Chef Jose Garces, Philadelphia, Restaurants, Cookbook, Amada, Chifa, Distrito, Garces Trading Company, Tinto, Village Whiskey, Mercat a la Planxa, Chicago, Where to eat in Philadelphia, Chicago, Pennsylvania, PA, Illinois, IL, Recommendations, Markets, Latin Evolution, Spanish, Latin, Mexican, Basque, Adobo Spice Blend Recipe



Q. You’re opening three new restaurants in the next few months, with one being a truck. Can you tell us about them:

A. JG Domestic Fine Food & Spirits

JG Domestic will exclusively celebrate American-made food and drink.  Guests can expect over-the-top ‘green’ decor, including a living wall of plants and trees and authentic Americana, as well as a daily-changing menu that pays tribute to the extraordinary produce, poultry, meat, seafood, wines, beers and spirits grown and produced here in the U.S.

We want it to be something completely new to Philadelphia, and we hope that our location in the Cira Centre, adjacent to 30th Street Station, will make JG Domestic a landmark restaurant for the entire East Coast.

Frohman’s Wursthaus:

A laid-back beers and bratwursts joint, featuring a host of house-ground and stuffed sausages and a tempting array of microbrews to complement them. The name is a playful tribute to my heritage – it references Abe Froman, “the Sausage King of Chicago,” from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – and that’s an apt description of the restaurant; this is a place for me to bring my Chicago roots to Philadelphia and serve simple, straightforward food that you can’t find anywhere else in town.

Guapos Tacos:

A fun, festive taco truck that will be available for private events and will also pop up around town for walk-up service. This is no-frills street food, utilizing top-notch ingredients in a mobile format, and a terrific new way for diners to experience my food.

Q. How did you decide to do a taco truck?

A. Food trucks can really democratize a cuisine; there’s no decor, no bar, nothing to distract from the food, and it better be good. I love the move-able feast aspect of a food truck; for guests who are hosting over-the-top parties, we can bring the tacos to them, or for guests walking by on the street who want a quick, tasty snack it’s wonderfully convenient.

Q. Can you pass along some advice for chefs who want to go that route?

A. I think it’s critical to make sure that the food you’re serving is delicious, and it doesn’t hurt to give your fans a way to find you around town, such as a Twitter feed or Facebook profile that tracks your location and lets people know where you’ll be on a given day.

Q. With the numerous successful restaurants that you have and more opening, we gotta ask- how do you do it? 

A. I couldn’t do what I do without my team – I’m a firm believer in careful hiring and training and in working with people who will drive you to be better and who will uphold your standards as if they were their own. I’m incredibly fortunate to have my restaurants staffed by caring professionals who epitomize hospitality and help me to offer each of our guests a memorable experience.

Q. We received recommendations for your work from chefs Ivy Stark, Jimmy Bradley, and restaurateur Chris Ronis of Northern Spy Food Co. - what do you think are the essential elements to running restaurants that appeal to both chefs and the general public?

A. Chefs are a part of the general public – just a very, very well-fed part!  I think that a well-run restaurant, serving excellent food in a hospitable atmosphere, pleases just about everyone.

Arroz de Langosta - Amada

Q. Restaurateur Danny Meyer’s book “Setting the Table” is said to be required reading for your managers. What is it about the book that you want them to learn?

A. Danny Meyer is a master of hospitality. His restaurants are warm, welcoming places where guests feel like the team wants them to be there and wants to make their experience special. I think that’s a critical component of a restaurant, and it’s something that my teams and I have worked hard to create at each of ours.

Q. Your restaurants have a world wide culinary range. What do you like to cook at home?

A. My home cooking is all about comfort foods: the arepas, empanadas and other Ecuadorian staples that I learned to prepare in my mother’s kitchen alongside my grandmother.

Lately, I’ve been shopping for the freshest fruits and vegetables that are in season and cooking them very simply - everything is delicious on the grill with olive oil. I’ve also been putting together a lot of fresh salads. My family and I enjoy eating healthy.

Since it’s summer, I’ve also been doing a lot of barbecuing. I love creating spice rubs and marinades to really seal in flavor. [See his Adobo Spice Blend recipe.]

Q. In addition to opening and running all of your restaurants, you wrote a cookbook. Can you tell us about Latin Evolution?

A. Latin Evolution [buy here] is a milestone for me, a sort of guidepost to where I was in my career in 2008. My cooking, as the title suggests, is continually evolving, and that book really chronicles the moves I had started making to branch from Latin cuisine into other genres and cultures. I’m already working on my second book, which I hope will continue the ongoing dialogue that I feel my cooking carries on.

Q. Can you give us three short-cut tips in the kitchen?

A. If you have a long day with nothing to do, prepare flavorful staples such as caramelized onions and keep them on hand to add to recipes on days when you’re pressed for time.

Keep your knives sharp. Good for speed and for safety!

Don’t be afraid to enlist help; preparing a meal is as much a communal experience as eating it in my house, and an extra set of hands (or two or three) can really cut down on your prep time.

Q. Is there a spice or ingredient you think is key to have around?

A. High-quality salt, such as sea salt, makes just about any dish really pop. I also make my own Adobo Spice Blend [see recipe] that I’ve been using for years on just about anything and everything.


Q. What food purveyors inspire your creativity?

A. Country Time Farms in Berks County, PA– large black pigs, which are a heritage breed from England – for all of the pork needs at Garces Trading Company – for GTC’s in-house charcuterie production (salamis such as chorizo, toscano, fennel salami, orange coriander salami) and guanciale.

La Quercia Farms in Iowa – their prosciutto is fantastic!

Allan Benton [Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Hams] for his bacon, of course.

When you start with such an amazing raw product, it makes your job as a chef that much easier. The less you have to add, the more the end result will shine.

Q. What are the local restaurant in Philadelphia that you spend your own dime at and what do you order? 

A. I’m crazy about the Italian food at Marc Vetri’s Osteria.

Dim Sum Garden for soup dumplings, scallion pancakes, chicken on a stick, and the #7 pan-fried dumplings.

Sahara Grill has an amazing Middle Eastern Combo platter.

Q. Do you have any restaurants that are off the beaten track that you love to take an adventurous eater?

A. Chinatown is definitely a hidden gem for adventurous eaters; the trick is to try several restaurants, find one that you love, and then see if the chef has any particular specialties that he or she loves to prepare. 

For burgeoning adventurous eaters, oysters on the half shell are a great way to start – and the Oyster House does a fantastic job of shucking and serving some of the freshest ones in Philadelphia.

Q. Where do you love to eat out when you’re in Chicago and what do you order? 

A. For me, Chicago will always be all about deep dish pizza. 

Q. Are there food markets around the world that you love, specifically which ones, and what should we look for at them?

A. You can’t miss Reading Terminal Market right here in Philadelphia for farm-fresh produce, meats and poultry from local growers. 

Terminal Pesquero, the fish market in Lima, Peru. Fresh-made fish and shellfish ceviche that’s ready to go, the exotic Amazonian freshwater fish, boiled salted quail eggs.

La Boqueria in Barcelona: great Iberian pork products along great pintxo/tapas bars right there in the market.

La Merced in Mexico City: food courts, especially the huarache, and taco stands different prepared mole spices and pastes.

Tsukiji Fish Market in Japan: the best fish in the world.

Q. Who else in your field do you think deserves more praise and why? 

A. Chefs tend to get all the attention in the restaurant world, but the general managers, servers, bartenders, food runners, bussers, line cooks, sous chefs…these are the people that work, day in and day out, to make the food a whole experience. It can be a transient industry, but there are also some very dedicated ‘lifers’ who have chosen this as a profession and really dedicated themselves to making ‘going out to eat’ a seminal part of our culture.

Q. What are your favorite whiskies and can you share some tips on pairings?

A. Pairing whiskey with food can be tricky, but it’s also very rewarding; I like unusual pairings, like a smoky Scotch (think Lagavulin or Bruichladdich) with deep, dark chocolate desserts or caramel-y bourbon (such as Woodford Reserve or Blanton’s) alongside a super savory dish, like fried chicken.

Q. Having worked in Spain and New York, can you share local restaurants that you love and what should we order? 

A. In Spain:

San Sebastian - Berasategui, Arzak, and any of the pintxo bars in La Parte Vieja neighborhood.

Barcelona - Sergi Arola’s restaurant Arola in the Hotel Arts.


Pulino’s - Nate Appleman is putting out some of the best thin-crust pizza I’ve had in a long time.



Latin Evolution


Chef Jimmy Bradley, Chef Ivy Stark, Northern Spy Food Co.’s Chris Ronis


Chef Jose Garces’ recommendations on where to eat and shop in Philadelphia, New York, Spain, Peru, Japan, and Mexico.



Philadelphia Restaurants:


Andalusian Tapas Bar

217 Chestnut Street

Philadelphia, PA 19106 (view map)

T: 215.625.2450  (make a reservation)



707 Chestnut Street

Philadelphia, PA 19154 (view map)

T: 215.925.5555 (make a reservation)



3945 Chestnut Street

Philadelphia, PA 19104 (view map)

T: 215.222.1657 (make a reservation)


Market/Wine Shop/ European Cafe

1111 Locust Street

Philadelphia, PA 19107 (view map)

T: 215.574.1099


Basque Wine Bar.

116 South 20th Street

Philadelphia, PA 19103 (view map)

T: 215.665.9150 (make a reservation)



118 South 20th Street

Philadelphia, PA 19103 (view map)

T: 215.665.1088

Chicago Restaurants:



638 South Michigan Avenue

Chicago, IL 60605 (view map)

T: 312.765.0524 (make a reservation)



Latin Evolution

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Photograph by Michael Persico

Details of Chef Jose Garces’ recommendations on where to eat and shop in Philadelphia, New York, Spain, Peru, Japan, and Mexico.