Friday, July 31, 2015

Craig LaBan

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I joined the Inquirer as its restaurant critic in 1998, after a stint covering the food beat for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans. Having eaten about 500 restaurant meals a year here ever since, I never cease to be amazed by the diversity and sophistication of Philadelphia's kitchens. To travel from its many authentic ethnic neighborhoods to the gastronomic temples of Walnut Street to its beery gastropubs, cozy BYOBs and multitude of greasy-but-great steak joints, is to know this town delivers satisfaction at every level of the food chain. Including online dish.

Live chat: Join Craig at 2 p.m. on Tuesdays in the chatroom.

Book: The Philadelphia Inquirer Restaurant Guide is available through our online store.

4 Bells: According to Craig, the best restaurants in the Philadelphia area.

Bar men will brag, so I was skeptical at Brendan Hartranft's claim. But the jolly fellow tipping back a stout one seat over from me at Strangelove's - Jim Robertson, the brewmaster of Wells & Young's in Bedford, England - confirmed it. A 2009 drinking session with Hartranft (and Dogfish Head's Sam Calagione) had indeed inspired him to resurrect the iconic John Courage Imperial Stout: "a lifelong ambition," he said.
It only took a couple thousand years, but the flavors of Xi'an, home to the "Terra-cotta Army" and the origin of China's ancient Silk Road, have finally wended their way to Philadelphia.

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