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Preview: Inquirer Columnist - Craig LaBan

Dining Critic Craig LaBan

The Inquirer's Dining Critic

Published: Fri, 21 Jul 2017 15:40:25 GMT2017-07-21T15:40:25Z

Copyright: Philadelphia Media Network

Savona, in remaking its image from fine-dining to more casual, forgets the fundamentals

Fri, 21 Jul 2017 15:40:25 GMT2017-07-21T15:40:25Z

This old standby may well have the right idea in where it needs to go in order to remain relevant. But to get there, they need to start with the fundamentals.

Surprising Silk is a unique PA wine true to its name

Thu, 20 Jul 2017 19:26:30 GMT2017-07-20T19:26:30Z

Silk is a Pennsylvania rosato made from an unusual blend of Italian grapes whose chameleon-like versatility is part of its magic and a testament to the mastery of terroir at Avondale's Va La Vineyards,

From meatballs to pho and carnitas, Chick's reflects the changing flavor of Washington Ave.

Thu, 20 Jul 2017 13:43:48 GMT2017-07-20T13:43:48Z

With a nod to the old-school Italian roots that persist in South Philly, including a name steeped in local mob history, Chick's embraces the diverse flavors that have bloomed in recent years to become a casual hub for the gentrifying neighborhoods that surround it.

Cheese of the Month: Graskaas young Gouda is all about that spring milk

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 18:15:57 GMT2017-07-18T18:15:57Z

Beemster's month-old Graskaas is all about the extra-creamy milk drawn the first week of spring, when cows get to graze on pasture for the first time after a long winter in the barn.

The chicken or the egg…or CHEGG beer?

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 17:41:43 GMT2017-07-18T17:41:43Z

When this Beach Haven brewery pays homage to the wing sauce at the famous local brunch place, the result is a beer that is a little hot, sweet, and hoppy.


Fri, 14 Jul 2017 00:33:08 GMT2017-07-14T00:33:08Z

CHICK'S 1805-7 Washington Ave., Philadelphia 19146, 215-546-2233; Everything behind the roll-up garage door walls of this cavernous new restaurant, pizzeria, and bar is so unlikely - from the converted warehouse location on industrial Washington Avenue, to the multi-culti comfort food updates, to the underworld history

It's the season for saison with fruity funk at Free Will Brewing Co.

Thu, 13 Jul 2017 21:42:34 GMT2017-07-13T21:42:34Z

A sour beer treasure of 1,500 barrels ages in the cellar beneath Perkasie's Free Will Brewing Co. Its current release, Provisional Funk w/Cherries, features the ripe flavors of last season's Pennsylvania harvest fermented into an earthy saison brewed from local malt.

Real food on the Boardwalk? The Hula delivers again

Wed, 12 Jul 2017 16:25:03 GMT2017-07-12T16:25:03Z

When I hit my pizza quotient on the boardwalk, I crave a grilled ahi plate and a trip to the Hula Restaurant and Sauce Co., the Hawaiian-inspired seafood grill that has been a safe haven of fresh and affordable cooking in Ocean City for 17 seasons.

Hot smoked salmon from Margate's BBQ pit

Tue, 11 Jul 2017 20:04:02 GMT2017-07-11T20:04:02Z

If barbecue is regional, its no surprise that the Margate farmers market's Downbeach BBQ has supplied its large Jewish clientele with some outstanding hot-smoked salmon.

Craig LaBan reviews this summer's offerings at the Jersey Shore

Mon, 10 Jul 2017 20:42:16 GMT2017-07-10T20:42:16Z

Where to eat from Wildwood to LBI, from dockside delights (and disappointments) to fresh tacos and beer, seafood, and Italian BYOBs.

Old-school square pizza pops up at the Shore

Thu, 06 Jul 2017 16:30:24 GMT2017-07-06T16:30:24Z

At the Shore, where there's already more pizza than necessary and in every style imagined, the Trenton-style square pizzas from Maggpie's Pizza pop-up in Ocean City still represent something unique - a handmade homage to simplicity and good ingredients that draws on family recipes being sold the public for the first time in 40 years.

Dining at the Shore on A.C.'s timeless recipe: Big-name casino chefs, old-school Italian flavors, and fresh booze

Thu, 06 Jul 2017 14:11:31 GMT2017-07-06T14:11:31Z

After a few low-key years on the glitzy new-restaurant front, A.C.'s casino kitchens are back this summer with some big names. But the best meal might be found at one of the city's beloved independent Italian classics that just underwent a makeover.

From pupusas to palm flowers in Upper Darby's Salvadoran kitchen

Thu, 29 Jun 2017 17:11:38 GMT2017-06-29T17:11:38Z

You can literally eat around the world by circling the block of Upper Darby's Terminal Square. El Cuscatleca, one of the area's only Salvadoran restaurants, is worth a stop for pupusas, pastelitos, cheese-stuffed palm flowers and more.

At the Shore, a wave of new restaurants

Thu, 29 Jun 2017 16:48:05 GMT2017-06-29T16:48:05Z

Some big names have opened notable new projects along the coast.

Mica gets fresh start under talented new owner-chef in Chestnut Hill

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 14:55:11 GMT2017-06-22T14:55:11Z

The best restaurant in Chestnut Hill has gotten even better thanks to an ownership change that through seemingly small modifications - going BYOB, improving food value, adding the spontaneity of weekly themed tasting menus - has transformed Mica from a special occasion destination into a more neighborhood-oriented gem. Most importantly, it's a showcase for one of the city's brightest new culinary talents in owner-chef Yianni Arhontoulis.

Enjoying a Zep, the South Philly hoagie’s Norristown cousin

Tue, 20 Jun 2017 20:53:47 GMT2017-06-20T20:53:47Z

As the jury entered their final excruciating hours of deliberations in the Cosby sexual assault trial last week, the mood among my colleagues in the press was decidedly tense. And then I arrived with two giant bags of Zeps, Norristown's signature hoagie cousin: "the best part of the entire two weeks."


Fri, 16 Jun 2017 13:00:55 GMT2017-06-16T13:00:55Z

Mica 8609 Germantown Ave., 267-335-3912; The best restaurant in Chestnut Hill has gotten even better, thanks to an ownership change with seemingly subtle modifications. Going BYOB, improving food value, adding the spontaneity of weekly themed tasting menus has transformed Mica from a special-occ

Cutlet lovers rejoice: this stack at Cotoletta is for you

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 15:44:26 GMT2017-06-15T15:44:26Z

The cutlet stack - part chicken, part eggplant, part sausage-stuffed long hot pepper - is essentially a Double Down for the red gravy set. Gimmicky? Yes. Deliciously irresistible? That, too.

At members-only Palizzi Social Club, South Philly's Italian American food history thrives again

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 15:42:02 GMT2017-06-15T15:42:02Z

From the art deco bar in front to the vintage cigarette machine and signed black-and-white photos of boxer Rocky Marciano, Palizzi looks and feels like a South Philly time capsule that's come alive again. "A lot of restaurateurs come up with concepts like this," said chef owner Joey Baldino. "But this isn't a concept - this is the real thing."

Uncork a Rock Wall zin and light the grill

Mon, 12 Jun 2017 23:02:13 GMT2017-06-12T23:02:13Z

Not only does this zinfandel gain a century-plus worth of complexity from hanging on 126 years old, it was farmed by an 96-year-old farmer in Contra Costa County. Add the experience of the Rosenblums' Rock Wall Wine Co., and this red delivers a powerful depth paired with freshness and balance. Perfect for grilling season.