Riverfront restaurant La Peg at Fringe Arts Unveils Updated Contemporary American Focused Menu
When we were informed that La Peg at Fringe Arts updated their menu to include elevated American dishes inspired by Chef Peter Woolsey’s childhood, we were intrigued. We hadn’t tried the old menu, even though this restaurant was always on our “to visit” list. We were already huge fans of Woolsey’s Bistro La Minette.
From what we heard and read, La Peg at Fringe Arts seems to be a welcome addition to the Philly food scene. Some people we know who visited a few times since it opened, have exclaimed their love of the concept and absolutely raved about their experience; while others weren’t entirely impressed and had mixed thoughts about the previous iteration. Not that we pay a lot of attention to Yelp, but most reviews there err on the side of positive.
So why change the menu at all? Because change is imminent and can be a very good thing in the restaurant biz, especially if it based on customer feedback. But it sounds like the Chef simply wanted a change, too; to represent something more personal to him. It will be interesting to see how this change is received. In any case, we were happy to be invited to try the new menu and provide our thoughts and share our experience.
Having driven by a couple of times, we knew just how amazing the location is. You could say it’s a perfect spot. Away from the hustle and bustle of downtown’s more popular neighborhoods and hot spots, yet still convenient and easy to get to. You can’t beat “close to the riverfront” dining and the fact that the building sits right next to the Ben Franklin bridge is actually quite appealing. It makes for exciting dining scenery. Luckily, we were able to score a reservation on a beautiful Wednesday night which also meant free on-street parking!
The first thing you notice upon arrival is the large outdoor space adjacent to the building and Race Street. They call it a Beer Garden. I guess in warmer months, there may be some greenery, but to me it’s simply a Beer Patio, a very nice one at that. There’s plenty of seating complete with both tables and chairs and picnic benches. There’s also lighting strung up which emits a cozy & warm vibe.
The inside is visually striking. The ceilings are very tall; towering to 45 feet and with large windows to match. The decor is “industrial-chic” as they call it; which is the most accurate way to describe it. The building was an old pumping station at the turn-of-the-century over 100 years ago. It is a beautiful use of turning an old building into a stunning dining and event space.
We were quickly seated upon our arrival. They placed us at 2 seat table on an elevated platform near a window facing the patio. We would have loved to be seated at the window, but there were people already there. It’s probably one of the more popular tables in the restaurant.
Our view was not too shabby, though. We were later told that live entertainment will set up and perform on this elevated platform. In fact, there is already a lot of acts booked this Spring & Summer, every night of the week!
Our server, Sergio, was super friendly and helpful from the start. I noticed his accent and guessed he was from France, which he confirmed. He’s been living and working in Philadelphia for close to 20 years, though.
Upon reviewing the drinks menu, I opted for the “Trap Room” cocktail which is their spin on a classic margarita: Juarez Tequila, blood orange juice, triple sec, and lime juice. It was so good, I had 2! I could have easily drank a 3rd.
There’s a nice selection of classic cocktails, their own signature ones, wines by the glass and bottle, as well as tap beers. My only regret is that I didn’t try one of their other signature cocktails, but the Trap Room was so good, it warranted having another.
We started our meal with 2 briny oysters on the half shell. They had 3 varieties to choose from that evening. We asked Sergio for his recommendation, and he told us the ones from Virginia were quite good. Virginia has a long history of harvesting oysters so it was a perfectly good suggestion. They try to source ingredients as local as possible. I consider Virginia local. It’s just down road, after all.
As far as oysters go, these were good. Spot on with a splash of lemon juice and dollop of cocktail sauce. I failed to ask if the cocktail sauce is made in-house; it tasted like it could have been due to the prominent horseradishy flavor; I usually don’t like too much horseradish, but it was balanced with sweetness and complimented the oysters well.
Since we (hubby & I) were on a seafood kick, we wanted to give the clams casino a try, too. It had been some time since we last had them.
Again, as far as clams casino goes, these were good. But I would not say they were outstanding. They were as straight up as I’ve ever had clams casino, but the breadcrumbs to clam ratio was disproportionate. More breadcrumbs than clam, sadly.
In hindsight, I feel we should have ordered the crab cakes or foie gras. I’ve had the foie gras at Bistro La Minette (in fact, that’s the first place I ever had it!) and it instantly converted me into a foie gras lover. Understanding the inhumane way it is made, usually keeps me from having it on regular basis, however I do like to splurge on it from time to time.
By the time we finished the oysters and clams, I had already consumed 2 Trap Rooms. Let me tell you, they go down really easy. I wasn’t feeling buzzed, so I was more than willing to keep drinking. I didn’t hesitate to order a glass of Cloudbreak Pinot Noir, which I knew would go perfect with the Whole Lamb Rack I was about to receive.
This lamb was simply sublime. I asked for it to be cooked medium, but it came out a bit on the medium-rare side which turned out to be perfect. I’ll know for next time. While not American, this lamb from New Zealand hit the mark. I’ll let it slide that it’s not from America. It was a lot of fun and delicious to use the chop to sop into the mint jelly that was provided (the green stuff on the plate). Great, classic combo.
Hubby’s selection truly represented America; in fact it represented Pennsylvania. He chose the Broiled Rainbow Trout entree.
Surprisingly, while the trout was cooked perfectly with lots of yummy fresh herbs on top, and the roasted potatoes were delicious, he remarked how much he loved the roasted red peppers that came with the dish. It’s not the first vegetable that would come to our mind paired with the supple Pennsylvanian trout, but it worked.
Sergio tried to get us to order dessert, and we were quite tempted to and nearly did; ultimately we chose to end our meal right there. Had we forged ahead with dessert, we would have chosen the Strawberry Shortcake (shortcake, macerated strawberries, whipped creme) or Apple Cobbler with vanilla ice cream. The classic Root Beer Float, with root beer made on premises, sounded awesome, too. Very American if you ask us. Next time. Definitely next time.
All in all, we had a pleasurable dining experience at La Peg at Fringe Arts. We can’t wait to return and try some other items on the menu. I feel like our meal didn’t quite fully represent what they are capable of doing; even though it was executed nicely. We highly recommend that you give them a shot, especially if you had tried it in the past (under the old menu) and weren’t impressed. We think you’ll find something enjoyable on this menu. You’ll also find the ambiance and the service makes it worth the visit. Finally, you can’t beat the view especially from the 2nd level — so be sure to go up there and take a look!
La Peg at Fringe Arts
140 North Columbus Blvd. (at Race Street)
Philadelphia, PA 19106