Emmanuelle

emmanuellephilly

Emmanuelle is a new spot in the Piazza in NoLibs, but bonus: it’s in the BACK (away from the noise and bustle of the front section of the Piazza).  It is a really cool little place, and we kind of hope it doesn’t get discovered because the quiet atmosphere and friendly staff make this place one of our current favorites.

The Drinks

THEY HAVE A PHO FLAVORED COCKTAIL RIGHT NOW! ’nuff said.

But seriously: Emmanuelle’s menu is intriguing, fun, and challenging in the best way.  Split into “The Entire Civilized History of the World” (classic cocktails) and “New Shit that has Come to Light” (original cocktails), the menu has a wide variety of drinks with a flavor profile for every palette.   At this point, I have sampled most of what I find interesting on the menu and I can safely say that I don’t see myself becoming disinterested with these flavors.  The complexity is really attractive to me – as a lover of flavorful, well-made foods, the obvious next step in my culinary advances is to become more adventurous in the drinks department.

Which brings me back to the Phở cocktail – you’ve probably read our posts showing my love of Asian noodles (here, and here), but I just wasn’t convinced about a cocktail with that flavor profile (not because I was unconvinced that it would be well-crafted, but because I genuinely don’t like “spicy” drinks most of the time). The bartender assured me that is was more “savory” than spicy (despite a float of Sriracha), and I am really glad I went for it.  Do you love Phở? Well, prepare to spend a lot of money at Emmanuelle while this is on the menu because it’s INSANE-ly tasty.  Seriously, go try it.  Right now.

Josh will probably also want to give a shout-out, since their house rye is Rittenhouse.  This place really was made for us.

Menu

The Snacks

They have a small sampling of bar snacks, which are just enough to help you fill your stomach with something other than alcohol. (But really, why would you want to?) We have tried their mixed nuts, which came in an adorable cut glass mason jar (catering to my love of cute, hipster-popularized vintage memorabilia) and were salty and herbaceous, a perfect complement to my cocktails.

The Design

I had a mentor in school who described his design style as “Modern Victorian.”  While this place is a pretty over-the-top interpretation of that, there’s not really a better way to describe it.  Emmanuelle is named for a French soft-core porn film (yeah, really) and the interior reflects that.  It is a darkly-lit, jewel-toned, and eclectically-styled interior with fun custom art pieces, damask wallpaper, and mirrored ceiling soffits. It’s really much classier than my words are making it sound – I promise.  Even Josh liked it, and it helped me to finally convince him the “eclectic” interiors really are a good idea, and that the Victorians knew where it was at (their over-stuffed rooms probably looked baller in lamp-light, while in our standard brightly-lit spaces they would feel overwhelming). My preferred mark of a well designed restaurant interior is that it matches the product, and Emmanuelle’s interior does that perfectly.

The Overall Experience

The bartender made a point to introduce herself at our first visit, a group of girls sitting next to us involved us in a conversation, and the barback got a bottle of gin down from the top shelf for our friend to look at because the bottle was recently redesigned.  The people here are super great, and even though we are probably not “cool” enough for Emmanuelle, we never feel like we aren’t welcome.

The Receipt

Cocktails of this quality should cost more than what they do at Emmanuelle – only $10 – $12 per drink (on the menu).  It still may not be an every-night-of-the-week place, but it’s definitely doable often.

Our Ratings

Drinks: 5/5 — (Remember how we tried to give Franklin Mortgage a 6/5? We can petition to do that again, right?)

Food: 5/5

Design: 5/5

Service: 5/5

Budget: 4/5

Overall Experience: 5/5

Will We Visit Again

We already have, and plan to do so again.

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Bar Ferdinand


Located on 2nd Street across from the Piazza at Schmidt’s, Bar Ferdinand draws its name from the bull in The Story of Ferdinand and that inspiration features heavily into the restaurant’s design and cuisine.  Scenes of Bullfighting and roses throughout the restaurant and the tapas, like the word itself, are definitively Spanish in origin.

The Drinks

The drinks are nothing if not interesting for their names, but like most cocktail menus at restaurants the options listed are for the ladies. There were some exceptions though and I ordered the Barcelona (Bulleit Bourbon, Licor 43, bitters, brandied cherries) which was just a really well-made Manhattan. I also ordered a Throwback Lager (Victory Brewing) on draft which was refreshing. Holly had the sangria and said it was quite good, but beyond that they did seem to have a large wine selection which makes Bar Ferdinand a great place for the wine and tapas crowd. Currently there is a gin drink in the cocktail line-up that sounds very intriguing as well so if you go, try the Seville (Tanqueray, Pimm’s, fresh muddled blueberries).

The Food

Tapas:

Almendras de Marcona

We started off with these lightly roasted marcona almonds. The sea salt and the olive oil made these a great snack while we had our first drinks and waited on food. I’m a sucker for any kind of roasted or spiced nuts at bars.

Plato de Queso & Surtido de Carnes

Two separate small plates that had to be paired together for maximum satisfaction. Charcuterie and cheese boards are one of the main reasons Holly and I go out to restaurants.  The cheese plate selections are seasonal, but the meats are always Serrano ham, chorizo, chorizo blanco, and lomo. Both selections came with specific jams, sauces, or spreads to compliment the flavors of the cheeses and meats and most importantly of all they actually gave us the correct amount of bread. One of the greatest disappointments when we go to a restaurant and order charcuterie is that often we only get 4 slices of bread off of a french loaf for an amount of charcuterie that requires double or triple that in an effort to skimp or to nickel and dime customers.

Cerdo Frito – Josh
Consisting of  slow fried pork, Mahon cheese, roasted peppers & onions,  with whole grain mustard this tapas sized sandwich had a flavor profile very similar to a cuban sandwich.  The bread was nice and crispy and the cheese was gooey and the pork had so much flavor.

Queso de Cabra Cocinado – Holly
Baked Caña de Cabra goat cheese, roasted garlic, honey, pinenuts, sage, toasted bread. Unfortunately we lost our notes on this one, but I remember Holly enjoying it at the time.

Dãtiles con Tocino

This was probably the favorite food item for both of us that night. A perfectly fried empanada filled with dates, bacon, cream cheese, honey and almonds.  This dish tasted like a rich and hot version of a baklava with some added smokiness from the bacon.  All the varying textures and flavors meshed and I would happily revisit Bar Ferdinand just to order some of these delicious empanadas again.

Dessert: Churro con Chocolate

I love churros, but when I say that I’m talking about the really commercialized giant sugary twists that you buy from little trucks in theme parks.  This was not that, but was more delicious and quite nice. The plate came with 5 or so perfectly cooked little churros about the length of a finger accompanied by a small dish of chocolate dipping sauce.  I’m not normally a big fan of chocolate but it was had great flavor and paired really well with the crispy churros.

Torrija de Manzana

Holly’s desert choice consisted of cider soaked fry bread, cinnamon ice cream and candied orange zest. This type of desert was right up her alley and I really enjoyed the taste I got of it as well.  The juicy crispness of the cider-bread was really complimented by the creamy cinnamon flavor of the ice cream with the candied orange zest making a nice edible garnish over the whole dish that added some flavor.

The Design

Ole!

Most theme restaurants leave me with feelings of being in Disney Land, without all of the magic.  Bar Ferdinand, however, is a classy take on a theme.  The restaurant is distinctly Spanish: from the bar adorned with dried roses reminiscent of those thrown to a successful Matador, to the Moorish-inspired gold leaf ceiling and arched doorways, to the warm golden hues in the tile mosaics on the walls.  The design is just right for a place that serves classy tapas, and it made me feel good about spending money on small plates.  The design was elevated and refined.  So was the food.  This is a mistake that so many restaurants make: either the decor is too casual/crazy for the prices, or the decor is so over-designed that it feels out of place.  It was refreshing to eat at a place that held in balance the ideas of their food and their decor as a unit, rather than trying to accomplish too many schemes in one small restaurant.

The Receipt

For just over 100 dollars (pre-tip) we got two drinks each, an appetizer, 5 different tapas plates, deserts for each of us and cappuccinos. You could get less and spend as much at Bar Ferdinand but there are lot of tapas options that are nearer to 5 dollars than 10 that let you experience more flavors for less with no loss in quality.

The Overall Experience

Bar Ferdinand had great service, a great look, and great food.  The seats were comfortable (gasp!), the lighting was perfect, and although the air conditioning was a little over-zealous, I couldn’t have been happier with the whole package at Ferdinand.

Our Ratings

Drinks: 4/5

Food: 5/5

Design: 5/5

Service: 5/5

Budget: 4/5

Overall Experience: 5 /5

Will We Visit Again: Yes.  While Bar Ferdinand didn’t have the greatest selection of drinks, the skill of the bartenders and the wide and well prepared selection of tapas more than made up for it.  The restaurant was pleasant and the service was excellent.

Visit Bar Ferdinand’s Website

Dos Segundos Cantina

Dos Segundos Logo

This charming little bar/restaurant is a Northern Liberties hot-spot, and not just because of the hipster-friendly décor and loud early 80’s punk soundtrack. Dos Segundos is exactly what we always expect of a Tex-Mex restaurant: bright, fun, delicious, and cheap! We even got to sit outside on this visit, which only added to the atmosphere. We must admit that the service may have been a little slow this time around, but we must forgive them because it was a Saturday night, and there was a wait of over an hour to get a table (after we sat down of course—we got the LAST table in the place!). We highly recommend Dos Segundos, and this is why:

The Drinks

I was very pleased with both the drink selection and my drinks. As you would expect they have a good selection of cervezas, but I did not come to a Mexican place to drink beer, Oh No, we’re talking tequila. In terms of just straight up tequila they have probably around 80 different bottles, as well as an offering of some very affordable flights focusing either on distillery, style, or region. I was intrigued, but as DD I held off and got some margaritas. Yes, you can get your adult slurpee margaritas here in a variety of flavors from passion-fruit to watermelon, but more importantly they have a dozen signature margaritas that are actual cocktails at only 7 dollars a glass. Its important to note that all of the specialty margaritas have a suggested upgrade that adds a better tequila if you so choose (most at around 10 dollars total). This time around I went with the well tequila, and while I don’t know what their well tequila is, it certainly is decent. I had the El Dorado (Tequila, Gran Marnier, lime, and pineapple juice) and the El Hevidor (Tequila, lime juice, and grapefuit soda). Both were well mixed and all the flavors balanced so  you could taste the tequila without it being overwhelmed by the fruit flavors.  Dos Segundos is definitely a place a would recommended for a guys night out or just drinks if you’re not hungry (though you may be later).

Drinks Menu

The Food

Before you even order, your waiter will provide you with free chips, salsa, and salsa verde. And these aren’t just some Tostidos and a can of Pace. The salsas are house-made and absolutely delicious, and the chips actually taste like the corn they are made from. The red salsa has a slight chipotle heat, and the salsa verde is fresh, bright, and actually tastes “green.” What great way to start a meal.  Also–if you go there for just drinks the chips keep coming (like the stereotypical peanuts or pretzels at a bar).

Appetizer: Nachos Pecunos

Pecunos may mean “small” in Spanish, but at Dos Segundos it means “big enough for 2-3 people.” I am afraid to even see the Grande size because the epic amount of deliciousness might be overwhelming. These nachos are heaping with cheese, beans, jalapenos, crema, roasted corn and your choice of proteins if you so desire. Somehow, even under this mess of tasty ingredients, the chips remain refreshingly crisp, and they are able to hold your inevitably huge scoops of tasty toppings all the way from the center of your table to your mouth.

Main Courses

Josh: Brisket Burrito (off the Specials menu)

I’d had a carne mechada burrito the first time I ate at Dos Segundos which was great, and when you order a burrito off the normal menu you can add specific ingredients to your liking (jalapenos, cheese, etc.). This was not that; this was magical deliciousness. The brisket was as good as brisket at a barbecue place and while the burrito had avocado and crema in it (both ingredients I usually prefer to go without) I was perfectly fine with it all. The burritos are huge and are a meal unto themselves. They must be eaten with a fork and knife–though this doesn’t stop them from wrapping it in tinfoil 3/4 the way up, as if a mere mortal could even attempt to eat this with their hands.

Holly: Carne Asada

This is off of the Platos Fuertes (main course) menu, and thus was a little pricier than most of their other items, but man was it worth it. A large spice-rubbed steak, topped with pico de gallo, pickled cactus, drunken beans, and fried sweet plantains. The steak was perfectly cooked (although if I were to order it again, I would take it medium rare rather than medium) and the spice rub was deep and flavorful—but not overtly “Mexican” in its profile. The drunken beans immediately made me say “MMMMMMMM” when I tasted them, and the pickled cactus was the perfect bright acidic bite to cut through all of the richness in the beans and the steak. The fried sweet plantains were soft and tasted almost like a caramelized banana, except slightly more savory. It was almost like my dessert came on the same plate as my meal! Now THAT is a good dinner.

Dessert: Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake

Okay, you’re probably thinking “What? No Tres Leches? No Sopapilla?” No. I (Holly) don’t like Tres Leches (and this makes me sad – Josh), and we will go back for the Sopapilla. Trust us on this: the shortcake is amazing! Tier upon tier of light yellow cake, layered with cream and strawberry jelly, topped with a rich chocolate shell and chocolate covered strawberries, with fresh blueberries (and they were amazing blueberries in of themselves. I grew up on Jersey roadside produce so I know – Josh) and strawberries on the side. It’s a good thing we decided to share this—our piece was easily an eighth of the whole cake and the was probably 6 inches tall.

And I’ll tell you a secret that’s even more amazing than the tastiness:

THE CAKE WAS VEGAN.  shhhh DON’T TELL

Yes. vegan. Besides the Tres Leches and Sopapilla which are made on-site, the variety of tasty cakes and desserts come from a local vegan bakery. Now, don’t go running for the hills. You would never know it were unless the waitress told you.  It was a great way to end a delicious meal.

Dinner Menu

The Design

If I was going to seriously review the design of a place like this, I would be required by my training and sensibilities to tear the décor apart. But that’s what’s so great about dives: they are SUPPOSED to be dive-y! Dos Segundos is too crowded, too loud, too uncomfortable, and kind of cheesy—and that’s why it’s so great. The sign itself looks like it’s been there for 100 years with peeling paint and barely readable text. The interior is swathed in primary colors that immediately let you know that your food is also going to be bright and fun. I especially love the bar, which looks like a mish-mash of wooden moving boxes they had left over slapped up on the wall. This industrial “non-design” look is very popular in Philadelphia right now, but it often isn’t right for the kind of food you will be eating. A 5-star restaurant that makes me to sit on a cheap wooden chair in low light next to an unfinished wall and then expects me to pay 100 per plate was not thinking their restaurant experience through. At Dos Segundos, the industrial no-frills interior is exactly where I want to be when I enjoy the best nachos I’ve ever had while drinking pitchers of sangria.

The Overall Experience

We mentioned earlier that the service was slow. This happened because our waiter missed our table, and we ended up being served by what seemed to be the head waitress. She was great—polite, well-spoken, and every time she came to our table and saw that we hadn’t received our orders yet, she immediately went to find out why. She even complimented Josh on his Street-Fighter reference t-shirt on our way out. She provided us with great service, considering she was probably managing a wait-staff and serving elsewhere in the restaurant as well.

Since we were sitting outside, it was not as loud as it sometimes is in the restaurant itself. This made it much easier to have a nice conversation. The people watching (and puppy watching) is also fabulous in Northern Liberties—and if you do happen to own a pooch, you’re welcome to bring him to sit outside, and the restaurant will treat him to a doggie biscuit! How sweet.

I hear tell that there is also Brunch offered every day.  We’ll have to make a return visit and report on that.  I’m sure that Dos Segundos is just as amazing for brunch as it is for dinner.

The Receipt:

And all of this great experience for less than $100. Our total was only $74 for the both of us to have drinks, appetizers, a full meal, and dessert. Dos Segundos is not only delicious, but completely budget-friendly.

Our Ratings

Drinks: 5/5

Food: 5/5

Design: 3/5 (Hey, it might be great for a dive, but it’s still a dive)

Service: 3/5 (We think this was an unfortunate mis-hap.  Our first visit our service was great)

Budget: 5/5

Overall Experience: 4/5

Will We Visit Again: Definitely, and you should, too because the specials change daily, and there is always something delicious to be offered up in the way of a ceviche, a taco, and a burrito.

Visit The Dos Segundos Website