Reader: We’re going to go see a concert at the new Met Philadelphia on North Broad Street. Where should we eat beforehand?
Craig LaBan: I’m excited about the Met’s rebirth, and not just because I can’t wait to see a concert inside its gorgeously revived historic bones. I’m excited because of what this important new venue might mean for the long-aspired reboot of North Broad Street. It’s finally happening! I hope …
We have been talking about this now with a sense of inevitability since Osteria opened as a big hit in 2007 as the first major piece of the puzzle to the street’s revival between City Hall and Girard Avenue. But it has sputtered at times, judging by the various projects that have come and gone around Osteria’s relatively steady presence. It seems restaurants alone cannot make North Broad Street a destination. A glittering new entertainment venue that regularly draws 3,000-plus potential diners to the corridor? Now you’re talking. Someone’s got to feed them!
For now, North Broad Street on its own is still relatively limited. Osteria (640 N. Broad St.) changed owners last year, technically for a third time, as founding chef Jeff Michaud bought it back from URBN and gave it a recent renovation with new partner Michael Schulson. I’m still in the midst of assessing that transition. I can say, however, that Osteria will get some serious competition early this year when Joe and Angela Cicala (ex-Le Virtù) finally open their long-awaited new Italian restaurant nearby in the renovated Divine Lorraine (699 N. Broad St.)
There are other options, too. The Bynum Brothers have maintained South (600 N. Broad St.) as a worthy destination for updated Southern cuisine and live jazz, despite a false start in the fall with an attempt to drastically modernize the menu. I’m even more intrigued, however, by the Bynums' revamp of the former Alla Spina into Green Soul (1410 Mount Vernon St.), a more casual restaurant-bar and performance space with a healthy approach to both soul food and flavors of the African diaspora (try the harissa-spiced chicken tacos).
If pizza is your thing, the square pies and simple pastas at Santucci’s (655 N. Broad St.) are worthwhile. Even closer to the Met are the Caribbean flavors of Flambo (820 N. Broad St.), one of the few restaurants in Philly specializing in Trinidadian food like phoulourie, rotis, oxtails, and curried goat.
A more creative way to think of dinner before a show, perhaps, is to consider dipping into nearby neighborhoods that flank Broad Street north of the Vine Expressway. Prohibition Taproom (501 N. 13th St.) is one hidden gem and one of the more satisfying gastropubs around, with creative twists on comfort food (vegan French onion soup; Cajun shrimp banh mi; a burger blended with miso) and an appealing drink program, with one of the area’s best selections of cider.
Also in that pocket hugging Spring Garden are the order-ahead-via-Instagram Detroit-style pizzas from Pizza Gutt at W/N W/N Coffee Bar (931 Spring Garden St.). Grab a house-brewed beer and a nibble from a food truck residence at Love City Brewing (1023 Hamilton St.), or Dominican chicken and mofongo at Parada Maimon (345 N. 12th St.)
Just to the west, meanwhile, is Fairmount, which also has plenty of restaurants. Sticking as close as possible to Broad Street, though, I’d head to Bar Hygge (1720 Fairmount Ave.) for some creative mix-and-match nibble boards as well as Tom Baker’s excellent house-brewed Techne beers. It’s Perkuno’s Hammer Baltic porter weather, after all. Then again, after too many of those, you may not make that show at the Met.