Marigold Kitchen: A Southern accent in West Philly

Marigold Kitchen introduced new Executive Chef Erin O’Shea in January 2008, and while Marigold has been a popular BYOB foodie haunt since it’s opening in 2004, it was delightful to revisit and see what changes O’Shea has made in the menu. Happily, her inspired contemporary Southern cuisine and homespun fare kicks off another era for this celebrated restaurant.

Located on a quaint street in West Philly, Marigold Kitchen sits in a grand old Victorian townhouse, which has served as a restaurant since 1934 when it was originally the Marigold Tea Room. A warm atmosphere and series of intimate rooms make guests feel as though they are dining in a friend’s home.

Careful sourcing and preparation are the backbone of Chef O’Shea’s new seasonal menus, serving traditional Dixie fare like country ham from Virginia and stone-ground grits. Pickles and jams O’Shea makes in house accent the dishes beautifully.

Actually, O’Shea is a huge fan of the much-maligned Southern staple. She blames general dislike of grits on poor preparation.

“Grits should taste like liquid popcorn,” says Chef O’Shea. “They shouldn’t be all mush, there should be a texture.” She achieves this complexity of flavor with her trademark by cooking them her way—the hard, old-fashioned way of slow cooking with butter and stirring the pot for hours on end.

Marigold’s cuisine, though inspired by Southern ingredients and traditions, is modern with subtle French influences; satisfying and homey, yet some how refined and elegant. Standout dishes include the turnip soup with Virginia Ham and apple biscuits ($6); seared cornbread with creamy collards ($7); Virginia wigwam ham topped with a sunny side up egg peaches; the stone-ground grits with shrimp ($8); sweet potato ravioli with kale and fried baby okra ($16) and my absolute fav: chicken with house made cornbread ($18) sided with pear stuffing, braised cipollini onions and mustard greens.

Finish up your meal with chocolate cake with vanilla malt ($7) or the melt-in-your-mouth banana bread pudding with coffee ice cream ($7). Marigold will feed you well, and won’t force you to miss a mortgage payment. A belt-loosening dinner for two will cost about $60. Holla!

Marigold Kitchen, 501 S. 45th St, 215-222-3699

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