PHLReview

photo credit: Kelly Smith

The Love review image
7.8

The Love

$$$$

130 S 18th St, Philadelphia
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Just like how Nicolas Cage’s career is the summation of every character he’s ever played (both the ones he got Oscar nominations for and whatever he’s been doing for the past decade), we think that the value of a restaurant is equal to the sum of its parts. It’s mostly about the food, but it’s also about how you feel when you’re there, and whether or not you can imagine yourself enjoying a dinner there.

So when it comes to The Love, we have mixed feelings, and here’s why. When you walk in, it feels kind of like you just stepped into a more upscale version of a mall restaurant, and everything is just a little too formulaic - from the white brick arches that are faded in all the right places to the navy awnings with The Love. printed in Futura (the most universally appealing font ever created). At the same time, though, the food at The Love ranges from good to something you’d go actually out of your way for.

The Love review image

photo credit: Kelly Smith

The menu includes a mix of Southern food and things that you’d expect at a nicer version of the Cheesecake Factory. And even though we roll our eyes every time we see the “Love Bird” (a buttermilk fried chicken dish that’s so decadent you’ll probably bring half of it home and eat it for your next three lunches), and cringe when we order the “Eat Your Veggies!” (the perfect crudite for when you want to pretend you’re being healthy before you order an entire bowl of pasta), we keep asking for them. The pastas are also great, especially the smoked brisket pappardelle, which is perfectly al dente with a smokey beef brisket ragu and topped with a heap of creamy ricotta cheese. It’s a must order, even if you’ve already gone out for pasta three times this week.

Despite their new paint smell and general menu corniness, we actually kind of like it here. Most of their food is pretty good, and there are a bunch of occasions that would land us here, like a solo dinner outside when we feel like people watching, or a client lunch that they suggested take place at The Capital Grille for the 15th time in a row.

So if you don’t mind the Barnes & Noble cafe vibe inside, or are lucky enough to snag one of their sidewalk tables, The Love is worth your time. Much more worth your time than, say, watching Ghost Rider for the first time since you left the theater at minute 11 in 2007.

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Food Rundown

Whole Grain Cast-Iron Baked Parker House Rolls

Every meal here should start with these. They come warm in a skillet, and you’ll want to put the chive butter all over them.

The Love review image

Eat Your Veggies!

We could do without the exclamation mark, but the dressing is great and you’ll want something light to break up everything else you’re going to eat here.

Whistle Stop Fried Green Tomatoes

Another solid starter, they’re extra crispy and come with a pimiento cheese dip on the side.

The Love review image

Lovebird

Buttermilk fried chicken with sweet potatoes and bourbon aioli. The name is silly, but it’s still one of the most delicious things on the menu.

Smoked Brisket Pappardelle

This is really good. Like, really good. If you order any single item on the menu, it should be this.

The Love review image

Maple Salmon

We think this is fine, but it probably won’t make you any more excited than your dad’s offer to connect you with his friend who’s not even really in your industry. It’s a little too sweet, and the salmon is somehow too buttery, if that’s possible.

Sesame Stir-Fried Green Beans And Snow Peas

We’ve had much better stir fry. This is pretty boring and bland, which is generally not what we expect from stir fry. Don’t order this.

Dirt Sundae

Remember when you were little and you’d make “dirt cups” in school with chocolate pudding, Oreos, and gummy worms? This is the grown-up version of that and we love it.

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