Recently, I was eating at the bar at Avance, the splashy new restaurant in the old Le Bec-Fin space on Walnut Street, when I put down my fork and announced to my husband that it feels like food in Philly is suddenly on a totally new level.

The dish that brought about this epiphany was a dry-aged duck breast, skin seared to a crackle, fat rendered beneath it to a thin, buttery layer, created by Michelin-starred chef Justin Bogle, who returned to Philly after years cooking in New York to open Avance.

This meal came on the heels of several spectacular turns at the kitchen counter at Serpico. I ate there twice in the process of reporting my story about chef Peter Serpico (page 38). His restaurant is another stunning example of just how good it’s gotten for Philly diners in the past couple years, to say nothing of other stellar newcomers to our restaurant culture, including Laurel, High Street on Market, and The Fat Ham (if you go, please get the hot chicken!).

Luckily, many of these chefs are embracing our local ingredients every bit as much as we do at Edible Philly. A new source for Pennsylvania saffron captured not only the attention of chefs (including Eli Kulp, who recently planned a special dish around it), but also that of Rick Nichols, whose feature about the fragrant red threads shows just how homegrown this seemingly exotic spice can be (page 16).

Most stories in this issue have nothing to do with the fine-dining revolution that’s afoot right now—I asked Joel Mathis to check in on Joe’s Steak and Soda Shop one year after the restaurant formerly known as Chink’s changed its name (page 20). I think this embattled sandwich happens to be Philly’s finest cheesesteak and once you read the piece I hope you’ll be inspired to eat at Joe’s, too.

Because I’m a former server, there’s one more story in this issue that means a lot to me. In her eye-opening piece (page 48), Emily Teel examines the economic realities of restaurant work in Philadelphia today, a situation that leaves many laboring for even less than minimum wage. Luckily, some places are setting a higher standard and hopefully setting a trend toward better conditions for all the people who make our restaurant world turn.

So, emerging from winter’s hibernation, we’re looking forward to experiencing a new level of excitement and excellence in today’s food scene, both on and off the plate.

We hope you’ll join us.

Joy Manning

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