I was in fourth grade at the beginning of the “we all get medals” age. The adults in our lives were all in to make sure we operated at levels of self-confidence and self-esteem previously reserved for major league pitchers and Egyptian pharaohs. We were all winners.
In the midst of this mania, our teacher assigned us all to come up with an adjective to describe ourselves starting with the same letter as our last name. My classmates were Excellent, Fast, Strong, Perfect. And then it was my turn, and I proudly chose Competent Castro. The teacher looked at me with pity in her eyes, and suggested maybe I meant to be Clever Castro or Careful Castro - because, she assured me, just to be competent was not much of a aspiration at all. I tried to explain that to be competent was the best thing you could be, it meant that you could do everything, and that you could do everything well. She was not convinced.
But I never lost faith. As far as I'm concerned, competence still means doing everything well, and it's still pretty bad ass.
And this is where St. Philip comes in. I’ve been for date nights with my wife, for dinner with the kids, for a happy hour snack on the patio, even for a quick lunch. They do everything well - the place is beautiful, the food consistent and delicious, the service phenomenal. Even waiting for a table on the cleverly designed patio is a treat. The entire space is light, airy and open - modern and trendy but in a friendly, accessible way. Years ago, this place was a plant nursery, and in St. Philip a little of that feel comes through.
As good as they are, pizzas are not the best thing they do. Golden Cauliflower, over tangy yogurt with raisins and pumpkin seeds is a revelation and always flawless. The chicken and funnel cake is everything chicken and waffles wishes it could be - unflinching in the combination of sweet and savory. The house-made burrata is as soft and silky as any I've ever had. The carrot and avocado salad is exceptional with carrots roasted to a soft bite that compliments the crunch of the granola, the bright greens, and the simply dressed avocado. Just about everything on this menu sings.
|Chicken and Funnel Cake|
|Burrata and Lavash|
|Carrot and Avocado|
Exit Through the Bakeshop is the running gag throughout the restaurant and it works - the bakeshop is a clever little addition at the far end of the dining room. The confections in the cases in front of the enormous wood burning oven are both creative and beautiful. Opinions on taste are mixed. I am an apologetic sugar addict, and I find the desserts not always as sweet or flavorful as I'd like. Friends without such a sweet tooth swear by them.
St. Philip does everything well, and some things extraordinarily well. It is not the best pizza in town, or the best patio, or the most gracious service; but it is the only place I know that is so nearly the best in so many different ways. When I said I wished for competence back all those years ago, this is precisely what I meant.