After twenty two years Carman’s Country Kitchen, 11th and Wharton, will close Sunday, December 16. Carman lost her lease when her landlord decided to open a corner pizza business. Just the push she needs. Eventual closing was inevitable. It is a time for new challenges and new worlds to conquer. Carman hopes to take her cooking and people skills overseas, maybe Europe or the Middle East.
Philadelphia is losing one of its more unique restaurants. A small place, three tables, maybe eight counter seats and, in good weather, room for eight around the table built into the bed of Carman’s red and yellow pickup. The décor at Carman’s Country Kitchen is more Pleasure Chest than country kitchen, not for the small of mind. Friendly servers know the regulars and qualify newcomers, making sure they understand what they are in for.
Carman’s menu changes weekly - depends on what is in season and long time purveyors like Anastastio Produce and Esposito’s meats insist she try. Her dishes are always imaginative, sometimes quirky – often surprising combinations that work extraordinarily well. Every week there is a different choice of French toast, pancakes or waffles, an omelet and one more special. This week’s options - honey crisp applesauce pancakes or waffles with cherries and blackberries; roasted butternut squash and banana challah French toast; spinach, lentil, smoked gouda and vegetable medley omelet and roasted turkey with mashed potatoes, gravy, two eggs and toast.
The menu does its part, but it is Carman who makes Carman’s Country Kitchen so special. Sparkling, sometimes outrageous, Carman is almost as happy shocking customers as feeding them. Carman’s life is the stuff of novels. She has been most everywhere, done most everything and knows most everyone.
Carman cooks up a storm when the place is packed, and chats up customers when time permits -talking everything from Israeli politics to a recent dinner at Bibou and the pontificating wine sophisticates at nearby tables. For many regulars Carman is the “Fixer.” Lost your job, breaking up, looking for an apartment, cat has kittens needing homes, seeking a savvy political connection or a good doctor? Carman is a good bet to have just the right answer.
There is not much time left to stop by. Carman has a bunch of travel scheduled the next couple of months – a little in October and more in November. Best bet is to call the same day and make sure she is there.