I have always enjoyed a cup of La Colombe’s rich dark roast coffee. Many restaurants have been serving it ever since the local company opened its first café steps from Rittenhouse Square a number of years ago.
I was not surprised when La Colombe chose Fishtown for its first restaurant. It has become a destination venue for brunch, lunch, dinner and shopping. Sunday brunch is continuously bustling. There can be long waits for a table. So on a cold, drizzly spring day, I decided it was the best time to eat lunch at this breathtaking and beautiful space.
Natural brick, highly polished woods, copper and looming ceilings make La Colombe a casual place that is perfect for families. After ordering at the counter, customers find a table as the waitstaff brings out the meal.
Since it was an unusually chilly day, I hoped soup would be on the menu. The soup of the day ($7) was a creamy spring asparagus prepared with homemade stock, bite-size bits of fresh perfectly cooked asparagus and radishes. It was finished with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.
The most unusual dish of the day was onion soup on toast ($9). Think of the ingredients used in the preparation of French onion soup and instead of serving it in a bowl filled with broth, the ingredients wind up on toasted focaccia. When onions caramelize properly, they take on a delicious sweet flavor. Three square slices of toasted focaccia served as the base for this dish. The onion mixture, including a tiny bit of broth, was placed on the bread and topped with Gruyere and fresh herbs. It spent a few minutes in the oven so the cheese would melt. It was heaven on toast.
Many restaurants are offering shrimp and grits, but a number of them cannot get it right. La Colombe’s version ($13) is offered among the skillet dishes. I did not know what to expect. I assumed it would be cooked in a skillet and served in a bowl. The creamy stoneground grits were perfectly prepared with lots of butter and seasonings. They retained a bit of bite necessary for the success of shrimp and grits. About five medium shrimp were seasoned just right and added to the single serving cast-iron skillet. Some Parmesan cheese was added for a slightly salty flavor and texture along with a broth made with Creole seasoning. It was a fine idea to cook and serve this dish in cast iron, as the offering retained its heat.
Rotisserie chicken salad ($15) was another surprise. A mound of spicy baby arugula tossed in Dijon vinaigrette served as a bed for one half roasted young chicken. The leg and thigh meat were juicy and tender, but the breast meat was a little dry.
Wines by the glass are moderately priced. A New Zealand sauvignon blanc ($7) married well with my soup and shrimp and grits while a glass of malbec ($8) was a fine choice for the chicken salad. I liked that the wines are served in pretty juice glasses.
Service went smoothly and even though it was a weekday, La Colombe was doing a brisk business.
Home baked breads and desserts are on offer. I took home a fine baguette ($3), a large vanilla sugar cookie ($1) and a chocolate one as well. The baguette had a firm crisp crust, but the cookies were a little too sweet to my taste.
A bag of their exceptional coffee is also available for purchase. Drip style coffee pots are for sale, too.
La Colombe is open for breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner. It also has a Happy Hour on weekdays from 5 to 7 p.m.
Three-and-a-half tips of the toque to La Colombe.
1335 Frankford Ave.
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