Restauarant Chatter and Table Hopping

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MainLineThoughts's picture
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Joined: 2008-05-11 :48
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Time for a little restaurant chatter.....

When Carmine's Creole opened the FIRST time, it was in Havertown and I was a devotee. I was one of the faithful who followed them to Narberth even if parking was a nightmare and I had to wait forever to be seated.

But when Carmine's moved to Bryn Mawr near to the filthy Bejing Inn they lost me. The prices were too high and it seemd that as a customer I was paying way too much for the owner's shiny new liquor license. Now the music has been good there, but the food, well along with the high prices, the food has lost some of it's mojo. I think it was best when it was a BYOB. But then again I prefer BYOBs because as a diner I do not have to run the gauntlet of drunks at the bar to be seated for dinner...and that is indeed the case here at times.

I opened my Sunday paper to the news that the owner has a new place in Philthadelphia, so I ask all of you: will it be exit stage left for Carmines in Bryn Mawr, or will they stay?

Les Bons Temps
Chef John Mims brings Big Easy to Center City, and the good times roll with openers and desserts; entrees need some tuning up.
By Craig LaBan
Inquirer Restaurant Critic

It doesn't take much imagination to step from the Center City sidewalk into a piece of the French Quarter. Just give a little blink as you stroll down 12th Street north of Sansom, pull the door handle, and head into Les Bons Temps.

Inside the elegant facade, where the name of a long-gone florist, H.H. Battles, is still scrolled in stained glass above the door, you could be inside a Bourbon Street Creole palace...At the very least, you can get a lusty bowl of good mahogany-brown seafood gumbo, or an addictive pile of deep-fried eggplant sticks tossed, down-home-style, with Tabasco and powdered sugar. That's because there is a real New Orleanian presiding here now: John Mims.

Perhaps that reflection of his native town in this classic Philadelphia space - its 80 years as a florist followed by a long string of eateries - is what called to Mims like a homing beacon. Because the ever-restless restaurateur swears he's looking to settle in.

That may be a surprise to those who've seen Mims as a man in perpetual motion since he first rose to prominence as the region's most reliable New Orleans chef nearly a decade ago at the popular BYOB Carmine's Creole Kitchen, in Havertown. Every couple of years or so, he'd move Carmine's to a bigger new location, first to Narberth, then to Bryn Mawr, where, since arriving a year ago, he said the long-desired acquisition of a liquor license hadn't been all it was cracked up to be.

The bigger locations haven't always translated into better cooking, either, judging by a sloppily cooked brunch I ate in Bryn Mawr this year. But the chance to actually own his own building prompted Mims to also take on this venture downtown.

While in Bryn Mawr, let's dish about Blush. Have you dined at Blush? Sometimes I enjoy it, sometimes I don't. Being uneven as a restaurant must be a Bryn Mawr thing. (It was uneveness of food and service and a ridiculously overpriced wine list that made me leave Tango...and Tango is another example of having to hang with bar drunks while waiting for a table.)

I think that Blush has promise, but sometimes when I have dined there I wonder if someone is using new math to calculate the bill. I also feel that dining at Blush would be a more memorable experience if you didn't have to move a huge curtain to get to the unisex bathroom on the first floor and if the valet parking attendants weren't like the gestapo. Just because a restaurant HAS valet parking, it doesn't mean you have to valet park. If they have public spaces you should be able to use them without being harassed by a valet.

One thing that everyone should try? Sola in Bryn Mawr just at Haverford border across from the Acme. Now this is a BYOB that is worth it. And the people are nice. It would be terrific of the abandoned gas station next to it was a municipal parking lot instead of a slop storage thing for foodsource. Try their prix fix Chef's Tasting Menu midweek. It's a steal and quite delish.

Now, onto another local restaurant curiousity, and let me preface it with there is NO comparison between Fellini Cafe in Ardmore and any other Main Line Restaurant mentioned here. Fellini is in a classless class by itself. It's a slop house. Fellini's has bait and switch and a shifty obnoxious owner named Pinot or something. if Pinot were a bottle of wine, I would say he was corked.

Fellini Cafe serves huge portions (you basically get your own 1 lb box of pasta with each order), and heaven forbid you wish to share. That's a price gotcha.

And the food? The food is not true Italian (and in Ardmore you can check out Cafe San Pietro for more authentic cusine with less games - Cafe San Pitro is awesome, just be wary of the overpriced carafes of wine) Fellini Cafe is more like upscale Pizza Hut meets Carrabas or whatever that chain is called. Whether or not the pasta is actually homemade is also debatable - the owner is seen on occasion buying pasta in the grocery store in bulk. So is Mama Celeste in the back? Doubtful. And Mama wouldn't leave her trash in such a state behind the restaurant next to the parking lot, either.

Fellini also crams in too many tables so you dine with strangers in your plate and in your personal conversations. Outside isn't much better - they are supposed to have at least 4 feet of clearence on the sidewalk, yet on any given warm weather evening if you are a pedestrian, you have an obstacle course. That shouldn't be. It's a hazard. The number of tables inside is a rabbit warren and hazard as well. God forbid there would be a fire.

Fellini Cafe is also not so clean, and the owner doesn't police the BYOB drunks, nor is he mindful that some of his diners might be a little young to be consuming adult beverages at dinner. When dining at Fellini, rumor has it check your credit card bill when it arrives if that is how you pay, and isn't THAT inconvenient? Mistakes happen, but check it out....

Fellini Cafe would be doing Ardmore a favor if it closed. IHop is probably cleaner and that isn't saying much.... I have no idea if Fellini in Paoli is the same owner, but believe it is. Have no clue about the one in Downingtown. But they are probably the same owner given what someone sent me from Montco court dockets:

Case Number Party Name Party Type Commenced Case Type Caption Plaintiff Caption Defendant Judgement Lis Pendens Status Parcel Number
Select 2006-21879 FELLINI CAFE INC D 8/29/2006 Certification of Judgment KLEHR HARRISON HARVEY BRANZBURG & ELLERS LLP FELLINI CAFE INC Yes No 2
Select 2006-29292 FELLINI CAFE INC D 11/21/2006 Complaint in Conf. Of Judgment 31 E LANCASTER INC FELLINI CAFE INC Yes No 1
Select 2006-29292 FELLINI CAFE D 11/21/2006 Complaint in Conf. Of Judgment 31 E LANCASTER INC FELLINI CAFE INC Yes No 1
Select 2007-07493 FELLINIS CAFE OF PHILA INC D 3/29/2007 Certification of Judgment LEONES MEATS INC FELLINIS CAFE OF PHILA INC Yes No 4
Select 2007-18109 FELLINIS CAFE INC D 7/30/2007 Lien Commonwealth of PA PENNA DEPT OF REV FELLINIS CAFE INC Yes No 6
Select 2007-22689 FELLINIS CAFE OF PAOLI INC D 9/14/2007 Certification of Judgment CINTAS CORP FELLINIS CAFE OF PAOLI INC Yes No 1
Select 2007-25360 FELLINIS CAFE INC D 10/16/2007 Lien Commonwealth of PA PENNA DEPT OF REV FELLINIS CAFE INC Yes No 6
Select 2007-27197 FELLINIS CAFE INC D 11/1/2007 Lien Commonwealth of PA PENNA DEPT OF REV FELLINIS CAFE INC Yes No 6
Select 2007-28717 FELLINI CAFE INC D 11/20/2007 Appeal from District Justice H&H HEATING & AIR CONDITIONING FELLINI CAFE INC No No 2
Select 2007-31960 FELLINIS CAFE INC D 12/21/2007 Lien Commonwealth of PA PENNA DEPT OF REV FELLINIS CAFE INC Yes No 6
Select 2008-07744 FELLINIS CAFE INC D 3/27/2008 IRS Federal Lien United States Internal Rev FELLINIS CAFE INC Yes No 6
Select 2008-13540 FELLINIS CAFE INC D 5/20/2008 IRS Federal Lien United States Internal Rev FELLINIS CAFE INC Yes No 1

So where are all of you dining or not dining on the Main Line and why?

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