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January 18, 2016

Hungry Pigeon debuts on Fabric Row

New café offers elevated comfort food at breakfast, lunch & dinner

Restaurants Openings
Carroll - Fresh Baked Croissants Baked Goods Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

O'Malley's house-made croissants.

The latest addition to the bustling Queen Village dining scene is a light-drenched corner spot dubbed Hungry Pigeon that once housed a fabric shop at 4th and Fitzwater streets. 

Chef Scott Schroeder (American Sardine Bar, South Philadelphia Tap Room) and his friend Pat O’Malley, a former Balthazar Bakery pastry chef, are throwing the doors open this morning for their first official opening day.

The bright, airy room features a concrete bar, wood tables and chairs, lots of green plants, and work by local artists and designers. “For breakfast and lunch it will essentially [be] run like a coffee shop,” Schroeder said. “You’re welcome to hang out here.” 

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The bar at The Hungry Pigeon.

“The menu is all comfort food-based," Schroeder noted. “But it’s also chef-driven comfort food, so there are some twists.” 

Impressed by the fast-casual restaurants he visited in L.A., Schroeder says he’s aiming to bring a little bit of California to Philadelphia. 

“We want to have decadent things, but we want to have contrast in the menu so you don’t have to eat so heavy, and you can come here to eat with your vegan friend or your gluten-free friend or your vegetarian friend and have it not be awkward.”

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Scott Schroeder, left and Pat O'Malley outside The Hungry Pigeon in Queen Village.

The breakfast items in particular will showcase the pastry skills O’Malley honed during his eight years at Balthazar, like buttery, flaky croissants; muffins; biscuits; and banana-bread sticky buns. 

For heartier morning fare, there’s an egg-optional breakfast bowl, and biscuits and gravy. “We’re doing the English muffins for breakfast sandwiches, which are pretty delicious,” O’Malley said. Aaron Ultimo of Ultimo Coffee consulted on the coffee program. 

During the midday hours expect simple soups, composed salads, sandwiches and a lunch entrée that will change every so often. First up is a cheeseburger made with Rineer Family Farms grass-fed beef. 

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Braised chicken with salsa verde and fresh house-made tortillas.

The room will switch to table service at 5 p.m. The evening menu, available since the restaurant’s soft opening last week, leans a little more toward the adventurous, including the namesake pigeon dish. “We’re selling a lot of pigeon,” Schroeder said. 

“Originally, we were going to serve pigeon pot pie,” he said, but when he and O’Malley tasted Lancaster farmer Tom Culton’s product, they loved it so much that they decided to put a simple pan-roasted bird (half $18, whole $32) on the menu. 

For the curious: “It’s a little bit like eating crab — there are still some bones in it and there’s some work involved. But the product is so clean and nice, and it has a noticeably different flavor — it tastes like duck and steak together,” Schroeder said.

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Vegan Chinese potato salad.

Main course highlights include shareable, family-style dishes like braised chicken with salsa verde and make-your-own-taco toppings (half for $24), and a 16-ounce pot roast ($40). Sides include vegan Chinese potato salad ($6), with shredded potato, kimchi and avocado. 

The Baked Red Cat starter ($10) is a Birchrun Hills Farm cheese served in a cast iron pan with O’Malley’s wheat sourdough and rhubarb-ginger jam. 

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Baked Red Cat.

On the dessert menu, the decadent One Hundred Dollar Chocolate cake ($10 per slice, $100 per cake) is the American classic O’Malley amps up with Mast Brothers chocolate, Buerremont 83 percent butter, Counter Culture coffee and Booker’s bourbon.

Beverage manager Fred Sheaffer came up with four cocktails, including the “Black & White” with rum, canella syrup, milk and espresso, as well as a six-beer draft list. David McDuff of David Bowler Wine consulted on the wine program, which favors natural wines. 

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A slice of the house-made Hundred Dollar Cake.

Going forward, Schroeder says that he and O’Malley will pay attention to what their local customers want from an all-day café. “I know that there are a lot of families in the neighborhood, so for smaller kids we’ve been offering very simple homemade butter noodles with broccoli for free,” Schroeder said. 

“We really like it over here,” he said. “We’re really happy to be a part of it coming back. I feel like it’s an exciting time on 4th Street.”

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The family-style table at The Hungry Pigeon.

Hungry Pigeon, located at 743 S. 4th St., is open 7am-11am for breakfast and 11am-5p for lunch. Dinner hours on weekdays are 5pm-10pm (bar open until 11pm); Friday and Saturday 5pm-11pm (bar open until midnight). No reservations, with the exception of a communal table for large parties.