Philly food and drink scene

You’ve got to try the pizza on the Morgan’s Pier 2017 menu

They’re called “fatbreads,” from High Street auteur Alex Bois. And they’re amazing.

Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

You might not know you needed a new kind of pizza in your life, but a visit to Morgan’s Pier this summer will prove you wrong.

On the menu put together by this year’s chefs-in-residence, Who’s Next honorees Kevin D’Egidio and Michael Griffiths of Helm, is a section titled “Fatbreads.” As in, they’re rectangular like flatbreads, but instead of being thin and crackery, they’re puffed up: High and bubbly, thick and fat. The edges get crisped up and the center is airy and chewy — think focaccia meets tomato pie. And while D’Egidio and Griffiths’ various toppings are top-notch (fresh mozz, local asparagus, bacon and ranch dressing), there’s another reason these pan pizzas are so good.

Two words: Alex Bois. Yep, the young baking whiz who developed the impressive whole-grain bread program at High Street on Market and was a semifinalist for the 2016 James Beard Rising Star Chef award (and a 2015 Who’s Nexter) is the one making the long-fermented sourdough used for the fatbreads crust.

Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

Bois, who is currently working on opening his own bakery in Kensington (name as yet undecided), will be baking most of the bread used at Morgan’s Pier this year, including:

  • Buns for the burgers (4-oz patties topped with longhot mayo, American cheese and iceberg lettuce, “like something you’d eat in your backyard,” per Griffiths)
  • Pullman loaves for the BLTs (pork belly, tomato, pickled lettuce — or make it vegan with smoked tofu instead)
  • Banh mi-style rolls for various other sandwiches (including a chicken cheesesteak, which is made in a unique way: The chefs put together their desired ratio of marinated breast and thigh meat, compress it into a block, then freeze that block and slice it up before frizzling it on the grill like a regular beef cheesesteak)

At Helm, D’Egidio and Griffiths are known for creating dishes that center around local vegetables, and at the Pier they’ll continue that via a menu section of six composed veg dishes. They’re getting a big assist in that, too. Produce is being sourced from acclaimed farmer Tom Culton of Culton Organics — who’ll be setting up a farmstand outside the bar’s front entrance every Saturday and Sunday. This is huge news for folks who’ve been missing his stand at Headhouse Market. Culton is generally considered one of the best in the region at what he does.

“He just produces the best vegetables,” Griffiths said. “He dropped off some asparagus for us yesterday and I have never tasted any as good.”

What else will you be eating at the Pier? Take a look at some preview pics below, then find out for yourself when it opens for the season on Thursday, April 20.

Country Ham Board

Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

Three kinds of ham are the focus of this charcuterie board, including one that’s made in house and tastes sort of like an Easter ham, per D’Egidio. In addition to the meat, the plate also has spicy beet mostarda, crunchy chow chow, dill-pickled cucumbers, raw jalapenos and a big helping of house pimento cheese, plus a giant flaky biscuit to sop it all up ($12).

Shrimp Roll

Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

Instead of a lobster roll, D’Egidio and Griffiths decided to go with shrimp: “Lobster prices just spiked, plus with shrimp you can give people more of it.” The shrimp is first marinated in roasted red pepper sauce, then turned into a salad with olive oil, lemon, garlic, chives, onion and cucumber ($14).

Smoked Jersey Carrots

Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

This is one of the chefs’ all-time hits — “It basically never comes off the menu at Helm or South Helm” — but it’s even better eaten al fresco. Carrots are smoked and set atop a chevre-tarragon sauce, then covered with fermented sauce and sprinkled with crispy shittake mushrooms and more fresh tarragon ($12).

Crab Dip

Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

Sometimes, less is more. What’s in the crab dip? “Cream cheese, sour cream and a shitload of crab,” per Griffiths. On the side are regular Ritz crackers, which do a perfect job of scooping up the creamy mix and adding just enough salt as you crunch down.

Margherita Pizza

Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

One of four fatbreads on the menu, this classic combo brings together crushed tomatoes (right now from a can, locally-sourced once they’re in season), fresh mozzarella and fresh basil. The pizza is cooked in a fancy new conveyor oven that heats up to 930 degrees — a pie is ready in just six minutes, start to finish ($10).

Manayunk Pier Bier

Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

There’s a new beer on the drink list this year — Pier Bier, a Belgian wit beer brewed specially for Morgan’s Pier by Manayunk Brewing Co. It’s one of 14 drafts, which are complemented by another dozen or so cans and an assortment of cocktails including a “CaiPIERinha” and a margarita made with beer ($5).

Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

How will D’Egidio and Griffiths handle running their two high-end BYOBs and the kitchen for this giant sprawling beer garden on the river? One of them will be there at least five days a week (they’re planning to alternate), and “we just hired a ton of great people.” Almost everyone on the line, the duo said, has run their own kitchen at one point or another, including Dave McDonald, former chef at Triumph Brewing in New Hope — who also happens to be how FCM Hospitality chief Avram Hornik got connected with this year’s chefs-in-residence in the first place.

Want some more? Explore other Philly food and drink scene stories.

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