Sounds like improvement to me.
World Cafe Live – Philadelphia, PA
3025 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Meal: Dinner / Weekday / 7pm
Price: $54 (For two – excludes tip)
Last year, we visited the World Cafe Live to check out one of our favorite bands. This year, we went back to see the same artist in his solo act. In our 2009 review, we really liked the venue but wasn’t keen on sky-high pricing and small portions of their dinners. Remembering our experience last time around, we weren’t expecting great things from a dining standpoint, and even considered grabbing a slice of pizza ahead of time (sometimes you can’t go wrong with setting the bar low!). Thankfully, though, the food ultimately matched what was a surprisingly good performance from Mr Fran Healy. As was the case before, there was plenty of free parking right up the street at the UPenn parking facility.
As soon as you enter the door, you’re right at the ‘upstairs’ section, which appeared to have a small stage, bar, and a bunch of tables. You can take an elevator or the stairs to the ‘downstairs’, and we elected to get the extra exercise. The first time around, our seats were in the ‘luxury’ mezzanine section (which is a balcony), but don’t be impressed as the tickets weren’t more than $24 a pop. On this visit, we sat at the tables in front of the stage. We highly recommend getting the tables and not the individual chairs that are slightly closer if you’re sitting on the lower level. The mezzanine has a lot more room to roam around, although the ticketed seats don’t give you a whole lot of room to comfortably eat. Because of that, the venue offers six or seven unticketed tables in the mezzanine to eat with a lot more room (one our first visit we ended up eating at our ticketed seats anyway). We started off our drinks with our typical favorites.. a long island iced tea and a malibu with diet coke.
The menu remains on the expensive side, but had a lot more variety on this visit. Gone was the $17 rip-off pork chop and way-overpriced spaghetti I complained about in our last review. In fact, it looks like they took a decent number of items from the upstairs menu and brought them downstairs. Fran Healy’s requested the restaurant to serve a vegetarian entree, so I tried the spicy thai curry and their soup of the day (seafood bisque) as an appetizer. Autumn went for a safer bet with their interpretation of a chicken sandwich. The bisque was $6, the curry was $18, and the chicken sandwich was $13. We finished with a tiramisu for another $6 on top of that. Most mixed drinks were under $5.
The seafood bisque was a fantastic starter and had a very generous portion for $6. Autumn’s sandwich was awesome, with a bold taste from a cheesy-mustardy sauce and delicious sweet potato fries (the picture makes them look darker than they really were). The thai curry was considerably hotter than I expected, but pretty good and definitely fresh-tasting. The others at our table ordered some items that looked very good, especially the hummus appetizer, which was a pretty full plate of hummus, pita bread, feta, and cucumber slices… more than enough to share. The crab cakes looked good but were probably on the small side as an entree (as they typically are when you only get one). A gentleman next to me had some sort of chopped steak which looked like a very full portion. The tiramisu had a good chocolate-coffee flavor and was very moist as it should be. There was a big enough cube for both of us to share. My impression overall was that this place really cleaned up their act as far as the quality of the food is concerned. Perhaps they’ve got a new chef.
Service, like the first time, brings our score down a little bit. There aren’t a lot of waiters for the area and there are a lot of people crammed together, so getting a refill of water is an exercise. You kind of have to compete against other people to get their attention, which makes me think the restaurant would benefit from more of a team approach to the wait service instead of a dedicated waiter per table(s). Still, I was extremely happy to have a good meal and a good show. Because of that, they’ll make our upgrade list with a modest move higher. I didn’t see another show I wanted to go to throughout December, so a bigger move might have to wait until I can get two quality experiences out of it.
– Great venue from a music standpoint
– Free parking within walking distance
– Some items still overpriced
– Service is inconsistent
2009 Score: 2.3 Chews
2010 Score: 2.6 Chews
Subjective rating: Improving.
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