a.bar, which has a very limited food menu (but includes oysters and pickles) and extensive booze menu, is located on Rittenhouse Square, two doors down from a.kitchen, which is a full-service restaurant. Both are extremely well-run, with excellent staff both in the kitchen and the dining room.
The cocktails at each restaurant are as good as you'll need. The food at both restaurants is always excellent. Indeed this visit, the oysters at a.bar were so good that all other oysters consumed over the next few days paled in comparison. The burger at a.kitchen, well, it was perhaps in the top 5 burgers that I've ever eaten.
I believe the oysters were Wellfleet on this day at a.bar. During happy hour they were $1.50 each. A steal. The shells came out full of liquor, and the oysters were served appropriately chilled. Fantastic clean flavor, super-briny (my preference), and just perfect in every way. The mignonette at a.bar packs a wallop, and just a drop or two is all you'll need. I was fine just slurping these things down with no additions whatsoever.
Philadelphia has no shortage of good burgers, and we had been on a bit of a mission to find one. I really enjoy spending time at Village Whiskey, so we were thrilled to get a spot at the bar one afternoon. The burger, unfortunately, was not very good. Downright awful. The bun was way too big for the burger, and the meat was under-seasoned and near flavorless. We were really disappointed with the burger at Village Whiskey this visit (I've enjoyed the burger here in the past, but have never been blown away). Thankfully, a.kitchen had just what we needed...
Village Whiskey burger. Bun too big. Under-seasoned. Disappointing.
The next day we landed at a.kitchen for brunch, and a burger. Thankfully they have a burger on the brunch menu (why restaurants insist on serving waffles and eggs and bowls of fruit is beyond me).
We kicked it off with a few cocktails. a.kitchen does a great job with the booze.
Much to my surprise, the fried chicken was some of the best fried chicken I've had. I'm not sure if they're doing some sort of sous vide, or confit, or what, but the leg I was able to wrestle from my wife's fingers was the most tender, moist, and delicious chicken leg I've ever had the pleasure of stealing. I was really blown away. Topped with some calabrian chili (spicy Italian chilis in oil), and atop a smoked onion and pancetta gravy that tasted like the most incredible onion tip you've ever had. The chicken didn't need that gravy at all, however. It was perfect on its own.
If that wasn't enough, the burger, as I noted above, was par excellence. It simply put the Village Whiskey burger to shame. It was in a different class. It was actually good. No, not good, great. The meat was beefy and assertive, and juicy as all get out. Was that a hint of dry-aged flavor that I detected? I think it could have been. Just enough to perfume the meat and remind you that you're chewing on an animal. The bun was appropriately (perfectly) sized for the burger (why is this such a difficult thing for restaurants?). The house-made pickles adding a bit of crunch and acid, right along side of the bit of lettuce dressed with mayo.
Everything about this burger was perfect. I'd drive an hour for this burger. I drove two as it was, but if I lived an hour away, I'd jump in the car regularly.
Any number of lists on blogs and websites will claim that there are great burgers around Rittenhouse Square, at Rouge and Village Whiskey and Dandelion and any number of places. If those lists aren't including the burger at a.kitchen, they are missing the mark, and the writers should be ridiculed, publicly.
The breakfasty potatoes were also outstanding. Crunchy, creamy, light and airy.
I recalled that we have had a burger and chicken at a.bar (rather than a.kitchen) in the past, so for shits and giggles I figured I'd see what I thought back then. Consistent, or perhaps predictable, I am. And thankfully so are a.bar and a.kitchen.
a.kitchen : 153 S. 18th Street : Philadelphia, PA