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A Rising Star Chef of the Year Nominee's Top Philadelphia Eats

Maggie Borden

April 19, 2017

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The James Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year Award celebrates the country's up-and-coming toques who are pushing the industry forward with their innovative techniques and styles. Since these tastemakers have their fingers on the pulse of today's dining scene, we asked this year's nominees to guide us through the best food and drink of their home base. Here, Camille Cogswell of Philadelphia's Zahav (also nominated for the 2017 Outstanding Service Award), dishes on her Philly must-trys, from savory meat pies to spicy Sichuan fare.

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Date Night: "If I go out to dinner with my boyfriend, no matter how often, we entertain the idea of going somewhere new, and invariably we end up at Han Dynasty, a killer Sichuan place that started in the Philly area and that now has multiple locations around town as well as two in New York City. The spice will rev you up and the Sichuan peppercorns will leave your senses tingling, which is a great way to start a date, if you ask me. If you want to impress someone and need a classier joint, Aldine is hands-down one of my favorite restaurants in the city. George Sabatino is an incredibly talented chef and I’m always blown away by how his complex and beautiful food comes across so clean, balanced, and light."

Cheap Eats: "Sam Jacobson is a gem of a human being who runs a British pie shop, Stargazy, where he makes amazing pies, both savory and sweet. The flavors change every day except for the traditional (beef and onion). He serves them alongside a heap of mashed potatoes with parsley liquor." 

Vietnamese: "Vietnamese is one of the most beloved cuisines in Philly. We have some really great pho shops, my favorite being Pho 75. It’s so soul-satisfying and cheap. I love how you walk into a pho restaurant and you see people from all walks of life and all cultural backgrounds. Soup seems to transcend that boundary; regardless of the opportunity for puns, it’s really where the melting pot exists."

Breakfast: "No other breakfast place has my heart like the Dutch. A collaboration between Johncarl Lachman and Lee Styer, this place is casual and affordable in a breezy, uplifting space. The food is insanely good, exactly what I want for breakfast. Their Dutch baby pancakes are fluffy, eggy, lemon-scented, and the size of a skillet. They also have amazing creamed chipped beef, which they serve over both scallion waffles and bologna eggs benedict. They serve a mean-looking lunch, too, but I can never make it past that perfect breakfast menu."

Drinks: "I have equal love for cocktails, wine, and beer, but I like to keep it chill when I go to the bar. Fountain Porter in South Philly is perfect. They offer cocktails, wine, and beer, but they specialize in beer and have a great selection. It’s a comfortable, unpretentious atmosphere, too. And the best thing is that they have a $5 burger that is to-die-for. It's my favorite burger in the city."

Bakery: "Tova du Plessis opened up tiny Essen Bakery last April and it immediately became my favorite bakery. I had never met her before—she left Zahav a few years before I started there, but she is such a sweetheart and a talented woman. Everything I’ve eaten in that place is pure magic. She was also nominated as a semifinalist in the JBAs this year for Outstanding Baker and she deserves every bit of it. I’m sorry she didn’t advance, but I’ll be rooting for her next year!

Learn more about the 2017 James Beard Awards.

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Maggie Borden is associate editor at the James Beard Foundation. Find her on Instagram and Twitter.