There was no doubt about it. I knew Parc (shit music autoplay alert!) was a completely uninspired choice for a meal, especially given Philadelphia's phenomenal food scene. But, it was our first afternoon in Philadelphia, we had just rolled into town, it was a beautiful day, we wanted to sit outside, the idea of a seafood tower was appealing, and we were staying in the Rittenhouse Square area. Given this set of circumstances, Parc seemed as good a choice as any.
Thinking about it, I can't recall a time that we've been in Philly and not stopped into Parc. Typically for a drink and to take a load off. A lively and large Parisian-style bistro, outdoor seating for as far as the eye can see, with a great view of Rittenhouse Square, there's much to draw your attention to this Stephen Starr restaurant. As much as I try to avoid Starr restaurants, as to my mind they are cookie-cutter contrived affairs--and some are--, they tend to be well-run and can be quite decent. Parc seems to be no exception in this regard.
With no seats available outside, the hostess took my cell number and said she'd text when one opened up. Perfect. We went next door to Devon Seafood Grill, which I have come to learn is a small chain, to have a drink. I've had some food and drinks here in the past, and thought it was just fine for what it is. Anyway, before we could order a drink the text came in from Parc, so back we went to claim our spot facing Rittenhouse Square.
This is riveting stuff here, I know. I'll get on with it.
But first, a cocktail....
I started off with a "Le Cheval," which has Old Overholt Rye, lime juice, "Parisian spice syrup," Ginger beer, and egg whites. Ordered sans egg whites, as egg whites, to my nose, take on the essence of wet dog very quickly. This is a very unappealing odor, especially when you're smelling it right before every sip of a cocktail. This, with the help of my tweak, was a perfectly fine cocktail, and just what I was looking for.
The bread basket was just wonderful. A baguette, some grainy raisiny thing, some sourdough. All good. Very good, in fact.
The seafood tower runs about $65, and I think that's a fine value for the amount of food. We're not fans of raw clams, and they substituted shrimp in their place. The missus doesn't love shrimp cocktail, but I do, so I had about 8 on my own. Also included were some snails, king crab, lobster, some other kind of crab, scallop ceviche, mussels, and several small, briny east coast oysters (I could have eaten two dozen of these). Served with mignonette, fresh horseradish, cocktail sauce, and some spicy remoulade.
The oysters were handled properly, with the delicious liquor intact. Imagine our shock and horror when we noticed a young woman next to us dumping the liquor out of her oyster shells and REPLACING IT WITH COCKTAIL SAUCE. Kids these days.
Service was fine, if a little slow to refill our wine glasses (we ordered a carafe of house white, which was bright and acidic and perfect for the oysters). In fairness, we were realllllllly thirsty, and no single human could be up to the task of keeping me refilled.
You could do a lot worse than Parc for a quick, casual meal. I have a feeling I'll return yet again, contrived, cookie-cutter or not.
Parc Restaurant, Bistro & Cafe : 227 S. 18th Street : Philadelphia, PA : 215.545.2262
Here's a bonus pic of dogs.