cleverly cut by a just-bitter-enough Guinness braise. Lamb shanks won kudos, too.
Fowl didn’t fly quite as well: Pan-roasted organic chicken was ho hum, its
house-made sausage stuffing leaden. And
pan-seared duck was oddly flavorless.
Surprisingly, Barrett’s prominently
featured fish and seafood failed to
impress. Togarashi shrimp, dusted with
what Barrett described as exotic Japa-
nese spices, tasted under-seasoned, their
bed of honey-white peppercorn risotto
merely bland. Crisp yet tender grilled
marinated octopus suffered from severe
over-salting. Braised lobster and white
bean stew showed scant evidence of the
menu’s promised lobster, shaved brussels
sprouts and pancetta. A rice-crusted
grouper (with a thick, bland crust and
soggy interior) arrived on yet another
bed of risotto—delivering one seriously
Ordinary bread and limited house-made desserts were the rule during our
visits. But the recent hiring of pastry chef
Krista Guiwo from Orama in Edgewater
may bring improvement.
The Hamms need to tell Barrett
not to overreach. The setting is lovely,
the wine list stellar, the service solid.
Barrett is clearly capable of preparing simple, honest, delicious fare. If he
serves it, people will come.—PEG ROSEN
AMBIENCE: Big, bright and cute
SERVICE: Young, chatty, but focused
WINE LIST: BYO
PRICES: Dinner, Lunch: $7.99-$18.29.
Breakfast, Brunch: $4.29-$13.89
HOURS: Sunday through Thursday, 8 AM
to 9 PM; Friday, Saturday, 8 AM to 10 PM
AX, D, MC, V X
714 Haddon Avenue, Collingswood
Sabrina’s Café is famous for two things: brunch and lines. It’s been a hit since the day Robert DeAbreu, a former Carrabba’s manager, and
his wife and business partner, Raquel,
opened the original Sabrina’s in Philadelphia in 2001. Even now, if you hit one
of the locations in and around Philly on
a weekend, the sidewalk will almost certainly be jammed, and a polite hostess
will tell you the wait is likely an hour.
Last November, the DeAbreus
opened the fifth Sabrina’s on Collingswood’s main drag. I figured I’d be safe
arriving at 1: 30 PM on a Sunday, well
after the brunch rush. I figured wrong.
The hostess estimated “an hour, hour
and a half” wait and said she’d text me
when my table was ready.
They overestimate. I was seated in
exactly 42 minutes. Holding a steaming
mug of La Colombe coffee, I perused
the familiar menu, largely developed by
corporate executive chef Lance Silver-
man and the same at all locations. The
creative and often kooky daily specials
available across the river were not yet
offered in Collingswood, so I went with
the classic French toast. As usual, it was
delicious. Positioned upright, the thick
triangles of battered challah looked like
suntanned pyramids. Their filling of
tangy cream cheese offset the sweetness
of sliced bananas and vanilla bean-fla-
vored maple syrup.
“We wanted to make sure we had the
brunch menu down and were executing it properly before adding specials,”
DeAbreu explained over the phone after
my visits. Collingswood chef Yahkoub
Diahkite, a native of Mauritania in West
Africa, started as a dishwasher at the
original Sabrina’s and worked his way up.
He’s now having fun whipping up specials like pumpkin pancakes with fried
plantains, candied pistachios and cornbread crumble; and an egg-white omelet
loaded with lentils, olives and spinach.
The kitchen did a fine job with eggs.
I had the Ultimate Mexi Scramble,
with cilantro pesto and grits studded
with black beans. My guests enjoyed
sunny-side huevos rancheros with zesty
chorizo on blue-corn tortillas, and a giant omelet with sliced green apples and
sharp Wisconsin cheddar. My one criticism: The apple slices would have been
much more appetizing sautéed rather
than practically raw.
At dinner, tables were readily available. That surprised me. The friendly
atmosphere, people-pleasing menu and
easygoing prices should be catnip for
families. But maybe it’s no surprise. A
bowl of thick, brown broccoli-cheddar
soup was shockingly bland. Fried
calamari were rubbery. Moist, tender,
buttermilk-battered fried chicken came
with a fluffy biscuit and tasty brown
gravy. Too bad the crackly coating fell
On the other hand, fried chicken
cutlets on a crusty roll from Sarcone’s in
South Philly came with marinated long
hot peppers, sautéed spinach and sharp
provolone. It was crunchy, spicy and
delicious. Well-seasoned chicken-noodle
soup comforted me on a cold night.
The pulled-pork sandwich, as
described on the menu, sounded busy
and aggressive, with its Southwestern
spice rub, chipotle-orange marinade and
mango-berry barbecue sauce. But each
bite balanced spicy, tangy and sweet.
And there was enough juicy, braised
pork in the sandwich to feed two.
I recommend upgrading from the
complimentary regular fries to Sabrina’s
justly celebrated polenta fries for just
$2.79. The long, crisp logs with creamy
centers come with housemade marinara
sauce for dipping. The fail-safe dessert is
dense, creamy cheesecake, in whatever
variety is offered that night—
chocolate-peanut butter, on my visits.
A similarly priced and varied menu
can be found across the street at the
much-loved Pop Shop, but in restaurant-rich Collingswood there are plenty
of eaters to go around. “We love the
neighborhood and the feel, with all the
families,” Raquel told me. “It reminds
us a lot of our original location.” If it
straightens out a few glitches, the fifth
Sabrina’s could enjoy a similar run.