Chef Kenneth Bush got his start cooking at age eight, growing up in Mount Vernon, NY.
“I started cooking with my mother, who cooked the southern food of her family as well as some Italian-American cuisine taught to her by her college roommate,” he says. “Cooking for people has always been my way of showing love and affection.”
His first job in the industry was actually at McDonald’s.
“I worked there as a teenager. It was a great experience because it really did show me how complicated running a restaurant can be. I worked in the kitchen and on registers, and even did dishwashing and floor maintenance, and because of this, I really got to see all aspects of the restaurant.”
Bush then went off to Yale University to earn a degree in American Studies, and it wasn’t until after college that he started cooking professionally. In 2009 he began working at Bistrot La Minette, commencing his French culinary training. In 2012, Bush went to Garces Trading Company to work as a sous chef and then returned to Bistrot La Minette as executive chef in 2014.
For this edition of “Eat like an Insider,” Bush takes us to his favorite place for jerk chicken in West Philly as well as a sushi spot that’s so hot, it doesn’t need signage.
Best late-night meal?
If I am hungry after work, I often go to Southwark (701 S. 4th St.). Chris and Marina (the owners) put out a late-night menu that hits everything you are looking for — small plate appetizers, steak tartare, charcuterie, a delicious burger and some of the best cocktails in the city. I always get the mussels escabeche.
Best meal under $10?
Little Delicious (4821 Woodland Ave.) is my go to under $10 spot. It’s a small Jamaican restaurant in West Philly, and the food is worth the drive no matter where you are. The small meal for $9 is plenty for lunch or dinner, with leftovers to spare. The jerk chicken is my personal favorite, and you get a choice of sides. I always get rice and beans, cabbage and dumplings.
Best hidden food gem?
Royal Izakaya (780 S. 2nd St.). The atmosphere is fun and the food is one of a kind in this city. I end up eating there once a month, and I don’t usually repeat dine since there are so many new restaurants to try. They are usually busy, but because it’s in a small neighborhood, has no signage, and they don’t take reservations, you can always get in. My favorite dish is the kaarage chicken wings. The wings are by far the best in the city — extra crispy and with a chili vinegar sauce that is out of this world.
Best place to dine alone?
Sate Kampar (1837 E. Passyunk Ave.). Their coffee bar is a great place to post up with an iPad or a book, and have a great dinner by yourself. Its BYO, so bring a flask! Get the meat skewers, but make sure you try the mee hoon goreng bungkus (fried rice vermicelli with egg) and the ku-mah’s achat (pickled vegetables).
Place you always take or recommend for out-of-towners?
Friday, Saturday, Sunday (261 S. 21st St.). The restaurant is so beautiful, and it’s one of the best meals I have had this year in Philly. Chad is producing some of the best food in Philly, and I always want to show that off to out-of-towners. His sweetbread katsu is my favorite bite in Philly right now.
Go-to date spot hands down?
Ambra (705 S. 4th St.). It’s beautiful, cozy and romantic. The menu changes frequently, but all of the pastas and crudos are always exceptional. Great place for an intimate date.
Best place to catch up with friends?
Royal Boucherie (52 S. 2nd St.) is a great place to catch up with friends. The booths are so cozy, and the drinks will help keep the conversation flowing. Don’t miss their escargot, but get one of the sourdough boules to help soak up all that chartreuse butter.
Most Instagrammable restaurant?
Marigold Kitchen (501 S. 45th St.). Tim, Andrew and their new chef de cuisine, Eric, are all great chefs, and put out some of the most delicious and beautiful food in the city. The menu changes a lot so it’s impossible to have a favorite.