Sabrina’s Caf� and Spencer’s Too

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When the heat index hit 101, I officially declared the kitchen closed. Even the thought of a simple stove-top saut� was too much. I decided Mom, Edward and I would have dinner in a restaurant not far from our Logan Square home. We didn’t like the idea of riding around the city, searching for parking and dealing with heavy traffic on such a brutally hot day.

Much to my delight, I discovered Raquel and Robert De Abreu, who own and operate the enormously successful Sabrina’s in the Italian Market, had recently opened a branch at 1804 Callowhill St. in Fairmount.

I reviewed Sabrina’s in the autumn and really enjoyed the food, service and ambience. Since I wrote about Sunday brunch and lunch fare, I looked forward to dining at Sabrina’s Caf� and Spencer’s Too for dinner. The De Abreus named their first spot after daughter Sabrina, but now that she has a little brother, Spencer’s included as well.

The space, a former pizza joint, was gutted and turned into an appealing upscale diner. There’s a long counter with stools; a number of booths covered in a retro, 1970s design of large, colorful circles; and tables and chairs in the center.

We settled into a booth and realized the offerings are all-day, all-evening. If you want breakfast for supper, you got it. We wanted dinner. Choices are on a separate menu and even the specials are listed with their very reasonable prices. (Three tips of the toque for this.)

Our server Emmy opened our wine (it’s BYOB) and placed it in a cooler. Maybe it was the heat, but the ventilation at the restaurant was poor. Staff lowered the thermostat, but it didn’t work. Ice melted in our glasses within minutes.

Crispy calamari ($8.95) was spectacular, exactly the type of antipasto you would expect in a four-star Italian restaurant. We received a mound of baby squid and rings, quick-fried so expertly there was not a bit of grease. The coating was seasoned just right, too. A gravy boat of honest-to-goodness homemade marinara sat on the side along with a lemon wedge.

We all liked the vegetarian spring rolls ($6.95), which were filled with bell peppers, mushrooms, bean sprouts, carrots, shredded Napa cabbage and served with a slightly sweet, slightly spicy Thai chili sauce for easy dipping. The rolls were plump, the wrappers nice and crispy.

Whenever I see dinners come with "saut�ed vegetables," I always ask which vegetables are in the mix. As soon as Emmy advised the veggies were mostly zucchini and yellow squash, we asked if we could have a substitute. "How about a side salad?" she inquired. Great news for us. Arriving alongside the entr�es, the salad was fresh spring mix tossed in a slightly creamy homemade vinaigrette that brought smiles all around.

Mom ordered crab cakes ($16.95), Edward the salmon ($16.95) and I went for the pork chop ($15.95). We had a choice of garlic mashed potatoes or garlic-ginger mashed potatoes. Mom and I went for the former and Edward, the latter.

When our potatoes arrived cold, Emmy soon brought us piping-hot, just-like-Mom’s, delicious replacements. The tasty mashed sweets arrived hot and were a delightful change of pace.

The medium-sized crab cakes were on the cool side. Mom received two cakes, which were fashioned from OK-quality meat. I could not detect the lemon-butter sauce, but enjoyed the mix of finely diced red and yellow peppers and scallions tossed in a balsamic vinegar-roasted pepper reduction.

My pan-seared pork chop, juicy and slightly pink inside, was dusted with Parmesan mixed with crushed pine nuts before it hit the hot skilled. Fresh herbs were patted into the chop, as well. A gravy boat of delicious ragout of wild mushrooms enriched my meal. I like the practice of serving sauces on the side.

Edward’s macadamia nut-crusted salmon was another winner. The nuts were mixed with minced fresh basil and olive oil so the crust adhered to the six-ounce fillet, which was pan-seared and served with a citrus-butter sauce.

Sabrina’s was out of several desserts; however, we found the Key lime pie ($5.95) tasty, but needing to be colder. The crust was overly crumbly, yet delicious.

Sabrina’s Caf� and Spencer’s Too is a fine addition to the Fairmount neighborhood. I’m looking forward to a return trip for Sunday brunch.

Two-and-a-half tips of the toque to Sabrina’s Caf� and Spencer’s Too.

Sabrina’s Caf� and Spencer’s Too
1804 Callowhill St.
215-636-9061
Credit cards accepted