“It’s much more of a ‘Mad Men’ feel over there,” our waitress at Suraya tells us while we get ready to walk over to Root Restaurant and Wine Bar. We are on a Greg Root mission today, determined to try both of his Fishtown restaurants: Suraya for brunch and Root for dinner. Luckily, they’re only a five minute walk from each other.
Root is less than half the size of Suraya, and whereas Suraya has the expansive magic of a Levantine bazaar, Root has the intimacy of a smoky cabaret club. The interior is all teal armchairs, camel banquettes, brass and gold accents, and a center bar that dominates the dining area without suffocating it. Above the bar, gold piping climbs from the ceiling down to the floor like tilted monkey bars and opens up the space, an effect heightened by the mirrors that surround each wall of the restaurant. The lighting is made up of glass orbs that jut out in right angles over the bar, which is encircled by a string of leather–cushioned barstools.
With business partner and chef Nick Kennedy at the helm, Root labels itself as a “casual” wine bar, but there’s something mysterious and sensual about the interior; coupled with a few glasses of wine, this seems like the perfect date location. My friend and I take a seat right by the entrance at a table flooded with waning sunlight from the floor–to–ceiling windows. She orders a glass of Txakolina, a refreshing citrus blend that complements the customizable cheese and salami platter we order. The baguette is fresh and sourced directly from a bakery down the street, but it’s really the smoky chorizo and rich blow horn cheese that carry the dish. Drizzled with a thin stream of local honey, the combination is heavy enough to satisfy, but light enough that we are still looking forward to our entrées. Three side dishes of honey dried fruit, fermented veggies, and wine–soaked plums come with the platter, and we pick at them (the plums are excellent) as we wait for our next course.
The farro and apple salad comes next. It’s an interesting blend of piave cheese, apple, fall roots, and burnt honey—hearty without tasting too heavy or oily. The apples and piave add a nice, refreshing touch to an otherwise normal salad, and the portion size is generous, which makes it a suitable entrée all on its own. The merzula follows, a seafood dish with a cod–like fish that is covered in heirloom beans, swimming in red sauce with hints of paprika. The mussels are chewy, and the fish surrenders at the slightest pressure from my fork, but the real superstar is the duxelle burger. The meat is tender and dripping with juices, and the potato buns are warm and delicious without soaking up too much of the mushroom or cheese. The fries pale in comparison to the delicious burger, but we still finish each and every one.
Our meal ends right as rush–hour traffic picks up, and we watch a series of cars whizz by as we consider dessert—with options such as hazelnut brown butter cake and chocolate budino, who wouldn’t?—but we’re too full from the combination of American, Spanish, and Italian cuisine. And secretly because, at the root of it, we want another reason to come back.
TL;DR: If ‘Mad Men’ were a restaurant
Location: 1206 Frankford Avenue
Monday–Wednesday: 5:00 p.m.–10:00 p.m.
Thursday–Friday: 5:00 p.m.–11:00 p.m.
Saturday: 10:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m.; 5:00 p.m.–11:00 p.m.
Sunday: 10:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m.; 5:00 p.m.–10:00 p.m.