Brian Mahon is no stranger to Philadelphia kitchens. He’s bounced around the city, working at the Constitution Center, Good Dog and, most recently, running the Perch Pub back of house. Now Mahon is at the Center City restaurant and music venue, MilkBoy, where he has created a new menu.
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Just before MilkBoy you were the executive chef at Perch Pub. Why did you leave?
[Perch Pub] is just a different animal than MilkBoy. It was a good fit for a while, though. I helped revamp their menu over there, which was like groundwork for doing it over here.
Is there a ton of pressure when making a new menu for a restaurant?
That has lots of answers. The concept isn’t the hard part, it’s implementing it while rolling with the menu that’s already there. It’s a balancing act because you need to incorporate new ingredients and new products while operating a busy restaurant. But so far the feedback has been awesome.
When you were making the new menu for MilkBoy, was there anything that didn’t make the cut?
Well, yeah. I really wanted to have a classic poutine — fries, gravy and cheese curds. But I had to have the squeaky white cheddar cheese curds, and that’s where I ran into a problem. I couldn’t source them for the right price. It was an issue of accessibility to the product while still making it a valuable dish.
Well, you still have the famous bacon bowl.
Oh yeah, that’s a staple. That defines us. There was no way I was going to touch that. Are you kidding? Do you know how many Sunday mornings people just want a bloody mary and a bacon bowl?
How long have you been in Philly?
Since 2000. I grew up in Northeast Pennsylvania.
How have you seen the city change in the last 13 years?
I used to live in Fishtown when it was still very local and very strange, and there was a real interest in Center City food. Now the restaurant scene is snowballing, and it’s competitive in a good way. All the line cooks I worked with became successful because we had good teachers, and the industry took off.