Growing up next to Hershey, Pennsylvania — the chocolate capital of the United States — it’s no surprise that Adriana Piper would find herself diving into the sweeter side of the culinary world as a pastry chef. She first fell in love with cooking in the family kitchen and looks at her craft as a way of showing people how much she cares. She attended The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College and eventually made her way to the Stephen Starr restaurant family in 2002, currently serving as pastry chef at Barclay Prime in Rittenhouse Square. Piper shows off a bit of her savory side when she chatted with us about her favorite places to dine in Philly.
Best late night meal?
Varga Bar (941 Spruce St.). Living two doors down from this restaurant/bar was definitely an advantage for me a few years ago. I had a spot for delicious food and I could walk home at any time of night! My favorite late night dish here is the Kobe Beef Sliders. It’s the melty goat cheese that puts these three juicy burgers over the top for me.
Best meal under $10?
Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House (1022 Race St.). When we were still dating, my husband introduced me to the wonders of hand drawn noodles at Nan Zhou. It’s situated amidst the hustle and bustle of Chinatown, which I always find an intriguing destination to wander around. My go-to flavor is the Beef Brisket Noodle Soup. Tender chunks of brisket swimming in a fragrant broth with those luscious noodles, too. It’s a big bowl that will sate your appetite for hours on just a few dollars.
Best hidden foodie gem?
Royal Tavern (937 E. Passyunk Ave.). What can I say? I like a good “dive” bar that can really turn out some delicious food. The atmosphere is so lively; I love sitting at the bar, having a beer and munching on the Fresh Popped Popcorn. Yes, the popcorn is my favorite dish! It’s popped to order — the old school way — and flavored with truffle butter and parmesan cheese. It’s like an adult version of my best childhood moment.
Best place to dine alone?
Parc (227 S. 18th St.). Make sure to sit facing Rittenhouse Square when you are dining alone here. This may be one of the few spots in the city where it’s more fascinating to watch what and who is passing by than to be looking at your smartphone. It’s even better to dine alone because you won’t have to apologize for not paying attention to the conversation! I go for lunch and get the Nicoise Salad. The briny components of the olives and tuna pair so well with the sweet tomatoes and buttery greens.
Place you always take or recommend for out-of-towners?
Reading Terminal Market (12th and Arch streets). I love taking out-of-towners to the RTM because it is so lively and has so many different vendors. You can go around to each restaurant and create your own eclectic picnic lunch or dinner based on your fancies in that moment. One of my favorites to point out is DiNic’s for the Italian roast pork sandwich. What an iconic eat for Philadelphia in a landmark building. And, if Beiler’s Donuts is open, I’m ending my meal with a Dutch Crumb!
Go-to date spot?
Barbuzzo (110 S. 13th St.). The seating is so close together that you can’t help but get cozy with your date when you come here for dinner. The vibe is casual yet classy, there’s an open kitchen if you need a diversion from possible awkward conversation, and the menu is approachable. My favorite dish is the Sheep’s Milk Ricotta appetizer. It’s great for a date because it’s a hands-on dish: Grab a piece of the crusty, slightly charred bread and dig in.
Best place to catch up with friends?
Bluestone Lane (1701 Locust St.). With my unconventional schedule, most of my catching up with friends happens early in the morning before I go to work. With the opening of Bluestone Lane, I’ve got a comfortable spot for a cup of coffee and breakfast that is minutes away from my job. The Avocado Smash is chock full of avocados (I mean, so many avocados!), feta and fresh tomatoes. The contrasts of creamy, salty, fresh and crunchy toast on the bottom are the best way to start your day.
Most Instagrammable restaurant?
The Bakeshop on Twentieth (269 S. 20th St.). I would be remiss to not post any favorite pastry places of mine! This bakery has all of your needs covered — morning fix, snack fix, dessert fix — all in a gorgeous space with an open kitchen so you can see the freshness of your treats. Plus, the Instagram pictures that they post are some of the most fun, whimsical and lovely items. I always save room for the Rittenhouse Brownie — layers of crushed pretzels, caramel, and chocolate brownie. It’s hard to stop at just one.