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[Hsiao-Ying Chin/DP File Photo]

Rx is a neighborhood restaurant with a sense of humor.

The FAQ page, attached to the back of every dinner menu, announces that "Rx is the abbreviation of the Latin word recipe, which means ... recipe." Underneath is a list of all of the local merchants from whom ingredients are purchased. It even explains that the key lime pie is only available between March and November because Freddi, the mother of owner Greg Salisbury, who graduated from Penn in 1987, "is a snowbird."

4443 Spruce St. (215) 222-9590 Fare: American Laid-back atmosphere and eclectic fare just minutes from Penn‹¨«s campus.
Still, Rx proves that you do not have to forgo any aspect of a fine dining experience by eating locally.

Situated on the quiet corner of Spruce and 44th streets, Rx was built on the site of a former drug store. One wall of the small restaurant is lined with beautiful wooden shelves, all stocked with old drugstore paraphernalia. Even the brick-walled bathroom is complete with an antique "Humphries Remedies" price list sign and an old doctor's scale. The lighting is dim and the room is cozy and warm. When we arrive at 6 p.m. on a Tuesday night the restaurant is empty, but by the time we leave at 7:45, the small establishment is bustling.

The menu explains that the owner and the chef, Luis Melendez, "apologize if we run out of anything. Focusing on seasonal/local ingredients means short supplies." Still, on our visit, we had no such problems. Every item we wanted was available for consumption.

We started off with a warm brie salad ($7), a shrimp-crab galette ($9) and fried day-boat calamari ($8). While we were waiting for our dishes to arrive, we nibbled on bread dipped in truly delicious olive oil and drank white wine we brought with us. (Rx is a BYOB.) One of our only issues with the restaurant was that our waitress failed to refill our wine after an initial glass. Still, we surmounted this obstacle and managed adequately by ourselves.

The warm brie was flavorful with a crispy outside and a nicely mild brie inside. The salad, composed of organic greens, endive, bosc pears and fig molasses, complemented the cheese perfectly.

Though my friend explained that the shrimp-crab galette, covered with a mango-papaya salsa, "was a good combination of flavors," he found that the galette itself "wasn't that flavorful." The day-boat calamari, on the other hand, greatly impressed him. "Mmmm..." he said after taking his first bite. Salisbury explained that Rx's calamari is different from most because "the cellular subject when you thaw it out tends to get compromised."

Our main courses arrived quickly after our appetizers were removed, and they were up to par. The green meadow farm rib eye steak ($22) arrived nestled on top of fluffy looking smothered potatoes. It was "perfectly cooked," my friend said. The fresh pesto agnolotti ($15), half moon-shaped and filled with pesto and cheese, was similarly good. Covered with a plum tomato and spinach tapenade sauce, the pasta was soft and filling. The tapenade worked perfectly in the dish, mixing well with the pesto and tomato flavors.

Throughout the evening, Salisbury walked around, chatting with all of his diners. Almost everyone seemed to have eaten at Rx before, and more often than not he exchanged hugs with patrons when they walked in the door.

As we ordered dessert, he informed us that both the apple pie and the apple cobbler were baked at Rx, but we opted for the locally made sweet potato pie and triple chocolate cake. The pie was soft, sweet and nicely textured. It was neither too smooth nor too chunky -- and the sweet potato flavor was fresh and powerful. The cake was soft and also really, really good. With dessert we ordered ginger tea, one of the two specialty teas offered, the other being citron. The tea was nicely sweetened and had a robust ginger taste, but it was neither too spicy nor too strong.

As our meal ended, we perused the lunch and brunch menu. Though fully sated, we were both eager to come back again to try interesting sounding dishes as well as brunch staples like "just plain eggs" ($3).

Rx is the kind of joint West Philadelphia needs. And with creative dishes priced reasonably, a warm and inviting atmosphere and a truly friendly wait staff, it's one neighbor you should not miss popping in on.

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