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Where to find the best beer bottles | Let’s Eat

Also: A tasty field trip for Jollof rice, six of the best new cookbooks out there, and restaurant news.

Hundred bottles of beer on the wall, a hundred bottles of beer: The fridge at Local 44, 4333 Spruce St.
Hundred bottles of beer on the wall, a hundred bottles of beer: The fridge at Local 44, 4333 Spruce St.Read moreSTEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer

The Philadelphia beer scene has exploded in recent years — not only with breweries but also bottle shops that sell local and hard-to-find favorites. This week, we offer a look inside the region’s best fridges, and share a tasty field trip for Jollof rice, six of the best new cookbooks out there, and a full plate of restaurant news.

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Bottle shops for the beer lovers

Walk into a better bottle shop, and that song might start playing in your head: “A hundred bottles of beer on the wall, a hundred bottles of beer. Take one down...” (Or maybe that’s just my dad-joke-filled noggin.) Not quite a bar, more than a beer store, Philadelphia’s bottle shops are pretty special. Contributor Maddy Sweitzer-Lamme points us to nearly a dozen bottle shops worth hopping over to.

Jollof rice is having a moment

As part of his travels, critic Craig LaBan did a deep (and very tasting-sounding) dive into Jollof rice, the iconic West African dish that is having a moment both locally and in the national consciousness. Viz.: two new fast-casual restaurants built around Jollof bowls, a controversial new convenience version at Trader Joe’s, and more references in pop culture than ever before. With the perfect sidekick (Nigerian-born chef Shola Olunloyo, fresh off a star turn making African cuisine at Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture in New York), Craig explored nine immigrant-owned restaurants in Southwest Philadelphia and Delaware County and came away with a great appreciation for Jollof’s diversity.

And after all that eating, Olunloyo made his own Nigerian-style Jollof for us. Fancy rice? Pshaw. He calls for well-rinsed, par-boiled Uncle Ben’s in the recipe he shared.

Milk Jawn and Kismet Bagels getting retail homes

Hot times for ice cream in Philadelphia, what with home-grown brands such as Bassetts, Wecklerly’s, Dre’s, Zsa’s, and Franklin Fountain getting company from out-of-town artisanal labels such as Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams and Van Leeuwen. (Jeni’s, incidentally, just opened its Fishtown scoop shop at 1322 Frankford Ave. and has a second opening on Dec. 16 at 1901 Chestnut St., while Van Leeuwen opened in August 2021 at 13th and Sansom Streets and has more locations on the way. Now Milk Jawn is getting into the brick-and-mortar game, opening a scoop shop in early 2022 on East Passyunk Avenue, with a nearby production facility.

On the bagel front, Alexandra and Jacob Cohen have found a home for Kismet Bagels, and they’re planning a rollout in early 2022 at 113 E. Girard Ave., between Shackamaxon Street and Frankford Avenue in Fishtown. Kismet will continue to wholesale bagel packs and schmears at places such as Di Bruno Bros., Riverwards Produce, Rally, Steep and Grind, and various farmers’ markets. The Cohens’ how-we-met story is truly kismet, by the way.

6 great cookbooks for gift-giving, or keeping for yourself

Deputy food editor Joseph Hernandez loves cookbooks, and offers six titles he’s obsessing over, “already well-loved with stained fingerprints and rainbow-leafed with Post-Its,” as he puts it.

How to survive the Great Cream Cheese Shortage

Supply-chain issues have touched all aspects of our lives, and now bagel lovers are crying, “Oy vey iz schmear” over an apparent shortage of cream cheese. Craig LaBan is top of this situation, and spreads the word about local cream cheese options, such as the tasty wares from Perrystead Dairy, Lost Bread, and Korshak Bagels.

The Trestle Inn is back on track

It’s been 10 years since Josette Bonafino and Ian Cross opened the Trestle Inn as we now know it: Philly’s kitschy whiskey-a-go-go destination, where you go for the drinks, the ‘60s and ‘70s funk/soul/rock hits spun on vinyl by DJs, and the energetic dancers shimmying in the front and back rooms. The Trestle is back from its pandemic shutdown with a refreshed drink list, including six whiskey sours.

A little history: For decades, the J&J Trestle Inn was a strip club, favored by the nearby factory workers, behind a rusty iron gate and hand-lettered “Please Commit No Nuisance” sign at 11th and Callowhill Streets, beneath the Reading Viaduct. Cross and Bonafino bought the building in 2003, catching the early wave of Callowhill’s so-called Loft District. They allowed previous management to remain until 2009. Shortly after their takeover, during demo work, a fire not only delayed the project till October 2011 but destroyed some memorabilia. Dimly lit, with old rock and roll films projected on the walls, the Trestle is a classic. (Fan of 1960s soul? Be there at 10 p.m. Thursdays.)

Trestle Inn, 11th and Callowhill Streets, Philadelphia, 267-239-0290. Happy hour 5-8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday (with $8 cocktails), followed by entertainment till 2 a.m. ($10 cover after 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday).

Restaurant report

The pandemic was tragic enough for the Iovino family of South Philadelphia. In March 2020, Franco and Angela Iovino had to shut down Angelina’s, their charming BYOB at Eighth and Clymer Streets that they opened in 2017 after decades running the splashier Girasole, first at 13th and Locust and then at Broad and Pine. Angelina’s dining room, a 30-seater with a minuscule galley kitchen right at the front door, would have accommodated two tables under the social-distancing regs. Not worth it.

Later in 2020, Angela took ill with cancer and she passed on May 19, way too young at age 64.

Six months later, Franco, with daughter Michele at the stove, is back at it. Why? “This is all he knows,” Michele said. “He feels he still has some energy and he’s too young to just retire, even though he’s in his 70s.” They’re still calling it Angelina’s (though it’s properly called Tavolino di Angelina), with a similar menu of full-flavored Southern Italian favorites. BYOB, white tablecloth, no pretense.

You can taste Angela’s influence in signatures such as the fried eggplant, the carpaccios, the ossobuco, veal chop Milanese (the priciest dish, at $33), and especially the pastas (don’t miss the pappardelle Bolognese).

Tavolino di Angelina, 743 S. Eighth St., Philadelphia, 215-660-9008. Cash only. BYOB. Menu is here. Hours: 5-10 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday.

Briefly noted

Doobies, the watering hole that dispensed drinks from its front door at 22nd and Lombard Streets in 2020, is fixing to return for indoor service on Thursday, Dec. 9 or Friday, Dec. 10.

Pita Chip cofounder Omar Alsaadi emigrated from Syria to the United States in 1979, and to mark the anniversary, the Middle Eastern quick-serve (1600 N. Broad St. on Temple University’s campus and at 3601 Market St. in University City) will give away falafel wraps or bowls to the first 79 customers starting at 11 a.m. Friday, Dec. 10. Miss it? They’ll be 79 cents for the rest of the day. One per customer. Pita Chip also has a location teed up for spring 2022 at Oxford Oaks Shopping Center (1581 Big Oak Rd.).

On chilly days like these, a steaming black tea with mint or green tea with cardamom would go great with a hearty, Afghani-style kebab platter — perhaps chunks of flame-grilled lambs aside a mountain of kabuli, the rice, carrot, and raisin dish.

And there we have the draw of Villekebabs, a new Afghani-Mediterranean BYOB across from the Sofitel in Rittenhouse. Owner Nangialy “John” Shah — who started at In & Out Kebab Gyro in Bensalem — made only minor mods to the sleek dining room formerly occupied by Giwa, the Korean fast-casual spot that closed earlier in the pandemic. Villekebabs is full service, and you’re dining on plates and flatware here, not paper and plastic.

In addition to the kebabs, try the bolani (potato-stuffed fried flatbread), the steamed munto (dumplings filled with beef, onions, and cilantro, and topped with garlic mint yogurt sauce, lamb gravy, and yellow peas), and the falafel platter (with a squirt of white sauce). Wrap with a warm hunk of baklava topped with a scoop of ice cream.

Villekebabs, 1722 Sansom St. Hours: 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Delivery via UberEats, Grubhub, and DoorDash.

What you’ve been eating this week

Great dishes sampled by readers this week and shared with me via Instagram include stew chicken from the Trinidadian destination Brown Sugar Bakery at 52nd and Chancellor Streets in West Philadelphia (as savored by @noahtanen), as well as the house Bua Loy dumplings, filled with chicken, shrimp, and mushrooms and napped in curry sauce, at Bua Loy Cuisine at 300 W. Lancaster Ave. in Devon (thanks, @carolweisl).

Eat something tasty? Share it with us. Send photos my way: @phillyinsider.

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