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Swallow in NoLib - where is everybody?

GDSwamp Nov 14, 2008 08:36 AM

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.

  1. b
    Buckethead Nov 14, 2008 08:47 AM

    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
      G Goo Nov 16, 2008 04:46 AM

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

      1. re: G Goo
        Buckethead Nov 16, 2008 08:07 AM

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

        1. re: Buckethead
          rabidog Nov 16, 2008 10:53 AM

          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. r
      rocknroll52 Nov 16, 2008 05:07 AM

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

      1. joluvscards Nov 16, 2008 07:54 AM

        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
          phillyjules Nov 17, 2008 04:45 AM

          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
            GDSwamp Nov 19, 2008 12:51 PM


            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
              rabidog Dec 1, 2008 09:43 AM

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

              1. re: rabidog
                sadiefox Dec 2, 2008 08:01 AM

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

                1. re: rabidog
                  IamStarving Dec 2, 2008 08:28 AM

                  looks very dull, indeed.

                  1. re: IamStarving
                    rocknroll52 Dec 3, 2008 09:23 AM

                    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
                    gina Dec 3, 2008 12:13 PM

                    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
                      sadiefox Dec 9, 2008 09:54 AM

                      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. mlplyons Dec 9, 2008 10:31 AM

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

              1 Reply
              1. re: mlplyons
                Boognish Dec 9, 2008 01:24 PM


              2. b
                Buckethead Jan 8, 2009 10:01 AM

                Saw today that Swallow is up for sale:


                3 Replies
                1. re: Buckethead
                  rabidog Jan 8, 2009 10:54 AM

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

                  1. re: rabidog
                    leepinleemur Jan 9, 2009 07:07 AM

                    It says they are still open.

                  2. re: Buckethead
                    GDSwamp Jan 9, 2009 06:05 AM

                    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.

                  3. smobron Feb 19, 2009 02:22 AM

                    Swallow is still open , we went last night and it was fabulous , they are all mac and cheese , you get to pick your cheeses and your yummy mix ins ......really good , really nice people , 5-6 tables of 2 last night at around 8 ...we are going back ...........

                    1. sockii Feb 20, 2009 07:54 AM

                      Have to say, can't think of "mac 'n cheese" as any kind of destination draw for me...considering it's one of the easiest things to make (and customize) at home. I must be missing something...

                      1. 94Bravo Jun 5, 2009 04:10 PM

                        Did Swallow close???

                        Michael Klein has a blurb about a new restaurant to take over their space but I haven't heard any news that they closed?

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: 94Bravo
                          gina Jun 7, 2009 04:48 PM

                          Yes, they closed last month.

                        2. smobron Jun 11, 2009 10:35 AM

                          I am reading the current Inquirer and they show that a place called Sonata will be opening in that location in July

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