Iron Chef Jose Garces' newest Philly restaurant, Garces Trading Company, opened its doors exactly one month ago today. Although it has yet to get reviewed by any of the city's big critics, the place has been packed since day one and plenty of first responders have already shared their thoughts on the blogs and the message boards. While Jose's reputation in the city is pretty strong —mostly because of his solid, accessible food —the Trading Co. is an ambitious project that combines a take-away deli counter, table seating, and a market place, all in one. On to the early word.
The Good News: Midtown Lunch found a lot to like in the food on an early visit: "While the sandwich was not huge, it was jam packed with pig, both ham and roast pork. The ham had a nice spicy kick to it. I am used to cubans being pressed, and mine wasn’t, don’t know if this was on purpose or a first day oversight, but the sandwich would have benefited greatly from having the Gruyere melted and the bread a little toasted. That crusty bread and their thinly sliced crisp pickles matched perfectly with the porcine pieces."
The Great News: One Yelper liked almost everything, but especially loved the pizzas: "Funghi Pizza - ***FIVE STARS! ** This was fantastic! Though more like a thin flatbread, this pizza was filling and packed with flavor. If you love truffles, you should try this. I like this even better than the Tartufo at Pizzeria Stella, even though it doesn't have the egg. I ate two slices there and devoured the second two as leftovers...even delicious cold and soggy!!!"
This Not-So-Great News: This eGullet user had a somewhat harried experience:"The service was a bit harried and our waiter was in desperate need of a breath mint, but I wasn't bent out of shape figuring it was the opening weekend and they did not know what to expect. Our meal did take over an hour and a half though, but it was enjoyable just to sit and watch what people were eating. At the end of the meal we tried to get some of the sausage to go but the line was just moving too slowly with people asking to sample this and that and too little help."
The Frustrating News: AnotherYelper didn't dine in, but found the take out option to be a real pain: "though I can't comment on the dining in experience, taking out was...frustrating. Grabbed our coq au vin to go (more on that later) and then waited...and waited...for the cheesemonger to catch our eye. No dice. When we finally got his attention (by asking someone on the other end of the counter for assistance), he was curt and less than helpful. The cheese we got was $14 and, honestly, not what we asked for assistance with. (And didn't taste very good, to be honest--and I love me some cheese; if it's in front of me I'm eating it.) Staff seems confused. We were told there were no baguettes, and then a box of them was magically found. Under the counter on the floor in a cardboard box. They were uninspired, but not terrible. The Cambodian place on East Passyunk is miles ahead of them."
The "Needs Some Fine Tuning" News: A local blogger liked all the food, but found some serious kinks at the market: "The only hiccup on my visit was a jar of "purple condiment" -- you guessed it, something else I had never heard of and had no idea I needed until I saw it -- that was priced at $4.50 on the shelf but rang up at $15. So I made the choice to live without purple condiment, given how much I was already spending on lunch and my market takeaways."
The "It's Not Worth It" News: A Philly Speaks user thinks that Garces could do better: "I definitely appreciated buying nice wine for a good price, with no markups. That much was great. However, I got the charcuterie, and the chorizo blanco was like something out of a Saturday Night Live skit - sausage sliced so thin that I could see through it better than I could taste it. The fusilli carbonara was good enough, but with so many amazing places to eat in Center City, I won't be going back any time soon. When I can eat amazingly good food, I'll skip good enough."