Sunday brunch has become my favorite restaurant meal. Daylight affords us the chance to read the menu and actually see the food on the plate. I am always looking for new places for brunch, and am happy to report I found one.
Fourth & Cross opened last month in Pennsport. Owner Andrew Michaels, who arrived in Philly from New York 22 years ago, gutted the space and turned it into a family-friendly spot. It is a cash-only BYOB.
Fourth & Cross reminds me of the fine fare served up at family diners when I was a girl.
The interior features hardwood floors, white walls, counter seating with red retro stools, tiffany blue comfortable wooden benches and an accommodating staff. Michaels insists on fair trade producers and locally-sourced ingredients. Our server brought mugs of ReAnimator coffee ($2.75) that I never heard of. It is not as strong as La Colombe, but was filled with flavor.
I always know when pancakes are made from scratch. A short stack of blueberry ones ($8) proved to be the finest hot cakes I’ve enjoyed in recent memory. Two large whole wheat cakes were filled with fresh Jersey blueberries mixed with lemon juice and lemon zest. Lemon and blueberry is a classic combination. If there is an award for hot cakes, the ones served up at Fourth & Cross easily wins top honors. A small dish of soft butter and tin pitcher of room temperature local maple syrup arrived with my brunch. I cannot tell you how many times cold butter and cold syrup have been served to me. A side order of Lancaster bacon ($4) was most generous. It was nice and crisp, too.
A cheddar cheese omelette ($11) was not a bit overcooked. It was golden and glistening on the outside and a bit creamy inside. Some of the cheddar cheese was placed on top and melted nicely, but I thought a bit more should have been nestled inside. Oven roasted potatoes could have been hotter. It would also be more flavorful if sautéed onions and/or roasted red peppers were included in the mix.
Certain foods bring back memories of meals gone by. I clearly recall the homemade sausage patties prepared at a small family-owned finer in Somerset. They were uncommonly delicious. The homemade sausage patties ($5) at Fourth & Cross are not to be missed. They were grilled on the outside and just a tiny bit pink on the inside. They packed a bit of a punch, so if you like spicy sausages for brunch, these patties are for you. When I say “spicy,” I do not mean hot.
Instead of toast, we wanted to sample the homemade whole wheat biscuit. There are a number of schools of thought on the best way to prepare these Southern classics. Some bakers roll out dough and cut rounds with a cookie cutter. Others form the dough like hamburger patties and place them close together in a round pan. A chef friend of mine from the South taught me this method. We used buttermilk, butter and shortening for a light fluffy biscuit.
I did not care for the square whole wheat version served at Fourth & Cross. I found it too dry and crumbly. It should have spent some time in the oven so the softened butter would melt. I did, howver, enjoy the homemade jam that was placed on top of the biscuit.
Service was a bit spotty because our server, who was caring and polite, was held captive by another diner who was going on and on about molecular gastronomy, deconstructed dishes and cooking schools. No matter. Another server got her attention.
Fourth & Cross offers breakfast, brunch and lunch items. The burger and fries that waltzed by me looked so good, I want to try one on my next visit.
I have added this newcomer to my list of favored brunch spots. It is exactly what a neighborhood restaurant should be.
Three-and-a-half tips of the toque to Fourth & Cross. ■
Fourth & Cross
1527 S. Fourth St.