But First, Brunch: In West Philadelphia, Born and Raised...Sorta
We all recognize that famous line from the Fresh Prince theme song. However, the "sorta" calls attention to the fact that while I'm definitely a West Philly native, I wasn't exactly raised there. In fact, most of my formative years were spent in Delaware County, PA, a hop, skip, and a twenty minute ride away. However, for a large part of my childhood, my grandparents on both sides of the family maintained homes and/or businesses in West Philly. In the 70s my grandfather owned and operated Cooper’s BBQ store on the 5400 block of Christian Street(how I miss his barbecue sauce), while directly across the road my grandmother ran the charming little ice cream shop. And my maternal grandmother (best cook EVAH) lived just a few blocks from both of these locations. So it’s fair to say West Philly food and me go a loooong way back.
Social media these days often holds a rep for hours of mindless entertainment. However, it does have its good points, and it’s those points on which I choose to focus. Like an article I stumbled upon a couple months ago about Black Restaurant Week in Philadelphia. First of all, I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t know such a thing existed. On the other hand, I’m grateful to learn something new every day and am always happy to support positive people doing positive things. Like I do with most things, I researched all the participating restaurants and narrowed it down according to convenience of location, most appealing menu, and overall best value. With that said, Booker’s came out on top.
Booker’s Restaurant sits right on Baltimore Avenue in West Philly. If my life was a stage play, Baltimore Avenue/Pike could easily be the backdrop. There have been many changes to the neighborhood since I lived there, but I had a hunch that my hometown would still deliver great food.
The front of the restaurant looked like most storefronts I’ve come to know and appreciate over the years. Inside it was cool and inviting. Long fully stocked bar to the left with lively patrons in their Sunday best, busy staff hustling about in uniform black from head to toe, and smooth jazz whispering in the background. Growing up, this part of town wasn’t exactly known for its diversity, so it was refreshing to see faces of many shades and people from all walks of life. It’s a relatively small space with tables situated closely together. So if privacy is what you’re going for, this may not be the ticket. Charming, nonetheless.
Location aside, it was the menu that drove me to this choice. Two key things that caught my eye; jerk fried chicken & waffles, and scrapple with house made hot sauce. I didn’t come all the way to West Philly to NOT have scrapple. I mean, come on! So I was quite disappointed to find the online menu didn’t quite match the in house menu. There was scrapple, but it was breaded and fried like chicken. And that specially made hot sauce was nowhere to be found. I still ordered it because like I said, I wasn’t going back home having not had my favorite Philly throwback breakfast meat. There was also chicken & waffles, but jerk? No jerk! Or maybe I was the jerk for having such high expectations? Oh and sides? While some are listed online, none are listed in house. But ask and you may receive.
So we scrapped our original ideas and I settled on the veggie omelet, while my husband chose the waffle, grits, and a requested side of sausage. Despite my dashed hopes of the eye catching missing menu items, I have to say the food was delicious. I love a fresh omelet, and this one didn’t disappoint. Light, fluffy, cooked just right, and LOTS of cheese for this cheese lover!
The waffle had good texture, crisp on the outside, chewy inside, sweet, and buttery. After a champagne and cranberry juice cocktail, I slid into my mellow brunch mode, focusing more on the goodness of the food, and less on…well, everything else.
Overall, it was a satisfying meal. I brought the scrapple home and made my own homemade hot sauce for it. It was da jawn! 😉 Would I return to Booker’s? If I happened to be in the area and I was hungry, absolutely! The food we had was good, ambiance was cool, staff was pleasant, management helpful. There are choices for everyone; meat lovers, starch savorers, and vegans alike. If you happen to be cruising down Baltimore Avenue one day, stop in and pay them a visit.