When traveling from Center City to University City, you might catch a glance at the Walnut Street Cafe when you’re directly over top of the Schuylkill River. From the outside, the restaurant is seen through the large glass windowed-design of the AKA University City Hotel, but since social distancing and outdoor dining has quickly become the new normal, the hotspot has also begun to offer patrons a chance to try their delicious fare on the shaded patio.
The patio itself offers a secluded setting from the hustle and bustle of Walnut Street while still allowing guests who dine there to feel the landscape of the city. In the distance, you can hear the sounds of the City of Brotherly Love igniting, but your focus once you sit will most definitely be on the menu items, crafted by Chef Jack Peterson.
The pandemic is said to have sparked creativity for most who are quarantining, and for Chef Peterson that sentiment is truthful in the most delicious way. Walnut Street Cafe’s menu has completely been re-imagined to host seasonal and thoughtful down dishes down to the very last ingredient. The best part? You can dine and feel like a million bucks without spending it—everything is reasonably priced, almost surprisingly.
There are a few standouts on the drink menu that will start your culinary journey off on the right note. Patrons who dine at the cafe can sift through a variety of wines, and it’s truly a treat as well. Those who work at WSC are very knowledgeable, so much so that when you request a wine off the menu, they can come back with one they do have that is just as good, almost even better. Really when dining, it’s the little things, and those stack up to make a very pleasurable experience.
On the spirited side, the hotspot has a wide selection of cocktails as well, including a grapefruit gin and tonic, negroni, Manhattan and mango margarita (which is honestly a must-try.) Some of the drinks get served in a tiny carafe that’s placed next to your glass so you can refill.
Walnut Street Cafe also offers beer (think picks from Troegs, 2SP, New Trail and more) as well as soft drinks if you aren’t imbibing during your visit. Even the non-alcoholic options are quite unique with selections from Natalie’s Juice Company and Jones Soda.
On the food side of the experience, you’re in for a treat. The starters offer such a variety that it’s going to be hard to choose—so simply get more than one. A few choices include smashed spicy cucumber salad (with crushed red chili peppers, toasted sesame seed and cilantro), handmade two cheese ravioli (with mascarpone and ricotta cheese, castelvetrano olives and heirloom tomatoes), oysters (they change daily) and the two shining stars: the house-made burrata (with heirloom cherry tomatoes, smashed basil and toasted baguettes) and ginger hoisin smoked spare ribs (with smoked red peppers, toasted peanuts, cilantro and lime.)
If you’re looking to indulge in the main courses as well, it’s recommended even if you are full (that’s what take-out boxes are for), you will have a few unique choices to choose from. Highlighted picks include the summer garden pot pie (with zucchini, peas, asparagus and tarragon cream), the Greek lasagna (with cumin-spiced lamb, smashed English peas, heirloom tomato and crème fraîche, béchamel and aromatic herbs), the crispy buttermilk fried chicken sandwich (with a brioche bun, pickled slaw, spicy mayo, pickle chips and french fries) and the definite standout, the Lancaster beer can chicken (a roasted half chicken with barley risotto, cipollini onion and chicken jus).
To end things on a sweet note, there are some stellar dessert options. On top of grilled stone fruits (with peaches, plums, brown butter streusel and vanilla ice cream) and the chocolate devil’s food cake (with chocolate espresso butter cream and toasted cocoa nibs), diners can also indulge in the unique sensations that are the coconut tres leches (with butter cake, coconut cream, toasted hazelnuts and coconut sorbet) and banana split pudding (with banana, strawberry and chocolate swirl, whipped cream, split banana and a cherry on top.)
Dining at the Walnut Street Cafe is definitely an experience for your taste buds, but it also really is priced wonderfully with the most expensive item on the menu being $15. You feel like you’re having a special night out but without the repercussions of a large bill. The inventive cuisine, outdoor setting and the fare itself is more than worth a visit.
To find out more information about the Walnut Street Cafe (2929 Walnut St.) visit walnutstreetcafe.com