Chef Notes with Michael Solomonov

Chef and owner of Zahav, winner of the James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant 2019, dishes on his recent accolade, his hometown favorites and what’s next for his restaurant group, CookNSolo.

Photo by M. Persico for Zahav.

Q. The recent honor from the James Beard Foundation for Zahav is a great achievement for both you and Philadelphia. How do you think this spotlight impacts the culinary scene in the city?

A. Thank you so much—the whole team is still celebrating! Philly has such a rich immigrant culture and so much culinary diversity to celebrate, and I think the award really helps put it on the map as an amazing food destination.

Q. As a world traveler, what is it about Philadelphia that made you want to plant roots here?

A. I spent a weekend here once over a decade ago and fell in love with the city! What I love most is the culture of support; the community is so tight-knit and encouraging.

Q. Aside from the CookNSolo restaurants, what’s your go-to Philadelphia eatery?

A. Pho 75, hands down! I go there all the time, with my business partner, with my team, with my kids. It’s my favorite spot for a meeting or for a weekend breakfast.

Q. How about coffee? What’s your preferred cafe for an early morning or mid-day cup of coffee?

A. OX Coffee. It’s a small, independent coffee spot in Queen Village. They are all about celebrating the community and working with other local businesses, and we are lucky enough to use their coffee at our newest restaurant, K’Far!

Photo by M. Persico for K'Far.

Q. What essential Philadelphia experiences would you recommend to first-time visitors?

A. The Mütter Museum is an awesome medical history museum. I also love the Wissahickon Trail for an outdoor activity.

Mütter Museum photo by K. Huff for PHLCVB.
Photo courtesy of Friends of the Wissahickon

Q. What local “pro-tip” would you share with travelers to make the most of their visit?

A. Philly is walkable! Wear some comfy shoes and check out the city on foot. There are also so many amazing restaurants—don’t commit to just one; stop by as many places as possible. Have a bite at each spot.

Q. What’s next for CookNSolo?

A. We just opened K’Far, our Israeli bakery and all day café, over the summer. We’re also planning on opening two additional restaurants in the next few months: Merkaz, a pita sandwich spot, and Laser Wolf, which will be all about Israeli barbecue.

Q. What would you recommend to travelers looking to score a coveted seat at Zahav?

A. Come early or come late! We hold the chef ’s counter and bar for walk-ins, so if you come early and are one of the first in line, you can grab a seat there. Or if you come late, you can sneak into a bar seat!

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