Philly food is so much more than cheesesteaks. Let us show you.
At the intersection of Rittenhouse and Graduate Hospital, at a corner formerly dominated by Philly-favorite bar Pub and Kitchen, a friendly, casual-yet-elegant bistro has appeared in the form of Lou Bird’s. Owned by Norris and Debbie Jordan (who also own The Happy Rooster), the new establishment boasts Executive Chef Natalie Maronski (former Chef de Cuisine of The Olde Bar and Volver) and General Manager Josh Jenkins (formerly of The Dandelion).
The restaurant offers bar seating with a single TV if that’s what your night requires, or a fancier back room with rich upholstery and large windows to set the mood for a relaxing dinner that looks and tastes like it should cost more than it does. There is also outdoor seating for anyone who wants to take advantage of the coming nice weather and a beautiful corner of 20th Street.
The beer and wine lists, both put together by Jenkins, are extremely solid, and one can see that he’s put some care into the selections—the Gruet Blanc de Noir by the glass was an excellent offering. The cocktails were also very ably put together, though the By Any Other Alias (gin, St. Germain, tamarind, lemon, rose water) was a bit floral and the Royal Americano (Amaro, Campari, sparkling) could be seen as a bit too bitter. The Light and Breezy (gold rum, lemon, ginger syrup, egg white), however, was delightful, and the Newfangled (bourbon, rosemary syrup, angostura, orange) is one of those drinks you could keep refilling all night.
The food was excellent, and the service on point. At first glance, the menu seems like it may be no different than most other bistro-style places, but little additions to each dish here and there made almost everything we were served stand out. The whipped horseradish buttermilk served with the pierogis was surprisingly light and airy, and the toasted milk on top of the chocolate mousse dessert may have been my favorite part of the night.
And before we get to the real highlights, a quick shout-out to their complementary bread. Toasted, warm, and with a pat of top quality butter—don’t skip it.
EAT YOUR FILL OF…
Smoked Rigatoni – I’m always immediately drawn to anything smoked, so this was a must-order. And while the pasta didn’t have much of a smoke taste, I didn’t miss it because the topping (sungold tomatoes, corn, mizuna, pecorino) stole the show. It was basically like putting a delicious corn chowder on top of pasta, and I don’t know anyone who would disagree with that.
American Wagyu Strip – I’m not generally one to crave a lot of beef, but seeing all the accoutrements—fingerling potatoes, brussels sprouts, kim-chimi—sealed the deal. The kim-chimi (a mix of kim-chi and chimichurri) was light and spicy; the perfect foil to the deep, rich wagyu strip. The kim-chimi is on their brunch burger, which is the single easiest way to get me back there for brunch.
Duck Breast – Another dish that was very well realized. The tender but rich duck breast was offset by blueberries and drizzled with a chicory duck jus and accompanied by escarole and chestnut puree—and what a puree it was! With a consistency close to mashed potatoes, the sweet, smooth taste of the chestnuts went perfectly with the duck.