The Love oozes a cozy charm from the moment you enter the whitewashed brick walls of the dining room. Vibrant paintings decorate the 100 seat space where dark wood floors and beamed ceilings add to the comfortable warmth. The restaurant’s casual elegance sets the scene for a truly memorable meal. The Love, which opened in 2017, is the third restaurant partnership of chef Aimee Olexy and (James Beard award-winning restaurateur) Stephen Starr. Co-Owners Olexy and Starr (both Pennsylvania natives) work tirelessly to ensure that every detail contributes to the dining experience. I felt the love.
Location: The Love is located at 130 S. 18th Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
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Menu: The Love is open for brunch, lunch, and dinner and serves elevated American comfort food and creative takes on international favorites.
Starters on the dinner menu are varied. Diners can select whole grain cast-iron baked Parker House rolls served with a side of chive butter, whistle-stop fried green tomatoes or an all-American, eight cheese, artisan cheese board. Entree’s range from seasonal portions of pasta, half-racks of ribs, vegetarian dishes like the acorn squash Pomodoro or the Lovebird (a piece of buttermilk fried chicken, whipped sweet potatoes, bourbon aioli, cider braised mustard greens, and black-eyed peas).
A sophisticated but small dessert menu tempts with “foodie” upgrades on favorite childhood desserts such as chocolate mousse dirt sundae, a decadent cookie plate, or a caramel corn sundae (peanuts, toffee, and buttered popcorn ice cream).
Thoughts: The Love sits right off Rittenhouse Square and caters to both the business crowd and casual diners. When we entered the restaurant, the hostess welcomed us immediately and led us to a lovely booth right along the windows. The table was perfect for people watching and for taking in the beautiful decor. A professional and knowledgeable waitstaff took great care to explain the menu and offered informed wine suggestions to pair with our choices. Many of the selections on the beverage program hail from vineyards, breweries, and cideries in the region.
Our appetizer choice, “Olivia’s Cheese Ball,” was creamy and the flavors married perfectly. The kitchen rolls a goat cheese ball in crushed pistachios and lavender. The ball is drizzled with fig-honey and surrounded by crisp toasts. Sometimes, when lavender is infused or added, the perfume-like flavor can overpower, but this wasn’t the case. The combinations of the mild cheese, crushed pistachios, lavender, and honey were delicate. I found the combination delicious and addictive.
Next, we ordered entree salads that were hearty and filling. My friend chose the Greek shrimp and escarole salad with orzo, feta, Kalamata olives, cucumber, and tomato, tossed with a tangy, herb vinaigrette. I selected the skewered salmon bowl. The bowl brimmed with cubes of sweet potatoes, shaved Brussel sprouts, and farro, dressed with a pomegranate vinaigrette. The presentation of both salads was beautiful – set in deep bowls with crisp, vibrant, vegetables, and bronzed proteins. The skewered salmon was roasted and topped with a few kernels of crimson . Each bite offered the delicious mix of composed ingredients with just the right amount of acid in the light dressing.
The entrees were too filling so, alas, we did not have the room to sample dessert. However, there is always next time.
Prices: Starters for lunch and dinner range from $4-22. Lunch entrée’s are $17-22. Dinner entrée’s are $17-32, and desserts are around $12.