Friday Saturday Sunday
261 S. 21st St. (between Locust and Spruce)
Credit cards accepted
Wheelchair accessible (one step up into restaurant, restrooms on ground level)
Reservations a good idea
In 1976, Phyllis Richman, restaurant critic and food writer for the Washington Post, wrote an article that had a huge impact on the Philadelphia restaurant scene. She said there were four great cuisines in the world: "French, Italian, Chinese and Philadelphia."
Richman described what had been taking place since 1973. Restaurants such as Frog, The Garden, Astral Plane, Knave of Hearts and Friday Saturday Sunday were formed from brownstones or storefronts and served New American — or, according to Richman’s definition, "Philadelphia" — food. Someone tagged the phenomenon the "Restaurant Renaissance."
As soon as it opened in 1973, Friday Saturday Sunday was an immediate success. The bilevel corner property still has soft twinkling lights, the famous fish-tank bar upstairs, moderate prices, good service and the celebrated cream of mushroom soup.
This charming gem will celebrate its 30th birthday next year, and I know why it’s lasted that long: It is a consistently fine place for lunch, dinner or Sunday brunch.
I recently enjoyed an early Sunday dinner at Friday Saturday Sunday with my husband Edward and two friends. By 6 p.m., every table downstairs was filled. While many restaurants boast an expensive wine list, Friday Saturday Sunday does not. Each bottle is just $10 more than state store prices. We sipped a light pinot noir from Oregon ($24) and perused the menu.
Our waitress took good care of us. We nibbled on fresh rolls topped with creamy butter. When the basket was empty, she brought us another. Now to dinner. Arugula salad ($8.50) was a hefty mound of fresh spicy greens, ripe grape tomatoes and shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano tossed in a perfect vinaigrette. It looked like the colors of the Italian flag.
Now that autumn is finally here, the tasty pairing of pears and blue cheese pops up on restaurant menus. Poached pear salad ($9) consisted of a hefty mound of mesclun greens enhanced by slices of luscious poached pears that retained a slight crunch, topped with bits of Maytag Blue cheese and caramelized all-American pecans dressed in retro raspberry vinaigrette. Both salads enticed the eyes and the taste buds.
A big, hot glass bowl of cream of mushroom soup ($6) does not look or taste like anything you’ve ever found in a can. The chefs here take creamy fresh Kennett Square mushrooms and grind them into tiny chunks in the food processor. They are then saut�ed in butter. Homemade stock, heavy cream and cognac are added to the pot. The result is one of the tastiest treats anyone who adores mushrooms will ever savor. The soup was so perfectly seasoned, none of us reached for the salt and pepper.
The entr�es were as well-prepared and delicious as our appetizers. The grilled double pork chop ($20) was first marinated in olive oil and fresh herbs before it was grilled. A luscious reduction sauce was prepared with roasted garlic and Roquefort cheese. Hot whipped potatoes came with the good-sized platter.
Duck with orange sauce is classic and very French. The roast duck here ($19) was beautifully prepared. The breast meat was sliced, the leg came on its own. The sauce was made with Grand Marnier, the orange-flavored liqueur that also makes a nice after-dinner drink. Saut�ed shallots and a reduction of veal stock were mixed with the Grand Marnier and enhanced the flavor and aroma of the duck, which was very tender. Asian-style lo mein noodles, tossed with slightly crisp small pieces of fresh carrot and zucchini, came with the duck. I found the sauce a bit too salty for my taste.
Crab cakes are often iffy in restaurants. The crabmeat can be of questionable quality and too much filler is often added. Not to worry if you order the crab cakes ($20.50) at Friday Saturday Sunday. Two large patties of top-of-the-line lump crab were prepared with very little bread crumbs, the right touch of seasoning and a hint of mayonnaise to hold them together before they were saut�ed. The crab cakes, topped with a roasted yellow pepper sauce enhanced by Chardonnay, had a dreamy, creamy texture. They came with oven-roasted potatoes.
Save room for dessert, because each sweet is a delicious bargain at $5. Portions are so large, request extra forks for sharing. Grand Marnier cheesecake was baked with a chocolate cookie crust and topped with a fresh raspberry coulis. The puff pastry tart is another Friday Saturday Sunday signature dish. It is filled with raspberries and served with a caramel sauce. Lemons and blueberries form a perfectly sweet marriage. A wedge of pie made with tart lemon and sweet berries was finished with slightly sweetened homemade Chantilly cream.
Several days later, I dropped by for lunch. A number of the dinner items are available during the day. Iced tea is homemade. All it needed was a squeeze of fresh lemon. I ordered a cup of the cream of mushroom soup ($2.75) because I wanted to see if the recipe was consistent. It was as fine and delicious as the soup we enjoyed at dinner.
At lunch, I received a loaf of bread with a ramekin of whipped butter. Like crab cakes, Caesar salad is another iffy restaurant dish. Happily, the one I savored here ($6.75) was perfect. I received a large mound of cool, crisp hearts of romaine. The dressing, I assure you, did not come from a bottle. It was thick, lemony and rich and clung to each bit of lettuce. Squiggles of Parmigiano-Reggiano were mixed with the dressing.
I ordered the salad with grilled chicken. About six perfectly roasted slices of chicken were nestled around the salad greens. A scattering of crisp, homemade seasoned croutons, made with French bread and pumpernickel, was strewn on the plate.
If you haven’t been to Friday Saturday Sunday recently, book a table now. The menu is a delicious delight, the service first-rate, the atmosphere romantic yet fun.
To view the menu with prices and get the recipe for the mushroom soup, visit the Web site at www.frisatsun.com.
Three tips of the toque to Friday Saturday Sunday.