Kevin Sbraga of Sbraga restaurant on South Broad Street is planning his second restaurant, The Fat Ham, at 3131 Walnut St. in The Left Bank in University City.
In Part I, he let us in on a design meeting for the space, which he hopes to open in November.
In Part 2, the rubber hits the road.
You're a guy from Willingboro, N.J., opening a Southern restaurant in University City. You know about traditional Southern cuisine; it's in your blood.
But your concept is modern Southern. Today's fare. You need inspiration. You need schooling.
You need a road trip.
For the last week or so, Kevin Sbraga and an on-and-off crew of his dining room and kitchen employees - Colin Cook, Gabe Alcaraz, Aaron Gottesman, Vanessa Beahn and general manager Ben Fileccia - have been traversing the South.
Though Sbraga says New Orleans cuisine has been mined thoroughly (and he plans to make his own hot sauce), he felt obliged to visit the Tabasco factory in Avery Island, La., followed by a side trip to Lafayette, La., and the celebrated Johnson's Boucaniere, known for its Boudin sausage.
Next stop: Nashville, then down to Birmingham, where Satterfield's was an example of trendy dining.
Right now - as the demolition of The Fat Ham space begins back home in Philly - the Fat Ham-ers are eating their way through Atlanta. Next up are Columbia, S.C., and then Charleston, S.C., before they return Friday.
Life is good for a Top Chef.
Top culinary ambassadors in each city are leading Sbraga and the group to the best restaurants and suppliers. Nashville's itinerary was a who's who of old and new, rustic and trendy: Husk, Silo, Loveless Cafe, Bolton's Spicy Chicken & Fish, Swett's cafeteria, etc.
Sbraga was delighted with the duck hearts, corn salad and bone marrow served on smoldering charcoal at Husk. Bolton's hot chicken "blew me away," he said.
The group also sat for what turned into a masterclass on biscuits from Phila Hach at Hachland Hill.
Well into her mid-80s, the Tennessee woman explained different techniques and styles - buttermilk and butter; shortening; even orange juice and sour cream. "I never realized there was so much room to do so many different things" with biscuits, Sbraga said.
Stay tuned. Next week, Sbraga is hosting a little get-together in the new space on Walnut Street.