Bud & Marilyn's- Philadelphia,Gayborhood- 5-Stars.
I am standing in the pouring rain outside of a locked Bud & Marilyn's. Checking my watch, I noticed we were still a few minutes early and it was at this point that I cursed the architect for not including an overhang above the door. Not being a local, I was pleasantly surprised to see this area of Philly, officially called "Gayborhood" in the obvious midst of a vibrant revitalization.
It wasn't before too long, especially given the fact that they had just opened, when our server, Len, approached our table. Len certainly knew the menu inside and out; however, I found him to be a tad on the sluggish side. I chalked this up to the fact they just opened and Len might still need to warm up before being game ready. I started with what has been voted the best Bloody Mary in Philly, followed by an order of one of the day's specials, plated Liver and Onions, a bowl of Matzo Ball Soup and one order of Fried Chicken (a must in a down-home, simple food place).
Len soon returned from the well-stocked libation station with cocktails in hand. Now it was on to the award-winning, voted best by patrons in the greater Philly metro area, vaunted Bud & Marilyn's Bloody Mary. When I was younger a Bloody Mary consisted of Vodka, Bloody Mary mix, a dash of Tabasco sauce and a fresh celery stalk if it was a "fancy" one, the rim of the glass would be coated in celery salt, ala the margarita. My, how things have changed. Most Bloody Mary's these days are stuffed with everything but the proverbial kitchen sink. While I found this one to be slightly busy for my tastes as well (I did love the mini chili peppers), it didn't have hard boiled eggs, a chicken leg or a steak stuck on a skewer crammed into the glass, so I was good. With one taste I knew it was a very, very good Bloody Mary and it very well might be the best in the city of Brotherly Love, but it was not the best one I've had. Don't take that the wrong way. It was full of flavor and had a nice pepper finish which, along with those scrumptious mini chili peppers places it firmly in my top 10. With the potent potables out of the way all we could do was wait on Len to bring us the grub.
Beginning with the special of the day, the plated liver and onions. I began my culinary treck through Chef Turney's creations. I know what the menu said. I know what Len said. However, this is not the liver and onions I had growing up nor one I have dined on before. This was deconstructed fresh chicken liver with the freshest bread I have yet had. Accompanied by marinated pearl onion slices and onion crisps this was truly a "tricked out" version of the Midwest dinner staple.
Grabbing my spoon and turning my attention to the bowl of Matzo Ball soup I eagerly sloshed a spoonful into my mouth. I question whether this really is Matzo Ball Soup as it certainly ain't your grandmother's, nor the little old ladies down the street for that matter. No, no, no loyal Biggie, this one was bursting with flavors and was certainly not cooked in the traditional Jewish manner. The broth was superbly crafted with a complexity of flavors heretofore unfounded in my experience. The Matzo Ball was a sight to behold as it dominated the Bowl and packed a punch of flavor all by itself.
There are not many meals I would consider better representative of simple, tasty American fare than Bud & Marilyn's fried chicken. Presented along like everything else on the table with dramatic flair it was reason enough to stop in. While I found the dredge to be simply flour with no spices, it was not lacking in taste as it came with the most delicious homemade buttermilk dipping sauce to yet pass my lips. The chicken was fried to a succulent golden brown and did I mention the freakin' dipping sauce?? Such flavor in a simple sauce, it added a delightful pop to each bit of nummy fried chicken. Every meal of fried chicken should come with coleslaw, it's like an unwritten rule. No, strike that. From now on every meal of fried chicken should be sided up with the coleslaw from Bud & Marilyn's. This is a slaw like no other found in human history. It is flavored with fresh mango, spices and cabbage sans any hint of mayonnaise. The lack of mayonnaise may leave the debate open as to whether or not this is technically a version of "coleslaw," but regardless the lack of this slaw staple made it very, very acidic (which is a good thing).
Needless to say, Bud & Marilyn's quickly ascended the ladder of the BBDO restaurant list and is firmly seated in the number two spot as my second favorite restaurant in the whole of the U.S.A. Yes, you read that correctly. Yes, this place is that damn good.
The Big Boy says, "If you are anywhere east of the Mississippi and haven't eaten here yet, you should be ashamed of yourself and rectify that as soon as possible!"