Mike Solomonov’s Top Picks for Philly
Highly regarded as one of the best chefs in Philadelphia—and I’d say in the entire country—Michael Solomonov’s Israeli food at the award-winning Zahav is beyond exquisite; it’s mind blowing. After he took a seemingly simple dish like hummus and elevated it to cult status, people started paying attention and the crowds have never ceased. With his business partner, restaurateur Steven Cook, Solomonov now owns several off-the-charts Philly restaurants—the obsessed-over fried chicken and doughnut emporium Federal Donuts (which now has four locations); the Southern-inspired Percy Street Barbecue; the casual hummus shop Dizengoff; and finally Abe Fisher, a restaurant run by Yehuda Sichel (a former sous chef of Zahav) serving cuisine inspired by the Jewish Diaspora. Below, we asked Solomonov to share a few Philadelphia favorites, from the best bread and butter in the city to the iconic Reading Terminal Market. Stay tuned for his debut cookbook, Zahav, to be published this fall.
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Credit: Neal Santos
High Street has got the best bread in Philly and possibly on the east coast. It’s literally two blocks away from my house, which means it is acceptable to walk there in my bathrobe. The anadama bread with their house-made cultured butter is probably the best bite in the city.
High Street on Market / 308 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106 / 215.625.0988
Credit: Steve Legato
I’m also a huge fan of Pizzeria Vetri. The Sicilian Slice with house made Charcuturie is unreal—rich dough, spiced meat—so good. While I eat my slices slow and civilized, my four-year-old will crush a margerita pizza by himself.
Pizzeria Vetri / 1939 Callowhill Street,Philadelphia, PA 19130 / 215.600.2629
Credit: Spice C Noodle
Noodles are also a must, and Spice C hand drawn noodles are incredibly good, consistent, and inexpensive. I like the Szechuan noodles but the pork dumplings are awesome too.
Spice C Noodle / 131 North 10th Street, Philadelphia PA 1910 / 215.923.2222
Credit: Cris Molina
The Hotel Monaco at 433 Chestnut Street is a great spot to stay since it is in the heart of Old City and near all the go-to historical spots like the Liberty Bell and the Betsy Ross House nearby. You can easily hop in a cab up to Center City or the East Passyunk area from there as well.
Hotel Monaco / 433 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106 / 215.925.2111
The Best Way to Spend a Saturday Afternoon
Credit: Visit New Jersey
Typically on a Saturday afternoon, I’m at the restaurant getting ready for service. If that is ever not the case, I am definitely going to be at the Jersey Shore on a surf board, enjoying the beach with my wife and kids.
One Attraction You Shouldn’t Miss
Credit: Reading Terminal Market
Reading Terminal Market / 12th & Arch Streets, Philadelphia, PA 19107 / 215.922.2317
About Michael Solomonov
A 2011 James Beard Award winner for “Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic,” Chef Michael Solomonov is the executive chef at Zahav, Philadelphia’s renowned modern Israeli restaurant. Known for his extraordinary skill at transforming simple foods into artful culinary masterpieces, he is widely regarded as one of the city’s top young chefs and entrepreneurs. In addition to his duties at Zahav, of which is he co-owner, Chef Solomonov is a partner in Percy Street Barbecue, a Southern inspired barbecue restaurant and bar on South Street that has quickly become known as the best place in Philadelphia for smoked meats, and Federal Donuts a mostly take-out, donuts-and-fried-chicken shop serving exceptional coffee, cake donuts and fried chicken. In August of 2014, he and partner Steven Cook opened Dizengoff, a casual hummusiya, and Abe Fisher, serving cuisine inspired by the Jewish Diaspora.
Recently, Chef Solomonov was announced as a semifinalist for Outstanding Chef in the James Beard Awards; Abe Fisher was also listed for Best New Restaurant. In 2014, Zahav was named to the “The National Eater 38,” by editor Bill Addison, and Abe Fisher and Dizengoff were both featured as two of Travel + Leisure’s “50 Best New Restaurants, 2014.” Mike was also voted Eater’s Chef of the Year and was featured in Esquire’s September 2014 as one of 22 Men Redefining Style Across America.
In 2012, Food & Wine magazine named Chef Solomonov among the country’s top “Empire Builders,” admiring his devotion “to reinventing overlooked cuisines.” Chef Solomonov was also the subject of a New York Times feature in 2011 that explored the genesis and continued success of Zahav, which praised his “simple food with layers of flavor.” That same year, Zahav was elevated to a coveted “Four Bells: Superior” rating from the Philadelphia Inquirer, one of only four restaurants citywide to attain that elite status. Both Conde Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure named Zahav among the top restaurants in the nation in their May 2009 issues, and Esquire named Zahav among their “Best New Restaurants, 2008.” Zahav has also been featured in Bon Appetit, which selected the restaurant as one of their “Hot 10 Summer Blockbusters.” Philadelphia magazine named Zahav “Best New Restaurant, 2008” in their annual “Best of Philly” issue.
Before opening Zahav, which means “gold” in Hebrew, in 2008, Chef Solomonov was the executive chef at West Philadelphia’s Marigold Kitchen, which he and restaurateur Steven Cook co-owned until 2009. There, he was named “Rising Star Chef, 2007” by Restaurant Hospitality magazine, as well as “Best Chef, 2006” by Philadelphia magazine. Prior to joining Cook at Marigold Kitchen, Chef Solomonov worked under such top chefs as Marc Vetri at Vetri and Terence Feury at Striped Bass. He is a graduate of the Florida Culinary Institute in West Palm Beach, FL. Born in Israel, he grew up in Pittsburgh, PA and now calls Philadelphia home. He frequently travels back to Israel, including an epic 2008 trip with the entire opening team from Zahav to introduce them to the cuisine they would be preparing and serving.
Featured Image Credit: Steve Legato.