Gaslight_2984-16AUG14On this sunny and humidity-free August Saturday in Philadelphia, fresh, clean air pours in the open windows and doors at The Gaslight.  Blue and white walls and decorations pair with wood-topped tables and black chairs to lend a chic beach-shack ambiance.  The painted white frames of my window seat offer a view of outdoor diners and passersby who traverse the brick walks of Old City.

Gaslight_2986-16AUG14Families with small children take advantage of al fresco seating, and couples find quiet tables for two under patio umbrellas.  Servers zip through the indoor dining area, a mix of high- and low-top tables, a bank of booths along one wall, as well as two bars.  Beer and bourbon drinkers can sit at the long bar and watch whatever sports may be on TV.  The smaller bar is empty now but suited for a group of ladies who want to sip bellinis or sample one of The Gaslight’s signature cocktails.

I save my cocktail for dessert, mulling over Elephant in my Pajamas, Gently With a Chainsaw, or Possibly With Dynamite.  I’d like to try each, but I fear that would end with me dancing along that long bar and swinging from one of the glass orb lights. . .and finishing that performance face down.

Collin Cichonski, brother of The Gaslight co-owner Jason Cichonski of Top Chef fame, appears with coffee.  I desperately want to order the WaffaMul:  a savory waffle sandwich with cheddar, Gruyère, scrambled eggs, oven dried tomatoes, and bacon.  But Collin confirms that it is a hardy serving.  When my girlfriends join me for brunch, we order different drinks and dishes so we can try a little of everything.  Clearly, The Gaslight’s menu requires this.

Gaslight_2970-16AUG14For today, the Crab Benny treats me well.  Breakfast potatoes drizzled with Old Bay seasoning sauce tumble beside two Maryland-style crab cakes topped with perfectly poached chive-speckled eggs. I order the Old Bay hollandaise sauce on the side, along with thick-cut bacon.  I sample each dimension of my plate, familiarizing myself with the flavors.  Then I sink my fork into the egg for the ultimate test.  It passes.  With my crab cake and potato, I soak up the precious pool of yolk that spills forth.

From my experience with Parisian brunches, I know the poached eggs and crab cakes would pair well with the GSLT Greens:  shaved kale with seasonal garnishes and vinaigrette.  I ordered this salad on a previous visit and contemplated adding it today.  I’m glad I didn’t, because the spicy Crab Benny satiates me.

Collin delivers an enticing rusty red Bloody Mary to another diner.  I hear the crunch of the celery after she stirs, then tastes.  Though it is now after three and the Interim Menu—with small plates and salads—is in effect, there is quite a bit of traffic.  The restaurant has a perfect location for an afternoon pit stop; it’s halfway between Liberty Bell and Penn’s Landing.  Potential diners stop to check the dinner menu and plan to return after they’ve refreshed at one of the surrounding hotels.

Anthony D’Ancona, who takes over for Collin, clears my plate.  I question him about the cocktails, running my finger down the list and pausing at Jack Left Town.  “It’s more like a punch,” Anthony explains.  “Maria Polise, bartender for both The Gaslight and Ela, won the Cochon 555 ‘Punch Kings’ national contest in Denver for this drink.”

As much as I want to try others, this one intrigues me, not only because it won an award, but also for the ingredients:  bourbon, sweet vermouth, champagne, orange, lapsang souchong, clove, cinnamon, allspice, and demerera.  When Anthony sets it at my left hand, I inhale the bourbon.

Gaslight_2981-16AUG14I raise the glass, catching the aroma and then the taste of cinnamon before bubbles of Champagne pop with clove, allspice, orange.  On my next sip, the richness of the bourbon blends with the spices to dance on my tongue.  The syrupy sweet vermouth lingers with the smoky bourbon.  This drink is dangerous.  I sip slowly.

A chill hides in the summer breeze that carries a few early-fallen leaves.  I swirl Jack Left Town and reflect that it works as a summer-into-autumn treat.  The cinnamon, allspice, and clove make it perfect for turning colors, falling leaves, bonfires, and pumpkin pie, or warmed and served with hot apple crisp.  Perhaps it is the drink to pour into a steaming mug and smuggle on a ghost tour of Philly on a crisp October evening.

Visit for hours and menus for The Gaslight at 120 Market, Philadelphia, 19106.

Staff Writer:  Jann Simmons Andiamo

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