Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky. (slithytove) wrote,
Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky.
slithytove

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Restaurant review: Jack's Firehouse

KATHERINE and I did the Philadelphia Art Museum and the Rodin Museum on the Ben Franklin Parkway yesterday, then had lunch at Jack's Firehouse. The proprietor, Jack McDavid, is an interesting character. He hails from really, really rural Virginia. In college he worked a typical college-student restaurant job to make ends meet, decided he liked the restaurant more than the college, and eventually wound up as a chef at Le Bec Fin, Philadelphia's best known French restaurant. A few years later, he struck out on his own, with the idea of doing upscale rural American food. Well, why not? Some of the most famous cuisines are essentially peasant food: Provencal cuisine, for example. Why can't white trash American food be done right?

His first attempt was the Down Home Diner at the Reading Terminal Market (a railroad terminal that has evolved over the decades into a congeries of farmer's markets and midday restaurants). It attracted a lot of attention. He then opened Jack's Firehouse, in an old firehouse (natch) in the Art Museum area. It's been in operation about 10 years, and is now a famous name Philadelphia dining. I had read mentions of it and of Jack's doings in the paper (a few years ago he was involved in a well-covered local flamewar/catfight between restaurateurs over whether restaurants should serve swordfish) but had never been there.

The place was almost empty at lunchtime on Saturday. The ground floor is indeed an old firehouse, huge and barn-like, complete with the brass pole coming down out of the ceiling, and a few ladders here and there for decoration. Service was attentive and friendly. Katherine had a caramelized onion cream soup and salad, I had the pork barbecue sandwich, with fries and mesclun.

Mmmm, Southern pork barbecue. 'Barbecue' is one of those words that mean a dozen different things, depending on where in the country you go. It's meat, and it's grilled, and beyond that, it can mean about anything. I went to college and grad school in North Carolina, and lived there for about 15 years, and to me, 'barbecue' means North Carolina pork barbecue, a pig that has been roasted in a smoker for 12 hours or so, lovingly basted with a vinegary, sweet, not very hot, tomato-based barbecue sauce the entire time, then pulled to shreds, and served with hush puppies and cole slaw. It's truly wonderful, and there are great little barbecue places all over NC. When I saw 'Pulled pork sandwich' on the menu, my heart leaped up, hoping that since Jack McDavid was from rural Virginia, maybe this was close to my NC barbecue, which I've missed since I came north in 1984.

And it was. Mmmmmmm! I was in hog heaven. It was authentic Southern pork barbecue, and absolutely delicious. The french fries that accompanied it were interesting, and unusual: small, irregular, very thin slabs of potato, fried in the usual way. Almost like tiny potato shingles. Katherine and I had just seen Duchamp's 'Nude Descending a Staircase' at the Art Museum. This is one of the first works of cubism that American critics were had been exposed to when it was exhibited at the Armory Show in 1913, and it was ridiculed as 'an explosion in a shingle factory', and 'a staircase descending a nude'. My stack of french fries actually looked sort of like it. Cubist french fries! French fries descending a staircase!

The price for both us was about US$27.50. Not bad for lunch at a good restaurant. The food was very good, and I'd like to get back to Jack's for dinner some night. Recommended!


SHI
tsuka(u)
meaning: use, servant
tenshi == angel
taishi == ambassador
Left radical is 'person', and right is 'official'. Henshall suggests remembering this kanji by: 'Official person uses servant'.
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