Little Lion – 3rd and Chestnut, Phila:
This is listed somewhere as one of the top-10 brunches in Philly. I’m not a big fan of brunch. I am a fan of lunch…also dinner…. I’d rather sleep in than eat breakfast. But my son is 23 and lives in Olde City and just about the only chance we get to share his company since he moved out is around “brunch time – 11:15am” on weekends, so brunch it is.
The text below labeled “rant” is not a reflection on this particular restaurant, but is marked off to indicate a personal food aversion. I include it because it affects my point of view toward a particular genre of meal and should not be interpreted as a negative toward this specific menu.
Among the primary reason I rarely eat before noon (aside from realizing that drinking that early will get you a reputation) is that I don’t like eggs… any kind of eggs. I won’t pick the scrambled ones out of fried rice, but aside from that, I will not intentionally consume them until they have matured into chickens as God intended. So I don’t like eggs, OK?
It’s hard to find many things on a brunch menu that doesn’t somehow FEATURE eggs… You have your omelettes, your fritattas, and you quiches etc. And THEN a perfectly acceptable dish like short rib hash and home fries is topped with GUESS WHAT !! I dislike making large scale substitution requests when a chef has designed a dish to contain certain ingredients.. I guess I COULD have ordered “Steak and Eggs.. hold the eggs” but it would not make for a fair review, IMO.
On to the dishes (sans egg) which we DID order. Stone Ground Grits, Sharp Cheddar, Vinegar Mustard, Greens, Bacon. EXCELLENT! I could eat these sweet/sour greens every day by themselves. Perfectly textured grits with cheese and bacon was the bonus plan.
Smoked Chicken Wings, Buttermilk Ranch, Celery & Carrot Slaw brought three ENORMOUS wings… they looked like turkey wings. Though they were tepid in temperature, they were not flabby (though not crisp.) As they were really SMOKED I have to assume that is done off prem, and they are warmed up before serving. They are coated in a very authentic and pretty spicy rub, and the smell of that (and wood smoke) stayed with me all day. I DID use the supplied wet-naps, bit for some reason, the memory lingered on for hours. Slaw was a minuscule portion, but VERY tasty.
Buffalo Chicken & Biscuits, Sausage Gravy, Potatoes : My son and I both ordered this dish. The ingredients by themselves were not extraordinary .. nothing Bob Evans or Cracker Barrel could not have done as well. It was the pairing of a buffalo sauced fried chicken breast with the biscuits and gravy that made for a unique and pleasurable combo of flavors. It was also quite filling. Potatoes were AWESOME big hunks of home fried goodness.
Smoked Turkey Sloppy Joe: – Smoked Free Range Turkey, Sweet & Spicy Tomato, Chilies, Bread & Butter Pickles, Grilled Onions, Sesame Brioche: My wife was not crazy about this. I guess she was expecting a different texture. The turkey was very coarsely ground and succulent. I would gladly order it, but that’s just personal taste at work.
The restaurant, like so many in Philly is housed in an old bank, and has two stories with two bars, and front and back rooms. It was PACKED at noon. I had made a reservation through OpenTable which had an 11:15 seat (but not an 11:00.) When I got there, the hostess could not find my reservation, but when I showed her the confirmation on my phone, she grudgingly seated us. I later found out that my reservation had been made for 11:00 PM, but it worked out because otherwise, it probably would have been booked. There was a line out the door.
Service, aside from the hostess, was very prompt, and almost TOO courteous in that Southern, fawning kind of way. Our waiter apologized three times for the 10 minutes it took for the entrees to arrive (and our expectations were not for immediate delivery.) Still better than uninterested service though, so I tipped well.
Next time I go, I think I’ll skip brunch and go for a later meal. Little Lion features good creative twists on American classics.