The restaurant is awash in an orange light, making it feel warm despite being just about room temperature. You can almost hear the neon lights buzz. It’s not exactly prime real estate, and its quasi–underground–ness (it sits under sister restaurant Goldie in a split–level) resulted in something of an observable pest problem, but the place feels homey—even to two Catholic pescatarians in a Jewish deli.
It’s hard to do an upscale diner concept with any semblance of authenticity. And has had something of an early–life crisis since it opened in early 2017 as Rooster Soup Company, going through a few executive chefs and menus. In July 2018, it rebranded as an upscale Jewish deli, to the tune of a name change. Seems it’s hard to sell soup in the summer.
I The Rooster back when it was Rooster Soup Company, for Street’s . It was my first semester as a writer, and I paired up with Autumn Powell, who at the time was a staff photographer. On this humid Thursday night in September 2018, Autumn and I are back, now close friends and both members of Street’s board. It feels cyclical, fitting, that we’re here again.
The waitress smiles politely when we tell her we’re celebrating our anniversary, and Autumn makes me promise not to tell her boyfriend (sorry!). She orders a peppery Schug Margarita ($6 for happy hour, $8 otherwise). The last time we visited, the drink wasn’t yet on the menu, but we got to try a sample.
While The Rooster’s Montreal ($13), a pastrami sandwich, is our waitress’s recommendation, Autumn and I both rarely eat meat, so we decide to opt for a split chopped salad with Za’atar vinaigrette ($10), and two orders of the challah grilled cheese.
Visiting here always seems momentous, so I decided to indulge a craving I’ve been nursing for years. Just a quick fix. I realized I had this problem when I accompanied my roommate to Wishbone and watched, with the reverence usually associated with church, her scarf down chicken wings. It’s been five years since I’ve eaten chicken, and I’d give a gangly limb for a bowl of matzo ball soup ($4/$7).
The Yemenite Matzo Ball Soup is what Solomonov and his business partner Steve Cook call the “backbone” of the menu. In 2014, the group announced via Kickstarter that they’d be opening a soup–based outpost, using the scraps from Federal Donuts’ (another CookNSolo venture) fried chicken for stock. The concept hinged on a philanthropic partnership with the, which ministers to “vulnerable” Philadelphians, often homeless or housing–insecure. CookNSolo proposed that 100% of the restaurant’s profits would benefit the ministry. And while much about The Rooster has changed, that mission has been constant.
Our soup and salads come out quickly—we’re one of two parties in the restaurant—and I wait for Autumn to snap some photos with a small twinge of plant–based guilt. It soon evaporates in the parsley–laden broth. I down the bowl.
No matter what I get after, it’ll wilt in the face of my salty indulgence. I write this days later, still thinking about that damn soup.
The chopped salad is an Israeli spin on a classic in CookNSolo’s usual style, with halved tomatoes in a rainbow of colors and crunchy, thin–sliced cucumbers so abundant that they outnumber the lettuce, drenched in springy dressing.
Our grilled cheese soon follows, along with a tastefully spicy Bloody Mary made with Israeli salad water. The challah bread is the real star of the grilled cheese, a blend of Muenster and Cooper Sharp bisected by a layer of dijon. A pile of fries and pickle sit on the side, some upscale pastiche of the crisp and salty McDonald’s fries I pretend not to like.
Lastly, our attentive waitress brings out a slice of brown sugar bourbon peach pie ($6). It’d be better hot—room temperature doesn’t do the fresh fruit any favors—but we devour it anyway.
I mooch Autumn’s pickle to offset the cloying brown sugar, and we head out into the muggy night.
TL;DR: Homey, newly–rebranded Jewish deli with philanthropic mission.
Location: 1526 Sansom St.
Sun–Mon: 11 a.m.–7 p.m.
Price Range: $$