Located in University City at 3601 Market Street, The Common is inviting—but not exclusive—to college students. Scattered between two floors are round, square, and long communal tables—encouraging a variety of groups and occasions. The cohesion of Edison bulbs, metal chairs built from recycled oil drums, and engaging, original artwork provide The Common with a cool, casual ambiance. This is enhanced by the exposed kitchen that constantly wafts aromas of perfectly seasoned steak or fresh pasta throughout the space. The restaurant, which opened on Jan. 23, features New American cuisine with Mediterranean influences and is owned by Chef Patrick Feury, Henry Chu, Kenny Huang, and Michael Wei. The executive chef is Lucio Palazzo.
As I take my seat next to a long window pane that exposes Philly nightlife, the soft hum of Daft Punk reaches my ear. Immediately I notice the large mural, an original by Cesar Viveros, that features rolling hills of farmland, a grandiose windmill, and ripe produce in vivid hues.The Common pairs urban excitement and artistry, with its trendy atmosphere and its plates, with fresh ingredients from local farms. Chef Lucio explains that partnering with local suppliers and preparing in house as much as possible provides a “real signature taste,” that makes The Common unique. This juxtaposition of urban and rural imagery provides a sort of New America, if you will.
To start the night, my photographer Adiel and I were treated to mocktails—the first of which was a mint and pear iced tea with honey and a decorative orange slice. The drink flavors were layered, constantly offering new levels of excitement. The drink was incredibly refreshing and cleansed my palate between each course. Our second mocktail was dubbed a “Cranberry Lemon–Lime Fruit Explosion.” On first sip, I jotted down “Oh My God, this is SO good!” into my notebook. The raspberry–colored beverage was as appealing to the eye as it was to the tastebuds, reminiscent of a zesty Swedish Fish. The restaurant features happy hour from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays, and I'm sure the true cocktails are just as amazing.
Per my waitress’ request, I tried the fresh house–made burrata. The plate features finely chopped pickled beets with a layer of red peppers and arugula, beautifully twisted burrata cheese, and a toss of pistachios. The beets were smooth and the burrata deliciously creamy, contrasting with the crunch of the salty pistachios. Meanwhile, we also ordered the grilled Spanish octopus—seasoned with paprika and a side of carrots and potatoes. It was my first time having octopus, and I was pleasantly surprised. It was firm and meaty, with a spice–layered exterior. The vegetables proved to be a nice balance, offering heartiness and crunch. Beautifully plated in a line, my counterpart commented, “The closer you get to the end, the more sad you become.”
For the entrée course, I had the tamarind–glazed green meadow farm spare ribs. The meat fell right off of the bone and had a Southern smokiness that the seasoning and finely chopped green onion balanced. The plate also featured red cabbage and refried lentils, incorporating the Mediterranean influence. For me, the butternut squash puree was the highlight of the plate. Smooth but full of flavor, I would request a bowl of just that if I could. Adiel had the house–made spaghetti with spicy shrimp, mussels, and clams. He certainly seemed to enjoy it, finishing his bowl before I could try a bite.
Onto everyone’s favorite course: dessert. We shared an assortment of mini donut holes dressed in brown sugar, and vanilla ice cream nestled between two squares of nougat. The donuts, which reminded me of churros, were dipped in a spicy melted chocolate that balanced the sweetness of the dessert with more richness. Meanwhile, the ice cream sandwich was delectable. The nougat’s thickness worked well with the fresh lemony–orange citrus flavor.
Going to The Common was a wonderful experience. The wait for the food was not long, yet we still spent four hours at the restaurant, taking every moment to enjoy the food, artwork, and people. The food itself is a work of art—so beautiful that you don’t want to ruin it, but well–worth it when you do. Prices on the dinner menu range from $5 for an appetizer to $27 for an entrée, and their impressive lunch menu—which features “dill cured salmon and winter citrus,” “rigatoni with lamb merguez,” and “green meadow farm roast pork on multigrain ciabatta”—offers almost all of the dishes for under $15. There are also a number of vegetarian and vegan options, including salads, crispy artichokes, and a marinated grilled eggplant on bien cuit ciabatta. Chef Lucio also noted that, as we reach spring and summer, and vegetables become more readily available, the vegan and vegetarian options are likely to expand.
If you’re hungry for an adventure of taste, I definitely recommend The Common, which “celebrates what makes Philadelphia unique,” according to Chef Lucio. New American cuisine features different influences and various spices from around the world, and encourages playing with the construction of foods—and it's through this explorative and inviting atmosphere that Chef Lucio and his counterparts hope to “create a sense of place within the restaurant” and “inject some real soul into it.”
The Common will be open Monday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturdays from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sundays from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.