Michael Klein: The Mildred takes James' place on Eighth

The Mildred, open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday, lists 60 wines by the bottle, nine by the glass. The bar offers six beers on tap, plus cocktails.
The Mildred, open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday, lists 60 wines by the bottle, nine by the glass. The bar offers six beers on tap, plus cocktails. (AKIRA SUWA / Staff Photographer)
Posted: September 13, 2012

Michael Dorris, a kid from Berwyn, met an Ohio lad named Michael Santoro in the culinary program at Johnson & Wales in Providence, R.I.

Ten years and many moves and jobs later, the Mikes are working together. Their joint venture, the Mildred, opened this week at 824 S. Eighth St. (267-687-1600) in Bella Vista. Previously, it was the acclaimed James.

The open dining room has a romantic yet open feel. Though both guys are seasoned chefs since their 2004 J&W graduation, Santoro (whose last stop was opening chef at Talula's Garden) will take the executive chef's role while Dorris general-manages. The kitchen will serve as home base for Dorris' business, a catering operation in the Philly suburbs. Dorris tells me that running his catering company taught him a different side of dining.

Cuisine is billed as American with British influences and classic French techniques. They've bought heavy and functional Staub cast-iron cookware, which will go from stove to table in many cases. Dorris' ceramics teacher from Conestoga High, John Matthews, is making all the plates and bowls in his home workshop. Many of the wooden items - tables and chairs included - were built by kids in the Challenge Program, an educational millwork and carpentry center.

The Michaels are making their own breads, pastas, and sausages. They are using the pastry services of Le Bec-Fin alumna Emily Riddell, whose signature is chocolate cake with salted caramel and lemon ice cream.

Everything is homey - oven-roasted quail with braised lentils and beet root; free-range chicken breast and thigh with artichokes, grits, and chervil; bouillabaisse for two. Entrees: $17 to $25. The per-person check average is $42 to $45 - about $20 less than James and $30 less than Talula's Garden.

A bar menu includes beef ribs in a crepe, rabbit and ricotta meatballs on a semolina roll, and warm sardines on toast with peppers and onions.

Bar rundown includes 60 wine bottles (10 by the glass) - mainly Europeans. Six beers are on tap, and there's your obligatory cocktail list.

It will be open for dinner only, Tuesday through Sunday, at the outset; weekend brunch and Monday operation will follow in about a month.

A move to Fishtown

After 6½ years on Northern Liberties' Liberties Walk, Shannon Dougherty and Liz Petersen are fixing to move A Full Plate, their cafe and catering operation, to Fishtown after their lease expires in early 2013. They're going into the "Fork" in Fishtown - the crossroads of Norris and Cedar Streets and Susquehanna Avenue (2370 E. Norris St.). Cedar Point Bar & Kitchen will be twice the size. They're also getting a liquor license and 16 beer taps. Cuisine will include what Dougherty calls "'70s housewife kind of foods." They hope to open in February. Right now, it's business as usual on Liberties Walk.

What's new

Hickory Lane, which opened in December across from Eastern State Pen at Corinthian and Fairmount Avenues, has picked up its liquor license. And with it comes an eight-seat bar and bar menu from chef Matt Zagorski. And a new old general manager: Daniel Elliott, back after opening Rittenhouse Tavern.

John Wolferth has closed Aperto, his yearling BYOB on Woodbine Avenue in Narberth. He says his lease ran out on the former Gemelli and a new deal would have been too costly. He hopes to resurface locally and said he would make good on any gift cards.

Farewell to the Boilermaker, which opened only six months ago on the former site of Doc Watson's at 216 S. 11th St. (After Doc's, it was Blue Bear Tavern for 30 seconds.) Owners are refocusing it around meat and charcuterie, local produce, and beer under the name the Butcher & the Brewer. New chef is Jennifer Choplin, who also contributes to the "Amusing My Bouche" blog. Opening date has not been announced.

Parking

East Passyunk Avenue parking issues may be eased by an $8-a-car valet stand set up by the Passyunk Avenue Revitalization Corp. It's outside the fountain at Tasker Street and East Passyunk Avenue, adding to the stand in the 1900 block of East Passyunk, in front of Le Virtu and Tre Scalini. Another stand, on the 1600 block, starts in a week. It's offered Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Participating restaurants are Paradiso, Mama Maria's, Stateside, Birra, Izumi, Fond, Le Virtu, Tre Scalini, and Da Vinci.

Milestones

The original Lee's Hoagie shop at 19th Street and Cheltenham Avenue in West Oak Lane, dating back to the 1950s, has closed. It changed operators last year. After a tiff with the Lee's parent company, the licensee closed. The other Lee's locations are unaffected.

Restaurant publicist Patti Klein - whose client list spanned Academy Cafe to Zocalo - says she wants to work on her own bucket list. So she is retiring after 18 years. "I want to be able to read a newspaper or magazine without looking for a client's name to be mentioned or watch a cooking show without thinking how I can book one of my chefs," she writes.


Photos, menus, and additional details about these restaurants, plus dining news, can be found at www.philly.com/mike. Contact Michael Klein at mklein@philly.com.

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