It’s like an episode of Portlandia in here. The glassware and ceramics seem like slightly more polished versions of something you would find at a dollar store, or in a kindly 50–something’s Formica–laden kitchen, but in a classy way. Sea glass green water bottles sit on the tables and catch the winking light of the candle on mine, which sputtered out a few times throughout the meal only to be quickly revived by a startlingly attentive server.
I’m from around Philadelphia and consider myself decently aware of its neighborhoods, but I’d never heard of until I did the perfunctory pre–dinner Google search. It’s a mix of NYC Garment District vibes and Old City history that I wish I’d had time to explore more after dinner.
At Hungry Pigeon, appetizers are meant to share, as are mains—the latter of which our waitress mentions as if to justify the $60 price tag of a steak for two—which, of course, I wouldn’t eat anyway—I’m a vegetarian, but the photographer and I nod and sip from our glasses anyway.
The first course comes out and it’s vegetable–heavy. Toast laden with ricotta cheese and brussels sprout ceviche first, and then sweet potatoes grilled and doused with chimichurri. The sweet potatoes are good and the chimichurri is an inventive choice, but they pale in comparison to the lightly pickled sprouts and the springy ricotta we wolf down in five minutes flat.
And then there’s the pièce de résistance, a saucepan with potato gnocchi circled around a cheese–bread–type thing we can’t quite identify (whatever it was, it was good). Not wanting to seem to eager, we each eat slowly.
“So, this is what gnocchi is actually supposed to taste like?”
Turns out our photographer had never had any gnocchi that wasn’t frozen—and he was glad to have Hungry Pigeon’s be his first.
Post–gnocchi, any main course had big shoes to fill. We waited barely any time at all for the Moroccan lentil stew to appear. It was fine, teeming with carrots and mushrooms and wheat berry, spiced with something we couldn’t quite identify. And the entrée’s family–style presentation gave a homey finishing touch to the eclectic mix of foods on the menu. But the stew didn’t wow either of us, and for $22, we were expecting something, well, better.
In short, go here for appetizers, not mains. Think of it as hipster tapas. Another budget–friendly workaround is opt for the breakfast or “after–school” menus for lighter fare with the same vibes.
Hungry Pigeon is also known for its Family Dinners, in which executive chefs Scott Schroeder and Pat O’Malley choose a three–course menu for $45 per person (plus $25 with an optional wine pairing). It caters to large parties but can accommodate anywhere from 2–14 of your closest friends. We didn’t splurge for the royal treatment; it seems to cater to special occasions, not a broke–ish college student’s budget. That being said, it’s likely delicious.
TL;DR: Try out the appetizers in this eclectic neo–hipster restaurant in a relatively undiscovered neighborhood.
Location: 743 S. 4th Street
Monday–Thursday: 7:00 a.m.—11:00 p.m.
Friday: 7:00 a.m.—12:00 a.m.
Saturday–Sunday: 9:00 a.m.—4:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.—12:00 a.m.