In April, the James Beard Foundation recognized Philadelphia’s Zahav as the most outstanding restaurant in the country. A few months later, chef Michael Solomonov and Steve Cook, the duo behind the modern Israeli spot, just unveiled their latest project. The all-day café K’Far, headed up by James Beard Award-winning chef Camille Cogswell, opened its doors in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood at the end of July. The name, which means “village” in Hebrew, is a nod to the Solomonov’s first kitchen job at a bakery in his hometown, K’Far Saba near Tel Aviv, and like most of the restaurant group’s other projects (quick-serve hummuseria Dizengoff, Abe Fisher, highlighting modern Jewish fare), the new café and bakery draws from Israeli tradition, culture, and cuisine.
Last winter, the team took a food-focused trip to the region, which helped Cogswell further connect with the cuisine she’s been cooking for nearly four years at Zahav, and sparked new inspiration for the menu and bread program at K’Far. “I understood in my heart so much more, what this is about,” she says. “It was absolutely captivating.”
Among the culinary highlights of the trip, the chef loved the Jerusalem bagels, which she’s modifying from the giant versions—sold at the market with a side of za’atar for dipping—to use for sandwiches filled with smoked salmon and caper butter, egg and cooper sharp cheddar, or, in a nod to the original, with butter and za’atar. The menu, created by Cogswell and chef de cuisine Troy Wilson, also includes borekas (filled pastries), chocolate babka and rugelach, a pistachio sticky bun scented with orange blossom, and toasts made on kubaneh, a traditional Yemenite overnight bread, and topped with smoked trout or brown sugar ricotta and figs.
After 11 a.m., salads, grain bowls, and dishes like slow-roasted salmon are all options, too, and there are plans to launch dinner service later this summer summer. The beverage program includes local roaster Ox coffee, with a cocktail menu highlighting low-proof, aperitif-style options, plus vermouth, sherry, and wines by the glass and bottle.
Located on the ground floor of new residential building the Harper, the light-filled cafe and bakery has rose-hued walls, gold accents, and a polished Art Deco design. A high top island in the center is flanked by a marble bar on one side and a banquette with stand-alone tables across the other, all available on a first-come basis. Local firm [Box]Wood Architects designed the space, and Cogswell has been highly involved in all aspects, including potting the leafy green plants that fill the space herself.
The place, K’Far Saba, the word is so meaningful to Mike,” says Cogswell. “There’s a sense of a village as a community, and that’s exactly what this will be.”
As if to illustrate the point, while the restaurant officially opened to the public on Wednesday, July 31, neighbors who had been waiting for months were popping into the cafe as early as Monday morning, and no one was turning them away.