Michael Strauss is the co-owner of Taproom on 19th and recently opened the highly anticipated Mike’s BBQ, with a menu of meats (“smoked the old school way) and comfort food galore. The New Jersey native first got into the restaurant industry through volunteering at Vetri Community Partnership, which led to owning his own bar. But cooking has been a lifelong passion.
“I’ve been cooking since I could barely reach the stove,” Strauss says.
Despite not having formal training, his enthusiasm for the industry is contagious as is his love for the Philly food scene.
“I get lots of joy from making people happy and food makes people happy,” he says. “I also love that here in Philly, we have such a close-knit industry. Even though we are all always working, and never really see each other, you always have someone to lean on.”
When he’s not in the kitchen, Strauss enjoys spending time with family, playing guitar and exploring different restaurants in the city. Here are Strauss’ top picks on where to eat in Philly.
Best late night meal?
I’ve always loved Fountain Porter (1601 S. 10th St.) — excellent draft list and the burger is perfect.
Best meal under $10?
Mi Quang (3324 Kensington Ave.), under the El in Kensington, get the bun bo hue or their name sake Mi Quang. They also make a meatball banh mi — tender and delicious.
Best hidden food gem?
Check out Stockyard (1541 Spring Garden St.) in Fairmount — best breakfast sandwich in the city! Get the house pastrami, egg and cheese on a everything English muffin. Their braised beef sandwich is killer too and get the fried potatoes as a side.
Best place to dine alone?
Cafe Nhan (1606 W. Passyunk Ave.) on West Passyunk. Get a simple homemade bowl of pho — it just warms the soul. Off menu secret: the braised chicken can come with an omelette and Chinese sausage.
Place you always take or recommend for out-of-towners?
I send people to Le Virtu (1927 E. Passyunk Ave.) all the time. Order everything! My favorite is their ragu and pasta.
Go-to date spot hands down?
My idea of a date and yours are probably different (laughs). I would recommend Will BYOB (1911 East Passyunk Ave.) on Passyunk. Grab a bottle of vino and let Chef Chris feed you . The menu changes weekly — eat it all.
Best place to catch up with friends?
Go to Brewery ARS (1927-29 West Passyunk Ave.) on Thursday and have a beer. As a bonus, Ramble Pizza truck is there, too.
Most Instagrammable restaurant?
Ha! Have you seen my Instagram? Chef Adan at Pistolas Del Sur (1934 East Passyunk Ave.) makes some sexy food! Spicy pork belly nachos paired with a beer? Yes!