If you’ve been following me from the start you’ll remember a post in which I talked about having had a truly transformational Gin-tonic at ROOT Restaurant and Wine Bar in the Fishtown section of Philadelphia. I was there with my husband and we were sitting at the bar on a beautiful night in May. The large front windows were open to the street, the restaurant was full and busy, Fishtown was as crazy as ever, and I had the perfect drink sitting in front of me. The night was just getting started and suddenly I felt like it was going to be a great one. We’ve come back a number of times since that first night and I always feel that same positive vibe the minute we walk in. Do I have you wondering why? I hope so, because I’m dying to tell you.
Let’s start with the fact that every time we visit ROOT, we’re always greeted warmly and welcomed back by the hostesses (often by our first names). To me this sets the tone for the remainder of the experience you’ll have in any restaurant or bar. Then there’s the ambience of the space itself. The mid-century modern decor is gorgeous and perfectly on point from the patterned tile floor, to the sleek furnishings, the mirrors and lighting fixtures, the warm wood tones, and the overall color scheme. ROOT was just recently named one of Zagat’s Top Sexiest New Restaurants in Philly, and it’s certainly not hard to see why. In addition to the space being so sexy and gorgeous, it absolutely hums with the fluid efficiency of the wait staff, which is especially important because it’s not all that large. The floor is elevated in the back and the square bar is situated just off-center, making maximum use of the square footage and giving everything an open and airy feel. Once you’re comfortably seated at either a table or the bar, all attention turns to the beverage menu – my favorite moment of the night! On the cocktail list there are the 4 Gin-tonics, each with either Bluecoat or Beefeater gin and Fever Tree Mediterranean or Indian tonic water, depending on which combination you’ve chosen. These Gin-tonics are served over a minimal amount of ice in a smaller glass and have things like herbs, citrus, olives, and star anise built right into the drink. The aroma hits you as soon as you raise your glass and follows right through to your first sip and beyond. I had the opportunity to talk with Greg Root (who owns the restaurant along with chef Nick Kennedy) about the cocktails and wine selection. Root explained that each of the drinks on the menu is a subtle play on a classic. The Bourbon Sidecar swaps out cognac for whiskey, the Fishtown Mule brings in rhubarb bitters and grapefruit, the Furiosa is a fun spin on a Negroni with tequila and jalapeño syrup, and the Old-fashioned uses rum instead of the traditional bourbon. Each drink is measured with precision and care and it was abundantly clear that our bartenders, Aaron and Annie, took a great deal of pride in their craft, delivering cocktails that were consistently well-made from one to the next. I love the Furiosa (bottom right below) and my husband’s favorite is the Bourbon Sidecar (top right). To the left is, of course, the truly transformational Gin-tonic #1.
Since I was a wine educator before I became the Thirsty Camel, I was thrilled to hear Greg Root say that he wanted to create a wine list that is both fun and approachable, as well as one that always offers new and unusual selections like the Dry Scheurebe Pfeffingan from Germany. This is a wine that tastes something like a Riesling and one that I’d never had the chance to try before. It’s unfortunate that the wine list can often be the most intimidating part of a restaurant experience, but that is definitely not the case here at ROOT. There are brief descriptions that accompany the 20+ wines by the glass and the 33 by the bottle that give a clear idea of what each wine flavor profile is going to be. For example, the Bardolino is described as tasting like “strawberry jam, cinnamon and warm spices,” and the Baga Sidinio Desousa as “blackberries, mushrooms and leather.” If you order either of these wines then you know exactly what you can expect them to taste like. I have also found that the wait staff and the bartenders are both knowledgeable and helpful when it comes to choosing a wine, answering questions willingly and without the least bit of pretension.Not to be outdone by the beverage menu, the food menu at ROOT is just as exceptional. There are some smaller snacks that are a great way to get things started; pictured above are the mushroom croquetta and the fried chickpeas, both of which are outstanding. We have also enjoyed the warm olives, the anchovies, and the crispy potatoes with smoked paprika and aioli. There is also a selection of toasts, and options to build your own cheese and salumi board, another area where I found the wait staff to be extremely helpful. For the larger plates there are some hearty salad selections, 2 different burger options, pasta offerings like Spinach and Ricotta Gnudi with mushrooms, brown butter, and sage, and Black Cavatelli with rock shrimp, jalapeno, tomato, and scallions. We have had both of these pastas and they were excellent. There are nights when I dream about the Gnudi. My very favorite large plate is the Seafood a la Plancha with scallops, shrimp, squid, and lemon-aleppo vinaigrette, and my husband’s is the Spice Rubbed Lamb Chops with fingerling potatoes, lemon yogurt, and mint. Ahhh – just writing this post makes me wish I was at ROOT Restaurant right now. I know that I’ll be back very soon. Add it to your “must-go” restaurant list right away!
ROOT has a happy hour daily from Monday through Friday from 5-7 pm offering $5 snacks and toasts, $6 Sangria and wine specials, a $7 cheese and salumi plate, and $8 Gin-tonics. There is also a brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 10-2, and they’ve just added a series of 6 individual wine classes called Planet of the Grapes on Saturdays from 3-4:30 beginning on October 22nd. Click for more info.
ROOT Restaurant and Wine Bar 1206 Frankford Avenue Philadelphia, PA 215-515-3452
See you all tomorrow when we’ll be making our final tequila/mezcal cocktail of the week: Terrible Love, another amazing drink from Death & Co in NYC.