An underground anti-fig movement, anchored at www.godhatesfigs.com, is gaining a following somewhere outside our mainstream consciousness. Among its major points, bolstered by quotes from the Good Book itself, are "God promises terrible vengeance for fig eaters," "Jesus commanded us not to eat the cursed fig," and the tell-it-like-it-is, "Eat a fig, go to hell." Still, liberal society that we live in, our right to eat the blasphemous fig remains intact. And the right to eat at Figs, whether you find its name subversive or not, is really pleasurable. In fact, you may be anti-fig, but it is almost impossible to be anti-Figs.
Against the backdrop of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the anti-pretentious, cosy Fairmount neighborhood, Figs is a BYO that evokes so many positive adjectives. Most poignantly: sensual, charming and homey. Its eclectic influences include the cuisines of Israel, Morocco, Spain and Portugal, and the decor is minimalist and interesting. While some of the dishes seem inspired and wildly original, like BBQ-skewered shrimp on a bed of vanilla rice and kalamata olive-infused Greek pasta creation ($21), others are perhaps a little too homey. The apple and walnut salad ($7), as well as the dessert special -- chocolate brownie with mousse and ice cream ($5) -- were both undoubtedly delicious but borderline generic. Still, Figs' charm is really inescapable; it's rare that an upscale BYO is friendly enough to not make you feel embarrassed that you brought a $5 bottle of Cook's champagne in a plastic bag. That is not a classy move. Whatsoever.
In a scary time when the artifice of Stephen Starr is the basis of Philadelphia's new wave of cultural capital, Figs is a breath of fresh air. Even if you don't live at 25th and Meredith, it can easily become the restaurant next door for those more culturally inclined -- those for whom the rough edges of most Penn students continue to be just a little grating. In the case of this wonderful restaurant, let's put aside the fig war and have a nice meal. We're all going to hell anyway.