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Nov 14, 2008 08:36 AM

Swallow in NoLib - where is everybody?

Wife and I had a date at Swallow in Northern Liberties last Saturday night. Great bistro food, really good, friendly service and good prices (most entrees under $20 which I've found to be unusual among Philly's quality BYOs).

And not one other soul in the place for most of the time we were there. I read reviews in both Citypaper and Phila Weekly before we went and both reviewers said basically the same thing that I'm saying - this is a great value among the newer crop of BYOs but doesn't seem to be pulling customers.

We took a walk around the neighborhood after the meal and saw at least 30 people waiting outside Bar Ferdinand for tables just a block away. Felt sad, especially since we talked to the husband-and-wife team running Swallow after our meal and they were sweet and doing their best to be optimistic about business picking up.

At any rate, I'd recommend folks get out there while it's still open. You'll get a great meal and - if business continues to be as slow as it was last weekend - you'll be treated with the extra warmth and attention that we received.

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  1. I've mentioned Swallow a few times in other threads, you're right, the place is good and I have no idea why it's empty all the time. The biggest crowd I've seen in there was 4 tables. The bone-in pork loin and roast chicken entrees are great, so is the fennel-mushroom salad. I'm not usually a big fan of creme brulee but they make an excellent one there.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Buckethead

      Horrible, horrible name. May have something to do with it.

      1. re: G Goo

        I agree with that, the name was almost enough to stop me from going in the first place.

        1. re: Buckethead

          ya, the name's pretty bad.

          i live nearby and even i haven't been - the menu just doesn't appeal. and i don't know why. it's just not exciting to a vegetarian. a few veggie friends have said the same. and there are a lot of us in the neighborhood! that could explain the lack of business maybe?

          there's another resto opening just down the way, across from bar ferdinand, called el camino real - i sampled their food at a recent music festival and if that's any indication - it's gonna be good! (with seitan for the vegetarians) i think it's set to open up by end of month. maybe libs walk will be seen as more of a dining destination then.

    2. Lack of customers could have something to do with the One Bell review by Craig Laban

      1. We live near the art museum. If we go to Old City/No Lib it would be tough to get us away from Bar Ferdinand, Radicchio or Bistro 7. IMHO the food at Bar Ferdinand is brilliant. The portions are larger than Amada with great quality and the prices are certainly reasonable for what you get.

        8 Replies
        1. re: joluvscards

          I walked by Swallow the other day and they are shut down for business for awhile. There's a note saying that they are going to test new recipes so their entree prices will only be about $12.

          1. re: phillyjules


            meaning: they're going to test recipes until they find good ones that they can make cheaply and sell for $12? or

            meaning: they're going to be offering menus of test recipes for awhile, and during that time the entrees will be about $12?

            1. re: GDSwamp

              well, here's your answer:
              according to the neighborhood message board (posted from them directly) they'll relaunch tomorrow as a mac & cheese bistro.

              1. re: rabidog

                Ummm... I don't know how I feel about that...

                  1. re: IamStarving

                    I have read about a restaurant like this in NYC called S'Mac. Sounds like something fun for one time, but not a place you'd want to go regularly. I wonder if people will travel to NoLibs to get Mac & Cheese??

                  2. re: rabidog

                    As a serious lover of Mac 'n' Cheese, I find this news intriguing. It would be even more interesting if they decided to add a few "exotic" cheeses to the list, like aged Gouda or Manchego...

                    1. re: gina

                      I too love Mac N Cheese, but I am skeptical because good MnC is not fast or easy to make. It should be baked. And allowed to rest before eating. I just can't see them making all these individual portions of MnC for each order...

            2. Read this answer in foodaphilia-it might go a long way to answer your question:

              1 Reply
                1. re: Buckethead

                  bummer. i never got to try them out, under either menu.

                  1. re: Buckethead

                    Sheesh - the article you link to says, "A sign on the door cited the death of the owners' dog."

                    Nothing like the failure of your business and the death of your dog to ruin a year or two of your life. I feel bad for that couple - I met them when we ate there and they seemed like really nice folks.