2031 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA
A trip in to the city of Philadelphia is always a pleasure, and the variety of restaurants available to feast in is plentiful.
I recently had dinner at Vernick Food and Drink on a brisk Saturday night in January. My party of four was sat immediately, and with a smile from the hostesses on our prompt arrival at 6pm for dinner. The staff was impeccably prepared, well trained, friendly, and attentive. The highly experienced Chef owner Greg Vernick is a Cherry Hill, NJ native, who has not only a hospitality management degree from Boston University, but also has a culinary degree from the famed CIA in New York (arguably the best of the best of culinary training schools in America). With Vernick earning Best Chef mid-Atlantic in 2017 by the James Beard Foundation and Best Overall Philly restaurant and 4-Bell review by esteemed restaurant critic Craig LaBan, I knew I was definitely in for an incredible dining experience.
The atmosphere is gorgeously welcoming and modern, with an amazing staircase I loved to dramatically walk up to get to my table, and then down again at the end of the evening. The décor is beautiful all throughout the restaurant, with its metal and warm wood accents all about. The twinkling t-light candles on each tabletop and the casual yet upscale vibe, all made being in this restaurant on a special Saturday night super exciting.
The menu was complete with offerings of meat, seafood, and lots of vegetable selections, and the bar drinks were well compiled into lists to fit every taste preference. The Chef’s amuse-bouche at the beginning of the meal consisted of a small shot of warm parsnip and orange oil soup, with a bite-sized French pate a choux (or cream puff) on the side. This lovely little taste to begin our feast adventure was a wonderful and tasty surprise. The soup was well-seasoned, smooth consistency and golden in color, and the homemade hollow puff was an enjoyable accompaniment.
My appetizer of avocado toast and spicy radish was really good, and the toast had a delicious fire charred taste to it, that I always have really loved in food. Their special app of the night, a pork belly dish, was masterly plated and enjoyed. Dinner entrée’s varied in satisfaction. My grilled black sea bass was perfectly done and beautifully assembled, and the halibut with shrimp bisque poured tableside was fun and unique. The venison with cocoa and black pepper rub was served rare and visually lovely, as well as it tasted very good. Unfortunately the soy-glazed duck breast was mediocre in taste, and not impressive overall for the amount of food styling that was done for the plating. The price points are not outrageous, ranging from $16-$28 for small plates and $34-$40 for large plates. Most of the filet of fish entrée’s are market priced. The menu is super creative, with a lot of well thought through in season ingredient choices, some unusual ingredient uses, and bold pairings and twists to what is normally seen in American fare. They have successfully made traditional American food new and different, without making it too over the top gourmet.
Finally the desserts, to which two of the six or seven listed were ordered and tasted, but disappointingly were not enjoyed. The maple butter cake was small in size, dry looking and dry tasting, and plated monochromatically in all browns, tans, and beige colored ingredients. Three people at my table ate that specific dessert, and no one liked it very much. The Meyer lemon tart that I ordered was just ok at best. For the cheating on my diet that night with the lemon tart, I will say, that I really regretted eating it for the cost of the many calories that weren’t worth eating.
I would recommend this restaurant and bar to anyone coming to Philadelphia, and wanting an upscale feeling place with friendly staff, great drinks, good food, and an atmosphere welcoming and festive. The bar is also really gorgeous, and looked like a lot of fun to be sitting there alongside all the happy guests drinking their creative cocktails and various libation selections.
I give Vernick Food and Drink 4 J’s out of a total of 5.