Hot Chef: Joe Frost cooks comfort food at the revamped Brittingham’s
In Lafayette Hill, the Irish pub Brittingham’s was known to many as a landmark. In April, the restaurant shut down while new owners Randy Feinberg and David Eckelmeyer began renovating and reinventing the entire place. In the meantime, executive chef Joe Frost was creating a menu. The focus is clearly comfort food, with a “TV Dinner” on the menu, but the feel is refined. Brittingham’s reopened last month and according to Frost, business is wonderful.
Have you been involved with opening a restaurant before?
I was part of the opening team for the Ritz Carlton, but I was 21 then. It’s a different animal now that I’m older.
What is the process like creating a menu?
Long! With the construction taking up so much time we had a lot of time to play around with different ideas and rework some things. A friend owns a restaurant in Wayne and let us use some of the space and the kitchen during the day. It was a lot of fun.
How has the restaurant changed with its second incarnation?
I think it has a broader appeal now. It’s more approachable. It had its niche, but it almost became too much of a tiny clique and shut out the rest of the world. It was too much of just a regulars’ place, which can make you feel unwelcome when you’re not a regular. We wanted to make it warm and inviting for everybody.
The menu at Brittingham’s is elevated comfort food. Where do you look for comfort food inspiration, and how do you make it more refined?
It’s what I want to eat; it’s familiar. My concept is that it still needs to taste like what it’s supposed to taste like, just taken to another level. Meatloaf should still taste like meatloaf. We’re cooking it almost like pate, and you can taste the wild mushrooms in it. Our cheesesteak tastes like a cheesesteak. So many places try to revamp it. I went out to lunch at some place in Villanova where they did that. It was a great sandwich, but it didn’t taste like a cheesesteak. At one of the restaurant’s training sessions I told everyone working that I’m going to make everything from your childhood and make you mad at your mom for not making it this way.
Do you have a favorite ingredient?
Pork, plain and simple.