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Preview: Inquirer Columnist - Craig LaBan

Dining Critic Craig LaBan

The Inquirer's Dining Critic

Published: Sat, 22 Oct 2016 15:07:28 GMT2016-10-22T15:07:28Z

Copyright: Philadelphia Media Network

Mission Taqueria, a cheerful spot with breezy tropical drinks and food better than it needs to be

Sat, 22 Oct 2016 15:07:28 GMT2016-10-22T15:07:28Z

The crowd surge, riding a wave of tequila drinks and foosball adrenaline, roared with such gusto as someone scored near the bar at Mission Taqueria that I thought I saw the illuminated blue halo flicker over the Virgin Mary.

Drink: Rotie Cellars Southern Blend 2011

Fri, 21 Oct 2016 13:05:34 GMT2016-10-21T13:05:34Z

Most people probably don't hear "Washington state" and think "South of France." But I've come to think of that corner of the Pacific Northwest, and in particular Walla Walla Valley, as producing some of the most compelling Rhône-style


Fri, 21 Oct 2016 00:27:14 GMT2016-10-21T00:27:14Z

MISSION TAQUERIA 1516 Sansom St., 2nd floor, 215-383-1200; The team behind the Oyster House has opened a boisterous Mexican cantina right upstairs that's become a lively addition to Sansom Street's burgeoning nightlife scene. With great tortillas made from house-ground masa and a wood-fired grill rooting its kitc

Craig LaBan: ITV, a casual sibling to Laurel, features creative small plates and smart cocktails

Thu, 20 Oct 2016 19:45:34 GMT2016-10-20T19:45:34Z

When Nicholas Elmi acquired a liquor license and the keys to the space right next door to Laurel, most people assumed his jewel box of a BYOB would simply double in size and evolve into a traditional full-service restaurant.

'A smart little South-meets-North riff' in Old City

Thu, 20 Oct 2016 14:35:51 GMT2016-10-20T14:35:51Z

Having spent some quality eating time in the South is both a blessing and a curse. Mostly, if you live in Philadelphia, it's a curse because so few local kitchens have a clue as to how those regional specialties should really taste. The new Lowcountry-the

Drink: In ITV's Drunken Farmer, a mystery ingredient

Mon, 17 Oct 2016 03:29:58 GMT2016-10-17T03:29:58Z

There are so many good things to drink at ITV, it can be hard to choose from the Basque ciders to biodynamic Austrian wines and grower champagne, and even a couple of sakes. But the small list of cocktails is also a good place to start, due to its crisp u

Craig LaBan: Aqimero at the Ritz-Carlton fails to capitalize on its spectacular space

Fri, 14 Oct 2016 06:39:02 GMT2016-10-14T06:39:02Z

The house music is thumping in the lobby. The chandeliers above us begin pulsing like a circuit is about to blow. And some jet-set diner's toddler is on a tear, squealing with delight as he runs an obstacle course through the half-empty dining room, tugging furiously at the 22-foot-long white curtains that hang between the staid columns at its edge.

Drink: Grignolino d'Asti Gianni Doglia

Mon, 10 Oct 2016 19:36:48 GMT2016-10-10T19:36:48Z

That moment when late summer shifts to fall is a transition time for wine, when foods begin to take on heartier shades but drinkers still cling – just a little bit - to the season's last beams of warmth.

Where did Craig LaBan eat last week?

Thu, 06 Oct 2016 02:51:15 GMT2016-10-06T02:51:15Z

Guess from these photos where Inquirer restaurant critic Craig LaBan ate this week. (Answers below.) 1. Zucca pizza

Craig LaBan's favorite Cobb salad in Philadelphia

Wed, 05 Oct 2016 14:54:43 GMT2016-10-05T14:54:43Z

I tend to think of Bud & Marilyn's for its no-holds-barred retro comforts, from the deep-fried cheese curds to buttered buns filled with lobster or spicy fried chicken to its fontina-stuffed meat loaf. But there's also a surprisingly veg-forward side to chef Marcie Turney's menu, even though I wouldn't go so far as to call it "light."

Blue Corn: From a Mexican family, 'a fine blend of style and authentic substance'

Sun, 02 Oct 2016 13:48:53 GMT2016-10-02T13:48:53Z

What color is your corn? Is it the iridescent white glint of Silver Queen, whose bursting sweetness reflects summer's ripe back stretch? Or the classic maize of fall, a season of earthy polentas? Or the milky stew of dried Cope's corn at the Thanksgiving table?

Meet the Clanger: Two delicious pies in one

Thu, 08 Sep 2016 14:50:29 GMT2016-09-08T14:50:29Z

My first reaction to the Bedfordshire Clanger at Stargazy was that it was one of the most delicious bizarre foods I'd eaten in a long time. I've never eaten anything ever quite like this.

South Helm in Pennsport carries the spirit of the original Kensington BYOB

Thu, 08 Sep 2016 14:49:43 GMT2016-09-08T14:49:43Z

As I drove beside the elevated stretch of I-95 that leads to Pennsport's heart, I had stuffed burrata on my brain. And I wondered: Could the Helm effect strike twice?

Drink: Piña colada for two

Mon, 05 Sep 2016 22:38:14 GMT2016-09-05T22:38:14Z

Philly's artisan spirit scene continues to steam along with another worthy new player. Red Brick Craft Distillery opened to the public in January in a rehabbed former widget factory in Kensington. But its more creative and aged spirits are only just debut

Another legit pizza contender in Fishtown

Thu, 01 Sep 2016 14:27:53 GMT2016-09-01T14:27:53Z

In a city of pizza riches, Fishtown already serves some of the best, from Wm. Mulherin's Sons to Pizzeria Beddia. Now there is Medusa.

Drink: Charles Gonnet Chignin

Sun, 28 Aug 2016 03:45:02 GMT2016-08-28T03:45:02Z

A long time ago, I went to work at a restaurant in Chambéry, France, and along the way discovered an entire class of refreshing alpine wines I'd never heard of before. Chignin? Roussette? These regional curiosities were hardly ever seen then, even in cosm

LaBan review: Fishtown's Root joins the foray into adventurous wines

Fri, 26 Aug 2016 16:14:36 GMT2016-08-26T16:14:36Z

The popularity of Fishtown and Kensington was initially built on gastropubs and beer. But as those neighborhoods north of Girard continue to evolve into one of the city's hottest dining zones, the area has suddenly become the epicenter of Philly's increasingly adventurous thirst for wine.

Chatting With Craig LaBan: New Philly players get national nods

Thu, 25 Aug 2016 02:37:22 GMT2016-08-25T02:37:22Z

Here is an excerpt from Craig LaBan's online chat: Craig LaBan: Congrats to all the Philly restaurants that got a shout-out from Bon Appétit's Andrew Knowlton in the magazine's recent best-of-America restaurant issue, including best new restaurant nods to South Philly Barbacoa (No. 5!?), Wm. Mulherin's (T

Beyond Pat's and Geno's: Straight-up advice on where to eat in Philly

Wed, 24 Aug 2016 14:36:05 GMT2016-08-24T14:36:05Z

You just ate a faux-colonial pot pie at City Tavern. You're trying to decide between Pat's and Geno's for your first cheesesteak. And where is that Bookbinder's place?

The Dutch, the latest addition to "Breakfast Street"

Sun, 14 Aug 2016 14:06:28 GMT2016-08-14T14:06:28Z

We might as well start calling it Breakfast Street. Because if there's a road in Philadelphia that does the morning meal better than Fourth Street, I haven't found it.