aside, these shells even impressed me.

Berkshire Pork Paté
celeriac remoulade, shallot-pear chutney, wheat toast

The specificity of “Berkshire” in the name is what first drew me to this appetizer.  It’s a fitting choice of swine for a British inspired gastropub, since the Berkshire pigs originated on the fine soils of the Queen’s land.  It seems foolish to write, but what had me repeatedly dipping the knife into the paté was its meatier pork flavor versus the heavy notes of fat that often overpower a paté.  The shallot-pear chutney added the contrast of sweetness that pairs so well with pork, but I preferred the celeriac remoulade as a separate side dish (Pittsburghers would probably automatically use it as a sandwich topping due to its similarities with coleslaw).

House Blend Aged Beef Burger 
Vermont sharp cheddar, Brooklyn brine pickles, apple smoked bacon, special sauce

Our raison d’être- the burger that brought us to the table.  Jono took a big bite and then offered, “Don’t hate me for saying this, but it tastes like a Big Mac.” I couldn’t hate him for saying it (aside from being a rather minor reason to hate someone) because he was right. McDonalds hasn’t fed a nation on convenience alone.  The chain knows a thing or two about pleasing people.  I’m not throwing away all my food values.  I’m merely justifying an odd compliment because this burger tasted like a better Big Mac, and the thick french fries clearly had a stronger tie to the potato than the greasy lot of a Happy Meal.  Our burger search had not led us astray.

Lamb Shepherd’s Pie 
mashed potatoes, root vegetables

Succumbing to the tantalizing temptation of this shepherd’s pie results in a burned tongue. Beware!  However, when root vegetables and lamb are hidden under cheesy, mashed potatoes, a little burn is easily (or all too hastily?) ignored.

There was no room for dessert, but there was room for us at The Ranstead Room (which I documented here previously), located conveniently just a few blocks away!

Stephen Starr Addendum

Remember all the way to the top of this post when I used “Stephen Starr” and “empire” in the same sentence? I thought I was being hyperbolic, but when I looked for a Ranstead Room website, I found myself directed to none other than a Stephen Starr restaurant.  I felt deceived, dumbfounded and inspired all at once.  What I would describe as your hipster cousin’s attempts to redecorate your sleezy old uncle’s basement was a 100% intentional concept bar, and it had been fooling me this whole time!  I’ll still continue to go there when I’m in town, but now I know I should order the tacos too!

Stay tuned for more Quelcy in Philly adventures, or what I like to call… The Adventures of Quelcadelphia!

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