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January 14, 2010

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Columnist’s ‘Best Restaurants’

(The restaurants and photos are listed randomly, not in any order of preference.)

Second of two articles

Photo A: Katie O’Conlan, at PTG restaurant, 6813 Ridge Ave. in Roxborough, is one of the most delightful and bubbly servers you will ever meet, and PTG is one of the best “unknown” restaurants in the city. (Photo by Len Lear)

Photo B: Old Guard House Inn owner/chef Albert Breuers with long-time employee Beverly Roessner, definitely one of the area’s best servers. (Photo by Len Lear)

Photo C: Italian restaurants come and go, but Portofino, which has been pleasing customers for 36 years at 1227 Walnut St., still is the Soup-er Bowl champ.

Photo D: Paul Roller is nothing if not opinionated. On the issue of employees doing what they are supposed to do, you will disagree with Paul at your peril, especially if he is holding cooking implements at the time. (Photo by Jimmy J. Pack Jr.)

Photo E: Bedros Kayserlian and Mt. Airy native Theresa Jonas (nee Vendetti), of Ambler, are managing partners of Theresa’s BYOB, a super one-month-old restaurant in West Conshohocken, just seconds from the Conshohocken exit ramp off the Schuylkill Expressway. (Photo by Len Lear)

•Roller’s Flying Fish, 8142 Germantown Ave. (at Hartwell Lane). According to former employees I have spoken to over the years, Paul Roller is probably the most difficult merchant in Chestnut Hill to work for. When I asked him a while back about his reputation as a tyrant, he replied, “This is not a popularity contest. The customers have to get what they’re paying for, and I have to make all employees understand that.”

One thing few would challenge is that Roller is an awesome chef who consistently turns out a great product for a very reasonable price. In fact, for several months, in addition to his regular menu he has been offering a special three-course menu for $19.95, and you may even bring your own wine! Fabulous! This usually includes Paul’s crab cake, tilapia and pecan pie (and many other choices), which are among Paul’s signature dishes. Considering the quality of the food, there is no better deal in Chestnut Hill. (Cafette, which is BYOB, has another great recession fighter — three courses for $20 on Wednesday and Thursday nights.) For many years Roller has also supported many community organizations and events through generous donations of food, time and supplies. For more information, visit www.rollersrestaurants.com or call 215-247-0707.

•PTG Restaurant: While having dinner at the three-year-old PTG restaurant at 6813 Ridge Ave. in Roxborough, you simply cannot believe you’re in a rowhouse working class neighborhood, less than one block from a ShopRite supermarket. The pretty, upscale, linen tablecloth BYOB with 65 seats and fresh roses on the tables has “center city” written all over it, with its classy, knowledgeable servers and sophisticated menu prepared by a Le Bec Fin alumnus, Mamadou Baradji.

At PTG Baradji always offers fabulous daily specials like short rib raviolis with a porcini mushroom sauce and lobster raviolis with a shrimp cream sauce — two of each of these feather-light delicacies for $10. Or a peerless, subtly sauced eggplant rollatini for $8. Or an entree of heavenly pan-seared scallops with mascarpone risotto and drizzled with grapefruit chiffon for $27. (I had thought chiffon was only for dresses, but apparently not.) And there are ridiculously decadent desserts like chocolate crème brulee and banana and nut fudge cake suffused with Jim Beam whiskey for $7.


Eggs and bacon, please, with a side order of guilt

“If you don’t get it, I’m going to squish it,” my wife Kara said last week, pointing at the stink bug that was quietly minding its own business on the living room wall. 

Kara takes advantage of my delicate sensibilities, knowing that she won’t have to stand up to remove a bug from the room if she threatens to kill it. This is especially true of the gadfly, the unfortunate insect that, although perfectly harmless, suffers the affliction of looking like a mosquito that could suck a Big Gulp dry. 


Some Phila. Art Museum exhibits not exactly uplifting

Are rearranged chicken parts artistic?

I finally broke down and joined the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Of course I wanted to support the city’s most recognizable and respected institution, but I also enjoy people watching, and I like the food in their cafeteria. I’ve been going about once a week since December.



Ear’s the story: New Year not off to very good start

•December 31: Today is the day I must find my mother’s diamond earrings. I swear they were on the coffee table last time I saw them, and I thought I had put them away. I’ve looked and looked and looked, but I can’t find them anywhere. There is only one thing to do.

I got some rubber gloves, spread newspaper on the patio and took the vacuum cleaner outside. If the earrings are in the vacuum cleaner bag, I’ll find them.


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