Can restaurants have a gender?
Two giggling middle-aged women approached a hunky busboy while he was clearing tables at Harvest Seasonal Grill and Wine Bar the other week.
“How old are you?” one woman finally asked, a wicked grin stretched across her face.
Eighteen, the busser replied, at which the ladies scampered back to their table, as if they’d just completed a round of Truth or Dare.
After watching the scene unfold, I looked around and realized—Harvest, the creation of restaurateur Dave Magrogan, was simply crawling with women.
I’m not the only person who’s noticed. Michael Klein, a dining columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, was a bit more brash in his appraisal, writing: “To conceive Harvest, Magrogan looked to his upper-middle-class, thirtysomething suburban world of SUV-drivin’ mommies.”
Whether it’s the fresh, low-cal food, the chic decor, the tranquil courtyard patio, the lavender mojitos or organic wines, it seems Harvest has cultivated an environment that makes women feel comfortable.
(Above: Harvest’s jerk roasted chicken)
There were men at Harvest, too, but according to my very unscientific survey across three visits, the dudes were outnumbered by a healthy margin.
Now, I imagine most restaurants would prefer to attract a healthy balance of both men and women, but it’s interesting to look at how gender manifests itself in our dining scene.
(Above: Harvest’s summer shrimp roll)
In my April review of Redfire Grill in Hockessin, I wrote that the restaurant’s dark wood walls, glowing red bar, and meat-and-potatoes menu seemed to “drip masculinity.” But owner Carl Georigi, whose wife, Lisa, designed the restaurant, said there were sexy, feminine touches to the Grill, too.
When questioning a manager for my review of Simon Pearce on the Brandywine, he described chef Karen Nicolas’ cooking style as “unmistakably feminine,” meaning she has a penchant for lighter flavors.
(Above: Desserts at Harvest include low-cal apple crumble and chocolate mousse)
Coincidentally, just a bit before our trips to Harvest, my wife observed how manly the new-look Columbus Inn felt. To her, the menu was too heavy, the bar too dim, and the drink menu too loaded with whiskey and gin.
What do you think? Can a restaurant have a gender? Is Pizza by Elizabeths girly? Is Walter’s Steakhouse manly? Do men and women have distinct dining preferences? I think maybe there’s a book to be written here…
Anyway, much more to come on Harvest—a full-fledged review is running in the magazine this fall—so stay tuned.
Restaurant News and Events:
Chef shakeup: Xavier Teixido sounded so excited about the addition of chef Tony Clark to his Harry’s Savoy Grill, I had to press him for a sports analogy. Asked whether it felt like he was adding an all-star to his roster, the owner said, “Yeah, but it’s not like adding T.O. It’s like adding a great team player to an already great team.”
Many would certainly consider Clark an all-star chef. Renowned in Philadelphia, Clark worked for 14 years at the acclaimed Four Seasons hotel. He opened his own Tony Clark’s in 1997, which was recognized as a “best new restaurant” in the country by Philadelphia magazine and Esquire.
At Harry’s, the 48-year-old Clark will collaborate with executive corporate chef David Leo Banks, and inject his tremendous creativity into the kitchen, Teixido says.
“He’s a fabulous chef,” he says, adding that Clark, who’s spent the last 10 years working as a private chef, would also bring “an element of surprise” to Harry’s cuisine.
Clark, who’s been getting his feet wet at Harry’s for the past two weeks, has already electrified the kitchen staff, Teixido says.
As far as culinary style, Clark trained under classic French chefs at Four Seasons, but is just at home preparing a pork and broccoli rabe sandwich. “His ability to make haute cuisine accessible and the everyday, regular stuff exceptional,” Teixido says. “That’s kind of where he is.”
More on Harry’s as we get it.
(Photo credit: Ben Fournier)
Sunday, August 15: Get your bib and claw-crackers out of storage: The third annual Crab Feast Fundraiser gets underway Sunday at Boondocks Restaurant in Smyrna.
A $38 ticket to the popular fundraiser for the Brain Injury Association of Delaware gets you all-you-can-eat steamed crabs, corn, fries and soda/iced tea. A cash bar in the dining room will be available. Also at the event: music, karaoke and raffles, including a NASCAR ticket raffle.
Things get going at 1 p.m. from Boondocks (825 Lighthouse Road, Smyrna, 653-6962). For ticketing and more info, go to www.biade.org or call (800) 411-0505.
New digs: Mediterranean Grille, a family-owned, Greek-centric eatery has opened its doors in the Newark Shopping Center.
Owners Akillas and Donna Papanicolas are offering fresh, from-scratch lunch and dinner options for take-out, dine-in and delivery from their newly renovated storefront.
Donna’s son, Jason Esdale, told me MG’s paninis and burgers are going crazy during lunchtime, and seafood sautés have become popular dinner options. Take a look at the full menu here.
Akillas, originally from a small town in the Greek Islands, has been working as a chef for 35 years in the US. “Nothing he makes is ever frozen or preprocessed,” Esdale says. “And they try to make food that’s healthy and natural.”
The Grille will unveil more Greek dishes as business increases, but for now, Akillas will fire one Greek special per week. First up: Spanikopita.
Mediterranean Grille is located at 612 Newark Shopping Center, Newark, 731-4005. And in the meantime, check out this video the family produced that gives you a look inside the operation.