Chef Rob Marzinsky pushes the geographical limits of Philly’s dining scene deep into Point Breeze with Buckminster’s.
As we barrel through life on this “Spaceship Earth,” consider taking a detour through one of South Philly’s westernmost neighborhoods this side of Grays Ferry, and step into the gritty, sparse reaches of Philadelphia dining.
Chef Rob Marzinsky is pushing the geographical limits of Philly’s dining scene deep into Point Breeze with Buckminster’s, a newly renovated space on the corner of 21st and Federal.
Buckminster’s is the fifth restaurant from the 13th Street Kitchens restaurant group owned by husband and wife Michael and Jennifer Pasquarello.
Early on in the team’s brainstorming about what this new space would become, and how to brand it, Pasquarello came across the designs of a 20th century author, thinker, and architect. He ultimately found that many of their inherent practices paired perfectly with the philosophies of one Buckminster Fuller.
It’s Fuller’s take on reality that influenced not just the design of the space (see geodesic domes and ergonomic chairs), but a dedication to economy and sustainability.
Pretty deep for a neighborhood joint. But then again, Point Breeze isn’t your typical neighborhood.
As Point Breeze continues to gentrify, so will the local offerings. And while neighborhoods like Frankford and South Kensington are brimming with new commerce and dining options, Point Breeze is a little slower to come around.
Luckily for the neighbors, Buckminster’s has the bones to appeal to both newcomers and longtime residents. That means offering a variety of good food at affordable prices, making it a day-to-day destination. And Buckminster’s does just that.
Like Anthony Bourdain, there are no reservations at this 36-seater. But with 12 at the bar and easily arrangeable tables with seating for 24, it’s a walk-in win.
Come summer they’re planning on another 30 or so outside; that’s when I think we’ll see Buckminster’s max out its true neighborhood destination potential.
Marzinsky set the bar high for himself after earning a three-bell review from the Inquirer’s Craig LeBan at Fitler Dining Room in 2013.
Fast forward to Buckminster’s, and you can see that he’s taken the techniques and standards he applied to fine-dining delicacies and offering them here, at the spunky “neo-bistro” level.
“I think the starting point was thinking about what a neighborhood restaurant is or could be. The idea was basically a bit of a thought experiment. Could we put together an accessible menu from a price point, that didn’t have to be chicken wings and burgers?
“So I kind of started there,” he said. “And we’re still figuring it out.”
Want something light? Go for the Sweet Amalias, oysters from the Delaware Bay. Or try the torched squid with fennel, apple, and espelette pepper — it’s a spicy, citrusy bowl of healthy deliciousness.
Looking for snacks? Consider a wedge of Calkins Creamery brie with Concord grape and sour cracker; some parsnip fries; house-made chips; or, the crowd favorite, pirogi.
Or maybe you want something a little more substantial.
Try the Bologna and Cheese, Marzinsky’s take on the Croque Madame.
This, my friends, is a lazy-day destination sandwich. Slept in on a Saturday? Hit Buckminster’s weekend brunch for this bad boy, and you won’t be disappointed.
Served open-faced on a hearty slice of spelt bread, this Lancaster bologna fork-and-knife sandwich comes topped with a cranberry mostarda, a gravylike Ely Farm cheese and a sunny-side egg.
Those who declare the day of the fried egg is past (ahem, I mean you, Philly Mag), take your yolky-egg hatred elsewhere. Fried eggs don’t have a season. And casting them aside in a year-end trend-filled roundup is beyond the pale.
Between leaving Fitler Dining Room and joining up at Buckminster’s, Marzinsky’s travels took him to Thailand and back. And its influence is felt in the addictive qualities of the Massaman sweet potato curry. This dish is vegan by chance and a winner throughout.
“Usually you’ll get that with potatoes and chicken or potatoes and beef,” Marzinsky said. “We make it with sweet potatoes because the sweet potatoes take to the curry really well, and we have, by default, a vegan entree.”
But Buckminster’s is no vegan destination, and Marzinsky’s carnivorous additions to basic veggies may leave some diners feeling a bit confused or off-put.
“We cook a lot of vegetables, but I wouldn’t say that our focus is to be vegan or vegetarian, but conscious omnivores.
“It’s hard sometimes,” Marzinsky acknowledged. “But you try and provide everyone with something delicious.
And if all else fails to satisfy, there are always the libations.
The bar program is solid for a neighborhood joint, offering draft wine by the glass, a nice selection of beers, and some well-crafted cocktails such as the Federal Flip. You can also get a $5 shot and beer combo every day; a High Life pony and a shot of Wild Turkey, or Slow & Low, a locally produced rendition of Rock and Rye.