Hip to Be Square
Downingtown’s Guillermo Tellez brings sustainable flair to Philly.
Photos by Steve Legato
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In 1993, Guillermo Tellez was the first-ever winner of the James Beard Foundation’s Felipe Rojas-Lombardi Award of Achievement for Hispanic Chefs. Since then, he’s enjoyed stints at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, Philly’s Striped Bass and, most recently, Northbrook MarketPlace in rural Chester County.
At Northbrook’s 20-seat farmhouse table, it was all about locally grown and raised vegetables and meats. And though not quite on par with Talula’s Table in Kennett Square, the sustainable experience offered by Tellez and partner Rob Boone was impressive. But its low-key locale and slow start apparently weren’t enough to hold Tellez’s attention. The big city beckoned for this Downingtown resident.
Northbrook opened in 2008, and by the fall of 2009, Tellez was on the move. His latest stop: Square 1682, the dining room at Kimpton Hotels’ luxe new Hotel Palomar—a little slice of Manhattan in Center City, with its top-hat-donning valet and refined yet friendly service.
The culinary concept at Square 1682 is “New American with world flavors.” And like at Northbrook, sustainability is the hook. In fact, Kimpton sought out Tellez for this very reason.
Currently, the chef gets his provisions from 40 Pennsylvania growers, including Seven Stars Farm in Phoenixville, Hoover’s Farm Market in Lititz, Shady Brook Farm in Yardley and Deer Creek Farm in Reading. But he’s been known to go outside the state, too.
After a warm welcome from Square 1682’s maître d’, we began our evening at the elegant, 10-stool bar, where the vibe was at once classy and relaxing. San Francisco-based designer Dayna Lee enhanced the space with geometric prints, clean lines and Art Deco accents. In the lounge area beyond the bar, sleek sofas face a fireplace.
The wine list offers a broad spectrum of reds and whites from the United States, France and elsewhere. The eclectic signature cocktail list more accurately reflects the restaurant’s New American credo, with hints of Mexico, Asia and India. I had the Bell Pepper Smash, a smoky, sweet, lightly spiced combination of Domaine de Canton ginger-flavored liqueur, muddled raspberries, bell pepper and chilled Ketel One Citroen vodka.
Food wise, the bar menu offers dishes well-designed for sharing—crispy maitake mushrooms with citrus dipping sauce; roasted dates with West Chester-made Shellbark Hollow Farm cheese wrapped in smoked bacon; and 1682’s signature lemon-scented hummus.
Upstairs in the dining room, the menu is broader, with small and large plates that invite group participation. The design concept is consistent with the look downstairs, from the flat cutlery and square bread plates to the chic mesh place mats and geometric wine glasses.