Photos and Words by Rachel Rex
Even though I grew up outside of Philly, I’m not very familiar with the city’s restaurant scene. So when my mom told me to make a decision on where to eat for my birthday, I was stumped. A family friend suggested making reservations at Pod, a Stephen Starr restaurant near UPenn’s campus. Stephen Starr is a renowned restauranteur, heading the Starr Organization restaurant group and was crowned "Restaurateur of the Year" by both Zagat and Bon Appetit.
Walking into the restaurant is like immersing yourself in what people in the 1950s might have imagined the future to look like-- think along the lines of a spaceship or The Jetson’s. It’s a really cool, different ambiance; the room features grey walls and floors with clean, curved lines, and all the waiters wore outfits that reminded me of futuristic track suits. A few private, pod-like structures containing long tables are scattered around the space, which we, unfortunately, weren’t seated in. To one side, a conveyor belt dispenses boxed food for a more casual experience.
As a side note, if you’re ever in Pod, be sure to check out the bathrooms; the area is a long hallway of, essentially, airplane bathrooms. There’s even the little green or red light outside each door to indicate whether it’s occupied or not. Sounds weird about me to talk about the bathrooms, I know, but we got a kick out of it. I was happy to have found somewhere different for a change instead of the usual stuffy-fancy restaurants that might be featured in a birthday restaurant repertoire.
But enough about the futuristic vibe of the place-- let’s talk about food! We were a party of six, and we ended up ordering a whole bunch of food to sample from each other. First came the crab spring rolls, which were really flavorful; they seemed to melt in your mouth, and we all quickly devoured them.
We also ordered the mushroom steamed buns as an appetizer; I’m honestly still thinking about them to this day! The sauteed mushrooms are cushioned between two fluffy clouds. I really considered ordering a few more but decided to hold out until the rest of the food arrived.
Half of my family ordered their own dishes for their meal; as I was waiting for our large maki and nigiri platter, I sampled some of my brother-in-law’s spicy beef ramen. Man, did it make me miss eating meat! The beef provided so much flavor to the broth and noodles that I almost gave up being a pescatarian right then and there.
Eventually, the maki and nigiri platter that I was sharing with my parents came. The fish was really well-prepared and fresh, and we got a great combination of different types. I’m not a huge fan of wasabi, though, and each sashimi had quite a lot between the rice and fish. But besides that, it was some really great sushi. And because there was a mix up with getting our food, our waitress gave us the platter for free-- a nice bonus and indicator of how attentive the waitstaff at Pod is.
Overall, I’d recommend Pod to anyone in the Philly area looking for a different dining experience. It’s an edgy and not overly expensive option for going out to eat in the city to celebrate or just enjoy a night out with friends.
3636 Sansom Street