The Ticket Features Friday Saturday Sunday Restaurant…

Posted on Friday, November 14, 2008

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Celebrating 35 years for Friday Saturday Sunday

Food for Thought
The story of Friday Saturday Sunday (FSS) could make a pretty good independent movie, the kind that wins prizes at the Sundance Film Festival. But who would believe it? The little restaurant at 261 S. 21st St. (at Rittenhouse) was started in 1973 by seven acquaintances who knew no more about the restaurant business than Sarah Palin would know about running the United States.

Basically, a perennial risk-taker named Jay Gubin dared two friends, photographer Weaver Lilley and advertising designer Arnie Roberts, to open the restaurant with him by each putting $2,000 into a hat. Since the $6,000 in the hat still was barely enough to open a lemonade stand, the trio then inveigled four other friends to pony up $2,000 each. The total of $14,000 enabled the seven partners to at least open the doors of the restaurant, although today that amount would barely cover the monthly cost of linens and coffee at a multi-million dollar Center City palace of gastronomy like Table 31, Butcher & Singer, Oceanaire, Le Bec Fin, Lacroix, etc.

When the gang of seven took over the building, it was not exactly a Stephen Starr dream come true. The refrigeration was supplied by a series of second-hand apartment refrigerators lined-up in a row. Desserts were being carried in from an apartment kitchen up the street. Everybody was overeducated. The dishwasher had a Ph.D. The entire waitstaff had college degrees. But except for Chef Tom Hunter, no one had been trained for what they were about to do. A crash course in the running of a restaurant was about to begin.

However, six months after the restaurant’s opening, on a Saturday night, a line of waiting customers could be seen stretching out the door, down the block and around the corner of 21st and Spruce streets. We ate there a few times in that first year, and there was no place like it, with the possible exception of Astral Plane. Now that 35 years have passed, many of the faces have changed, but the traditions of quality food, fair prices and charming atmosphere are alive and well at Friday Saturday Sunday.

One feature that keeps customers coming back is the fact that the restaurant charges only $10 over their own cost for every bottle of wine – a welcome departure from many Center City restaurants that mark up their wines 300 to 400 percent over their own cost.

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The dining room features mirrored walls, padded banquettes, soft jazz and pop standards in the background, bare wood tables, track lighting and a fluorescent blackboard that lists specials and desserts. The printed menu features several warhorses like cream of mushroom soup, Caesar salad, chicken Dijon, jumbo crab cakes and tuna steak, but when they are made with such care and with the finest ingredients by Executive Chef Reese Skulteti and his staff, who cares?

A baby spinach salad with brie, toasted pine nuts and strawberries with a sublime strawberry-lavender vinaigrette ($10), for example, was a creature of wondrous textures and flavors. A wild mushroom ravioli appetizer ($10) was wedded to a sensual, seductive sage brown butter sauce. A lightly breaded, tasty tilapia entree ($24) had the heat of fresh horseradish in its crust and a citrusy white wine sauce to complement the mild seafood. And a classic grilled filet mignon pepper steak was perfectly prepared and was actually a bargain for $28, considering that Center City steakhouses are charging $45 to $50 for its clone. FSS is known for its desserts from Chef Pojanart (“Oi”) Phetsanthad, and berries in puff pastry with a caramel sauce ($8) certainly lived up to the reputation of this native of Thailand.

Despite the horrendous economy, you can make those few dollars you have left stretch like a rubber band on Wednesday, Dec. 3, 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. At that time, FSS will celebrate its 35 years in business by offering the restaurant’s original dishes at its original prices. For example, chile Elizabeth Taylor – chili served with a cornbread crust and hot chile pepper with black beans on the side – will be just $6, and filet of cod stuffed with tomato, artichoke hearts and Jarlsberg cheese with a white wine butter sauce will be just $8.

One problem with Center City restaurants is, of course, parking, but there is an indoor garage that we used on the south side of Rittenhouse Street, between 20th and 21st, no more than 100 yards from the restaurant, for just $9.

For more information or reservations, call 215-546-4232 or visit http://www.frisatsun.com.

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