What's the hardest dining reservation to score? French Laundry
? Nope. El Bulli
? Non. D.C.'s minibar
? Not even close.
It's Talula's Table
, a tiny shop in Kennett Square, PA that's a gourmet food store by day and a sublime dining experience by night. Located about 45 minutes from Philadelphia, Talula's Table was started by Brian Sikora and Amy Olexy, a husband and wife team who first rose to fame in the Philadelphia restaurant scene back in 2002 when they opened Django
. Sikora and Olexy, both former employees of Philly restaurateur Stephen Starr, started Django with a $45,000 loan and only their mountain bikes as collateral. Within a year they were the darlings of the city, lauded for Sikora's unpretentious but innovative cuisine, and one of the driving forces behind Philadelphia's BYOB boom
. Craig LaBan, the Philadelphia Inquirer
food critic who can exault or destroy a restaurant with a single review, made waves by awarding Django a rarefied "four bells,"1
a rating typically reserved for the high-end gems like Le Bec Fin
-- unheard of for a small bistro.
But at the height of their fame, Sikora and Olexy opted to walk away, selling the restaurant after a short five years to two investors2
. After a time bouncing around the Chester County countryside (a sojourn that included a brief stint for Sikora at Sovana Bistro
, and for Olexy -- arguably one of the best cheese experts in the area -- getting turned down for a job at the cheese counter in Whole Foods), the couple opened up Talula's Table. The two transformed an old shoe shop on the main drag of Kennett Square (mushroom capital of the world!
) into a warm, welcoming gourmet market that specializes in prepared foods, pastries baked on the premises, artisan ingredients, and, yes, glorious cheese. At the back of the store is the large, rough-hewn farm table referenced in the shop's name. Every evening, after the store has closed, this table is the site of a multi-course prix fixe dinner prepared for a single party of eight to twelve people. As was his style at Django, Sikora's cuisine is unexpected but approachable, original but not fussy, and always divine. Bonus: he is a firm believer in the 100 mile diet
, and draws heavily from the seasonable, local ingredients available to him in the abundant Chester County countryside3
When Talula's Table first opened, getting a reservation at the table was fairly easy; only die-hard local foodies were even aware that Sikora was cooking again, and frankly, wrangling seven of your closest friends for dinner in the wilds of the Philadelphia suburbs wasn't an easy sell, not at first. But the buzz soon found Sikora, and before long LaBan made his way to dinner at Talula's, which he described as "one of the best meals [he had] eaten all year."
After the LaBan review hit, the buzz only grew louder. Within just a few months Talula's had been talked up by the likes of Portfolio
, the New York Times
, and NPR
Demand for the table exploded, and now the only way to get a reservation is this: you must call at precisely 7:00 a.m. one year to the day
ahead of when you'd like to dine there. If yours is the first call they take, then you can book dinner for that date the following year. Good luck.
A few first-hand accounts of the folks who have had the Talula's experience are here
. And this
is a little glimpse into the kitchen. Oh, and here's a Flickr photostream
for you to drool over.
1 - I would've linked to the original Laban review, but it appears that it has been removed from the Philly.com site, probably because it's no longer applicable.
2 - How far the mighty have fallen: Django closed two weeks ago, a mere three years after Sikora and Olexy sold it.
3 - Sample autumn menu from last year: Grapefruit Margarita and Nantucket Bay Scallop Ceviche, Roasted Chanterelles, Our Smoked Country Ham, Creamed Greens and Spoon Bread, Buttery Leek and Wine Poached Chatham Cod, Petite Pommes Frites and American Caviar, Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Artisan Ricotta and Maple Glazed Winter Vegetables, Cinnamon Smoked Pheasant Bastilla, Medjool Date Glazed Pheasant Breast, Crispy Phyllo and Toasty Almonds, Grilled Veal Steak, Porcini and Taleggio Ravioli and Braised Veal Shank, Scent of a Cheese: A Quintet of the Unusual, Gianduja and Dark Chocolate Caramel Tart, Nutmeg Anglaise, Port Poached Cranberries.