Old City’s Red Owl Tavern at Hotel Monaco has always had its ducks (perhaps, literally) in a row when it’s come to American comfort food fare to go with its downhome, chic-rustic tavern vibe. As of last night, however, Chef Jonathan Dearden – the new Executive Chef of Red Owl Tavern, Stratus Rooftop Lounge, and all culinary operations at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco – brought some Southern flavor to 4th & Chestnut, as he’s been an Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale grad in culinary management, a Chef de Cuisine for James Beard Award-winning Chef Allen Susser’s in Miami, and the big muckety-muck at Radiator, the chef-driven cocktail bar in the Kimpton Mason and Rook Hotel in Washington, D.C.
I bugged Jonathan the day after his big debut to see what’s cooking.
A.D. Amorosi: So what is your impression of Philly, and this gig within city limits?
Jonathan Dearden: Love, love, love the culture in Philly. It differs from DC as it has a more rich culinary history. An example being the Polish influence, Italian, Latin, and Asian markets have all existed for such a long time. DC was more of a transient area with lots of influences from around the world but not the same identity.
A.D. Amorosi: So what is your background beyond the South?
Jonathan Dearden: I am a Northern Virginia native and lived in Florida and Saint Lucia, the latter of which really inspires my food, as I am using spices and citrus to enhance flavors versus classic French – butter, cream, wine.
A.D. Amorosi: So what are your plans for your new space, especially as we know Red Owl Tavern as its hearty American cuisine? What is your twist on their food? Your food?
Jonathan Dearden: Well…
a. Elevated American Tavern food. We want to create a casual “come as you are” American gathering place. Being right next to the Liberty Bell has influenced the lunch menu with the “Philly favorites,” nodding to perogies, soft pretzel, cheesesteak, hoagie, and the iconic roast pork sandwich.
b. Dinner entrees such as Lobster Mac n Cheese made with a lobster bisque spiked with triple sec versus the traditional brandy or sherry. Bring back the classics such as a wedge salad but using baby iceberg and presenting in a modern way: small wedges laid out on the plate versus a large wedge.
c. Brunch? Sneak preview… Duck and Waffles versus traditional Southern Chicken and Waffles, using local Pennsylvania raised duck. Avocado Toast – which has migrated from California cuisine to the East Coast as a staple. An elevated version of your typical Jersey diner Pork Roll and Cheese breakfast sandwich.