Even though we’re way up north, Little Lion, 243 Chestnut St., a new casual eatery, is here to inject a bit of Southern comfort food into the Philly scene — with a couple of twists.
The modern two-story space is comfortable and lends itself equally to a casual night out or a formal dinner. The staff is attentive and friendly as well.
The usual suspects are represented on the menu, with a lot of seafood and fried offerings. The fried green tomatoes ($8) hit some decadent notes thanks in large part to garnishes of rich and flavorful pimento cheese and a robust bacon and tomato jam.
Little Lion’s menu offers a nice variety of oysters. The fried oysters ($9) are crusted in cornmeal and tossed in an excellently spicy buffalo sauce that Little Lion should seriously consider bottling. We’d happily buy a few for the house. On the most refined side of the oyster menu is the chargrilled oyster ($11), a nicely done Rockerfeller-inspired dish with a generous layer of breadcrumbs, shallots, Parmesan, lemon and garlic. The roasted heritage carrot salad ($9) radiates a simple charm with its delicate and elegant aesthetic. The carrots have a light sweetness that plays well with the strong flavors of the excellent goat-cheese croquettes, which are the star of the plate.
A lot of restaurants in town offer shrimp and grits, but Little Lion’s take on the Southern staple ($21) really stands out. The grits themselves were pleasantly dense and hearty, bolstered with cheddar cheese and corn. The shrimp were plump and perfectly steamed as well. But what really distinguished this dish is the Tasso ham gravy that tops it, adding a smoky and spicy depth.
Desserts are a must with any Southern menu, and Little Lion doesn’t disappoint on that front. The lemon crème brûlé ($8) throws a pleasant curve with just a hint of espresso adding some interesting flavor notes to the familiar dish.
If you happen to be in Old City and looking for some inspired downhome eats in a relaxed and classy environment, stop by and sit for a spell at Little Lion.
If you go
243 Chestnut St.
Sun.-Thurs.: 8 a.m.-10 p.m.
Fri.-Sat.: 8 a.m.-11 p.m.