When was the last time you had a blooming onion?
The appetizer is a staple of casual dining chains, but doesn’t often show up in independent restaurants — as Morgan’s Pier owner Avram Hornik well knows. For four years, he’s been asking his chefs if they’d perhaps put one on the menu, to no avail.
But this year, even though chefs-in-residence Michael Griffiths and Kevin D’Egidio’s Helm restaurants are about as far from Outback or Chili’s as you can get, they’ve stepped up to answer the call. On their new Fall Fest menu (view it here), which will be served Sept. 29 through Oct. 28 at the beer garden on the Delaware River, the flower-shaped snack shows up front and center.
And as might be expected from two of the top young chefs in the city, it’s amazing.
This version of the guilty pleasure dish is small and personal sized — it’s made from a regular sweet vidalia onion that’s been blanched, cut, battered and fried — but it contains a giant blossom’s worth of greasy-finger happiness. Especially when pieces are dunked in the long hot horseradish dip that comes alongside, which alone is almost worth the $7 price tag.
There’s also a new bratwurst “fatbread”— that pan-pizza-esque creation on a crust from Alex Bois of Lost Bread Bakery (which has found a home in the former Yards facility). This one is basically made to pair with an Oktoberfest lager. Along with the sliced sausage, the bubbly pie is topped with roasted peppers, onions, sauerkraut and provolone cheese ($12).
Another surprise favorite on the autumn menu is the broccoli, which is crunchy and spicy, and feels like a cheat, even though it’s roasted, not deep fried. It does come with crispy onions on top, plus tangy kimchi ($8).
Fried chicken sandwich
For something even more hearty, the chefs created a new fried chicken sandwich. A thick breast is brined, spiced, breaded and fried to a deep, crackling golden brown. The best part of the sandwich, which is served with cheese and iceberg lettuce on one of Bois’ charred onion rolls, is the jerk mayo dressing. It comes with chips for $9.
Apple cider donuts
For dessert, D’Egidio and Griffiths went for a classic: apple cider donuts, with a dulce de leche glaze. You get three big ones for $7.
Throughout the next month, assuming temps do drop, the open-air decks will be kept warm with heat lamps. Right now they’re getting decorated with bales of hay and corn stalks from Lancaster Countyfarmer Tom Culton, and pumpkins are on the way (carving sessions happen every Saturday and Sunday; kits are $5 or $10).
For the fall season, Morgan’s Pier is open weekends only; closed Monday through Thursday. Hours are 4 p.m. to close Friday and 11 a.m. to close Saturday and Sunday.