Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween Brunch at North Third

With no offense intended to our eventual destination, when we set off toward Northern Liberties at midday, it was a late breakfast we had in mind, at the downhome/Jewish all-day mash-up that is Honey's Sit 'n' Eat. Oddly enough, I've only been to the breakfast-centric Honey's for dinner. Now I know why I've been avoiding it at breakfast/brunch time, at least on weekends. Apparently it's the NoLibs equivalent of Morning Glory. The thirty-five minute wait the host cited looked, from the mass of humanity lined up on the "payment" (yeah, I know, it's not South Philly), more like it would be an hour and thirty-five.

So on we went. Heading east along Brown Street it wasn't long before North Third came into focus. Not having eaten there in ages, we figured it was due for a spin. Not a bad decision in any respect as it would turn out. Though things were bustling here, too, we were able to snag a couple of prime seats at the bar. After a scan of the menu and a quick glance at the taps, I suddenly found myself craving something more savory than I'd been thinking when we set out earlier in the day. Turns out my dining companion was thinking along the same lines. Having a hard time deciding between the two most appealing items on offer, we realized there was no need to choose. Just order them both, and a couple of pints (it was after noon by now, after all) to wash them down.

Apparently a new addition to the menu for the Halloween weekend, North Third's breakfast cassoulet was quite satisfying, definitely deserving of a regular spot in the rotation. At the dish's core was a tender yet still toothsome combo of white beans and black eyed peas, slow cooked and deeply infused with the woodsy, porky influence of double-smoked bacon. A generous dusting of toasty breadcrumbs was a nice touch, traditional yet also working in the breakfast theme, especially in company with the two over-medium eggs that topped the dish. My only gripe? If you're going to list duck confit and polish sausage among the cassoulet's ingredients, then there should be some confit and sausage; I was hard-pressed to find any evidence of either. That said, it was an $11 dollar brunch plate, not a $20 pièce de résistance, and the dish was tasty enough to please without them.

Chili and eggs holds a regular place on the brunch menu at North Third, and represents a repurposing of one of the more popular items on the dinner menu at this comfort-food-centric spot. The serving size made the cassoulet seem petit in comparison but that's okay; it meant we had leftovers to take home for lunch the next day. Working from the bottom up, we're talking about a generous portion of moist, honey-sweetened corn bread, followed by a couple of over-medium eggs, then a generous ladling of meaty chili, topped off with a little melted cheddar, and accompanied by some pretty well executed roasted potatoes. The pile of condiments (jalapeños, salsa, sour cream) seemed unnecessary to me given the ample flavor of the chili. Again, just one gripe: rosemary is a good seasoning choice for chili, but either put a whole sprig in the pot and then remove it before service or chop the needles; unexpectedly chawing down on a whole needle really isn't all that pleasant.

The bar was decked out for the halloween weekend, which, along with the natural light flowing in from the windows along Third and Brown, made it the most inviting (to me, at least) spot in the restaurant. Though my pint of Victory Festbier was a bit imbalanced toward the sweet malt end of the spectrum for my tastes, it worked fine with the hearty fare and seemed too appropriate not to drink given the October-ending occasion.

Is North Third a destination restaurant? Nope. But it, or a spot like it, would be a welcome neighbor in most any hood.

North Third
801 N 3rd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19123
(215) 413-3666
North Third on Urbanspoon

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