Parlor Suburban Square Gets It Right the Second Time
The former St. James Place offers outstanding pizza and more.
Spaghetti with crab, baby tomatoes, garlic, saffron, chile flakes and dill.//all photos by steve legato
Rob Wasserman is a man who understands the importance of the “three Ls of real estate.” His long-running, ultra-popular bistro, Rouge, holds what is possibly the most plum location in Center City—directly across from Rittenhouse Square. His newest venture, Parlor, has been comfortably ensconced in the posh heart of Ardmore’s Suburban Square since March. Indeed, the location gods have blessed this restaurateur.
But unlike with Rouge and his other successful urban eatery, the casual burger joint 500 Degrees on Sansom Street, Wasserman and chef Michael Schulson encountered challenges when they partnered to open Parlor’s predecessor, the Saint James, in 2012. Locals didn’t exactly take to the problematic American bistro and bar, and critics were merciless—perhaps justifiably so.
“The concept and execution weren’t right,” Wasserman admits now. “It wasn’t snap, crackle, pop. It was just crackle.”
In love with the area and living blocks away with his wife, Maggie, and their four kids, Wasserman decided to create the sort of casual place his whole family would enjoy. And it appears he’s hit on the right concept this time.
Though a far cry from a mom-and-pop, Parlor’s whitewashed-brick dining room and its sleek bar area are comfortable and unpretentious. The spacious spot’s focal point is the massive pizza oven, which is painted Ferrari red.
a Mint Smash, with Knob Creek bourbon, muddled lemon and fresh mint; baked meatballs
“The oven factory in Modena, Italy, is located right next door to the auto plant,” Wasserman says.
The vibe of Parlor’s outdoor patio is not unlike that of the 18th Street sidewalk at Rouge, right down to the pooches enjoying their house water bowls. Their owners sip from a well-honed selection of beers, wines and cocktails, and munch on addictive Parmesan-dusted truffle fries and “sugar and spice” chicken wings. Meaty and oven-roasted, they’re encased in a proprietary blend of seasonings—it’s as if they’ve been partying with a spice rack.
Additional straightforward appetizer choices include baked meatballs, tender calamari, and a lemony shrimp pot. There’s also a solid selection of salads, pizzas and pastas, plus several shareable sides. The pappardelle, with red-wine-braised lamb, pecorino and dark chocolate, is a must-try.
While pizza places have reached critical mass around here, Parlor’s artisan pies are worth a mention. With each quickly gas-blasted and finished in the wood-fired oven, the crust is crispier than you typically find with a Neapolitan pizza—though still with the requisite dough bubbles and burnt spots. Choices range from the usual margherita and marinara, to concoctions like the mushroomy Fun Guy, the honey-drizzled Sasquash (topped with tender butternut squash and speck), and the chili-oil-laced Beastmode.
If you’re smart about your selections, Parlor’s beverage program can be as affordable as it is approachable. Alongside well-curated wines by the glass and bottle, there are three reds and three whites on draft, including a crisp chardonnay and a luscious cab sav (both only $6 per pour).
The dessert selection is minimal but yummy, especially the Nutella pizza slathered with molasses and dusted with powdered sugar and earthy cocoa nibs.
a margherita pizza with San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella, olive oil and basil.
THE SKINNY: With Parlor’s classy-casual, pizza-focused concept firmly in place and the friendly, outgoing staff his customers deserve, Rob Wasserman now has the right sort of restaurant for Suburban Square—one that we hope will stick around for a long time.
Parlor Suburban Square
30 Parking Plaza, Ardmore, (610) 649-6200, www.parlorardmore.com.
Cuisine: Shareable artisan pizzas, fresh pastas, salads and sides.
Attire: Stylishly casual.
Atmosphere: A pizza joint and wine bar with a classy, contemporary twist.
Hours: Lunch: 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. daily. Dinner: 3-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 3-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday.
Extras: The menu is 90-percent gluten-free.