When a long-standing restaurant undergoes a menu overhaul, it is a fine idea to pay a visit.
I have dined at four of Marathon’s six locally-owned chain locations. My meals ran the gamut from weekend brunch, lunch and dinner. Sometimes I ate alone; sometimes my sister Sandy accompanied me. I was itching to see if a consistency of food quality and service was in place at each restaurant.
It was. It is a rare find when you know exactly what to expect in terms of food and service. Because I ate at Marathon dozens of times, the price list would be long. My average check came to about $17, including tax and tip. Prices run from $4 for soup, to $20 for a 3-course dinner.
Brunch brings a bagel and nova platter, which one would find in a good Jewish deli. The smoked salmon is sliced paper thin and comes with sliced red onion, tomatoes, capers and a ramekin of Philadelphia cream cheese. Scrambled eggs and omelets are just right because the chefs respect the egg. They are never brown and rubbery. Applewood smoked bacon is a nice plus along with Metropolitan’s wheat toast.
When I am in the mood for a light lunch, I go for Marathon’s salads. Chopped chicken cobb is a big plate filled with crisp greens, creamy bits of avocado, bits of Applewood smoked bacon, and quarters of hard boiled egg topped with a homemade blue cheese dressing. The Caesar is 100 percent homemade. Cool romaine lettuce forms the base for squiggles of Parmigianno-Reggiano, buttery house-made croutons and a Caesar dressing as fine as the original made in Mexico.
Now to the burger. I am finicky about my burgers. I like them charred on the outside and medium-rare on the inside. All locations presented me with my burger of choice. The chefs at Marathon use a blend of ground chuck, sirloin and short ribs before the beef is carefully palmed into patties. You get a choice of either french fries or small Caesar salad. The fries here are tops. They were hot, crisp, free of grease and topped with just the right sprinkling of salt.
At the Rittenhouse Square location, my server told me if the chef has the ingredients, he can make me a grilled cheese sandwich however I want. He took Vermont cheddar, Applewood smoked bacon, placed it between two slices of whole grain bread and seared it to buttery perfection.
The turkey used in the roasted turkey club is 100 percent roasted turkey breast, sliced thin and not one bit dry. The moist turkey breast was piled high along with imported Swiss, bacon, lettuce and tomato. Instead of the usual mayonnaise, the chefs smeared the toasted sourdough with a basil aioli which was inspirational. The aioli was creamy and fragrant with fresh basil.
The open-faced tuna melt was made with tuna salad which contained very little mayo, thank goodness. It was just enough to hold the fish together. Each slice was topped with cheddar and a tomato pickle relish which provided a fine contrast of flavors and textures.
I sampled the three-course $20 dinner beginning with matzo ball soup, which, I have to admit, was as fine and tasty as the matzo balls I prepare. A good-size fluffy melt-in-your mouth matzo ball floated in piping hot dill-flecked chicken soup with tiny dices of fresh onion, carrot and celery.
From the entrées, I selected the center-cut pork chop which was slightly pink inside, tender and juicy. The vegetables change with the season. A wedge of creamy cheesecake ended my meal.
I am finicky about iced tea and coffee. Marathon makes a freshly brewed iced tea which rivals only Tria’s. The chain changed its coffee to Chestnut Hill Coffee Co., which is neither too strong nor too weak. For me, it is the perfect strength.
The change in Marathon is evident. The food is more refined, without being stuffy. Flavors are clear and clean and much attention has been given to eye appeal in every dish.
Three tips of the toque to Marathon. SPR
929 Walnut St., Second Floor
1339 Chestnut St.
121 S. 16th St.
1818 Market St.
200 S. 40th St.
1839 Spruce St.