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Vernick Food and Drink - has anyone been there?

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I guess I am really out of touch with the restaurant scene in Philadelphia. Living in the Western suburbs and retired from working in the city has resulted in my just being really out of date. I guess except for some lunches for restaurant week, several wonderful Bibou dinners, lunches and dinners at Matyson and La Famiglia and some dinners at Le Lirtu, I tend not to get into downtown much.

Anyway, when I was looking on Trip Advisor (where I tend to look when we are out of town) I noticed the following listed as the number one best restaurant - Vernick Food and Drink - but I don't really remember reading much about it here. Maybe I have just missed it but I was wondering if anyone has been? Thanks in advance.

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  1. Definitely go! It's terrific--some of the more inventive cooking going on right now, and the kitchen really knows how to coax flavor out of everyday ingredients. I've reliably liked just about everything I've had there over my several visits (peas & bacon toast, tuna poke, uni & eggs, maitake, brussels sprouts, ravioli & whole chicken, for instance, are not to be missed).

    1. Quite a few people have, it's very good:

      http://www.chow.com/search?query=vern...

      I don't know about best in the city but it's definitely in my top tier. If you haven't been to Vedge, that's another great, new-ish place.

      1. Menu looks really great -- problem is I tried to get a reservation through May for a Saturday night and they were already booked (except for 5 pm or 9:30) so I will have to wait till they open reservations for June and try then.

        1 Reply
        1. re: arepo

          We were so anxious to go, we ended up going in for an early dinner. The nice thing was that the noise level was perfect for having good conversation. And the food did not disappoint. I had the peas and bacon toast, the poke and the veal cheeks. Was great.

        2. For those still searching this board for info about Vernick, I want to share that my husband and I went there for the first time last night to celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary. The experience was wonderful. The food was delicious. I would go back in a heartbeat. I highly recommend it!

          1. We went to Vernick back in June for our anniversary and thought it was excellent. Every dish was delicious and fresh and the service was great as well. Some stand outs were the pea and bacon toasts and the tuna poke.

            6 Replies
            1. re: b1979

              Vernick is killer.

              If you can, get a seat at the kitchen counter. Plus, that room has a manageable noise level. The upstairs may be the noisiest space in Philly.

              1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                wow... that's saying something. there are some seriously noisy restaurants here.

                  1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                    If the window is open it is not as noisy. I find Amis, among other locations to be noisier. I never had an issue at Vernick where it was so loud the server got the order wrong because she couldn't hear. I had that happen at Amis.

                    1. re: cwdonald

                      The one time I was at Amis it wasn't noisy at all. But I guess the key there is that it was just one time.
                      Audrey Claire is probably the loudest I've been to. But some of the Starr restaurants are up there, too.

                      1. re: Bob Loblaw

                        I think you're absolutely right about not basing anything on one visit. When we were at Vernick on a Friday night in June, we sat by the window upstairs and had a peaceful, quiet meal. Evidently, we shouldn't base our future expectations on that one visit though.

            2. Go, Absolutely. Certainly in the upper echelon of Philly restaurants. I've greatly enjoyed all three of my visits and look forward to another very soon.

              1. Just to chime in here, but my wife and I dined at Vernick's for the first time tonight and I'd put it up right there at the very top of Philadelphia restaurants.

                We had an excellent experience, found the wait staff and the ambiance just divine, and the food was extremely flavorful without being overly heavy or too pretentiously gourmet.

                We were treated to an excellent amuse bouche, which was a sweet potato soup with a touch of maple syrup. It was as good as it sounded.

                I started with the Island Creek Oysters with a citrus sauce. I loved them; perfect size, a touch briny for flavor, but complemented so well with the spicy citrus sauce.

                I then had the Chili-Glazed Octopus with shaved endives. OH MY. I've been on an octopus kick after reading Honey Olives and Octopus, and this one was right up there with Kanella's in terms of tenderness, except the Chili glaze was a little more interesting to me in that it had a nice char and a certain bite that made what can otherwise be an interesting, yet not exactly flavorful crustacean really pop. The endives worked perfectly to balance the dish.

                i should add that my wife did the Grilled Heart of Romaine with figs and cheddar cheese, and we both were huge fans. The grilling made this otherwise "salad" extremely interesting.

                My large plate was the Grilled Black Sea Bass with the "fiery" tomato sauce, which wasn't that fiery however extremely fresh and tasty. The sea bass was light and perfectly cooked, except maybe lacking in the flavor punch department relative to the chili-glazed octopus. There were broccoli florets with the sauce, which added a nice touch of green to the plate.

                We had two vegetable accompaniments. First off, the Brussels Sprouts. You have to get these. They're roasted with some sweet chili-like sauce and even have some grapes in for a little more sweetness, but it works so perfectly and the skins of the of Sprouts and the juiciness of the red grapes are again divine. We did a the Cremini Mushrooms, which our server said was the first night on the regular menu. They were very good, however, served at room temperature so maybe not quite as savory as the Brussels Sprouts. I heard some other table oohing and awwing over the Cauliflower for future reference.

                Finally, the desserts were outstanding. We had the Artisan Cheese Plate (a light Brie from New York), which came with a sweet bread, candied walnuts, and a fruit preserve. The cheese was sizable (maybe 3 ounces), and it was a welcome relief to focus on one excellent cheese rather than moving through 3 - 6 lackluster cheeses as I've had to endure at some other restaurants recently.

                My wife asked for some (non-sweet) bread or baguette to go with the cheese in addition to the sweet bread, since she's French and serious about this sort of thing. They brought her their sourdough, which is their only bread. The bread itself is good but they had drizzled olive oil on it despite it being for the cheese course! The horror!

                Luckily, we were engorging ourselves on the real standout, the Date Cake with Coconut Gelato. Another must-have item. The cake was absolutely delicious without being overly heavy or greasy and the coconut gelato was sweet, fruity, and perfectly delectable to pair with the moist date cake.

                Good wine list and some interesting cocktails. I like the bar scene downstairs, although the upstairs dining room is very comfortable and well appointed and IMO better suited for the dining pair.

                4 Replies
                1. re: dndicicco

                  Having finally copped a hard-to-get rez, I am grateful to you for this fine review.
                  Now I have something positive to look forward to.
                  We were concerned about the many noisy upstairs comments and made our rez for the bar area. Did we do wrong?

                  1. re: arepo

                    I did not find the upstairs noisy. We were seated in a corner spot by the windows on a Saturday evening, so maybe we were slightly cloistered although it was definitely hopping. Every table was full and there was even a little baby. ;)

                    My impression was the downstairs bar area was quite a bit louder and very packed. Is there a back room I'm missing?

                    1. re: dndicicco

                      There is a back room downstairs, where the chef's counter and some tables are located. That is the quietest.

                      Were the windows open when you were upstairs?

                      1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                        They were closed. I had a feeling there was a back room -- must be awesome! I loved everything really.

                2. Another great meal last night at Vernick's bar. Octopus special was amazing. Simple ingredients well done. Zucchini, nectarine, octopus. Ice cream sandwich so good I had two :) Ice cream between meringue "cookies". Attentive service. What's not to love?

                  Plus watching mixologist Vince is always a treat.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Seeker19104

                    We are going for the first time Saturday. Based on these reviews, I can't wait!

                    1. re: JanR

                      I love Vernick for the down-home cooking.
                      I do not happen to prefer the ambience. Just too much going on in a small area for me.
                      But that will not stop me from going. It's too good to miss so I will bite the bullet and ignore the plethora of activity and sit back and enjoy.

                  2. Ate there a couple of weeks ago. The sea urchin over soft scrambled egg was decadent, as was the pasta special of cacio e pepe with shaved truffle.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: sadiefox

                      Those two dishes sound right up my alley. Yum.

                    2. We finally went last night. Wow, was it good! Our server, Ethan, was wonderful to. Favorites: sea urchin over scrambled eggs and the blueberry pie.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: JanR

                        We love the place too and their chicken is to die for, but was wondering how was the noise level on a Saturday night?

                        1. re: arepo

                          It was pretty quiet. However, we were there early and in the back room near the kitchen. Very nice area btw.

                          1. re: JanR

                            Yes, that's the room we also were in and found it more tolerable (on a Friday night)
                            Thanks