In the past year, I've been to a handful of restaurants that have perfectly lovely food and atmosphere, but have let those experiences go without a writeup on the blog. I almost didn't bother to write about Meritage, the warm and cozy bar and restaurant serving small plates on the corner of Lombard and 20th St., but changed my mind for a couple of reasons.
For starters, I was very impressed with Meritage's bartender who was not only friendly and warm, but handled the drink end of his job, as well as all the food orders and questions from those dining at the bar without even the slightest bit of ire. Kudos to pleasant bartenders!
Also, even though the menu at Meritage is small, and has limited non-meaty dishes, you should know that the kitchen knows what's up with vegan (Meritage even used to do a Tuesday night vegan tasting menu), and has some vegan dishes on the menu even though they are not denoted.Meritage's chef, Anne Coll, likes to slip elements of Asian cuisine into her plates, and did so with a sweet, rice vinegar and ginger pickled vegetable plate (only $3!) composed of cucumbers, radish, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, baby carrots, pearl onion, beets, and red onion. If you like the pickled ginger on sushi platters, you'll love these faintly reminiscent pickles. There are two pieces of each vegetable, so this plate is perfect to share with a friend without fighting over the odd piece. The pickled beets, this time topped with salad of baby greens, make a repeat showing on the herbed goat cheese mousse and crostini plate. A simple and traditional bar snack perfect for sipping with wine, and, happily, the bread to cheese ratio was perfect. Hate running out of one before the other!During the month of March, Meritage is adding Asian-inspired street foods to the menu, so I snagged one of the vegetarian (also vegan!) offerings of Burmese fried lentil fritters with mint chutney. The crispy outside with bits of very crunchy lentils gave way to a fluffy, savory center. Funnily, besides the texture of crunchy lentils, these taste more like hushpuppies should (savory, not sweet!) than any of the hushpuppies I've had in Philly that have cropped up in the past year or so.The lemon pudding cake with pomegranate syrup, candied kumquat, citrus wedges and a sesame tuile is more of a airy mousse than a cake. Light and refreshing with citrus zing, this dessert is the perfect way to end a meal without weighing you down.
Need more heft? Can't go wrong with a hard-shelled, chocolate-covered peanut butter bomb with pomegranate glaze, and caramelized banana and whipped cream.
I couldn't find a single fault with any of my dishes, so maybe it's best I tell you about Meritage with it's dim, cozy atmosphere, and affordable, refined, small plates. Meritage would be a perfect date spot, or just a place to hang with friends when you want to class it up a notch.
500 S. 20th St., Philadelphia PA 19103
Tues-Thurs: 5-10 pm
Fri & Sat: 5-11 pm