Delco as a dining destination! Critic Craig LaBan found tastiness there, as well as great sandwiches and a special approach to hoagie-making. Also this week: The latest in zero-proof drinks, a look inside Stephen Starr’s new restaurant, recommendations for several fantastic chocolate shops, a guide to online citrus fruit, a chat with a chef who impressed Guy Fieri, and restaurant news.

❓ Starting you off with a quiz.

Where did chicken divan get its name?

A. The Divan Parisien Restaurant in New York.

B. Inspired by Mariah Carey, the dish initially was called chicken diva.

C. A low-back sofa owned by Frank Perdue.

D. The Divine Lorraine Hotel in Philadelphia.

Find out if you know the right answer. Bonus: a tasty recipe.

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Mike Klein

Eating around Delco with Craig LaBan

“Smile, You’re in Delco,” reads the sign at 320 Market Cafe in Swarthmore, and critic Craig LaBan did just that during a deep-dive into the restaurants of Delaware County. He hit up the renovated Towne House, took sides in a State Street dumpling war (Dim Sum Mania vs. Tom’s Dim Sum), tackled the Monster, a towering creation of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, and cheese on Texas toast at The Coffee Station in Boothwyn, and dug into this “head-turning double-stacked burger indulgence” from Rye BYOB. This is food that puts the oh! in 6-1-0.

9 Delco shops to get that hoagie and sandwich fix

Was the hoagie invented in Philly? Not if you ask one family that started making the sandwich in Chester in 1925. As he continued his Tour de Delco, Craig drops history lessons while sinking his teeth into nine sandwiches — including the overstuffed hoagies from Ro-Lynn Deli in Brookhaven, the cheesesteak with ribbon-cut beef at Mike & Emma’s in Folsom, and the sweet sausage-pepper sandwich at The Hot Dog Stand in Milmont Park. Wawa may have been born in Delco, but you’ll see there is no Shorti-age of mom-and-pop shops with serious sandwich-making talent.

Have other sandwich/hoagie favorites out there? Tell me about them. And if you’re into cheesesteaks around the region, these 13 shops rate high on our list.

Two Robbers hard seltzer is building a home in Fishtown

Breweries open pubs to serve their beers, distilleries open tasting rooms to showcase their spirits. So why, asked twin brothers Vivek and Vikram Nayar, can’t a hard-seltzer company open a seltzer taproom? In a few months, their company, Two Robbers, will unveil Burgers and Seltzers in Fishtown. It will give their brand a home and, they say, will sell the best burger in Philly.

6 zero-proof beverages worth a try

As more people give up drinking, brands are releasing zero-proof alternatives. Deputy food editor Joseph Hernandez caught the buzz, and went beyond the simply sweet, “mocktail”-esque concoctions to find six nonalcoholic beverages worth trying.

Sweetness for Valentine’s

Chocolate is more than a sweet snack. Joe Damiano, the second-generation co-owner of Premise Maid near Kutztown, says, “We sell a lot of ambience with our candies.” Craig stopped at Premise Maid a few weeks ago to score the chocolates his wife craves, but realizes that supplies are now limited. Need great candy, tout de suite? Craig suggests shops in Old City and South Jersey for your Valentine’s fix.

Need more ideas? We offer 10 shops — both decades-old candy stores and bean-to-bar-minded newcomers — dispensing quality locally made chocolates.

Like having sunshine delivered to your door

East Coast citrus enthusiasts are shivering now, contemplating their navel oranges. How about sweet finger limes, sudachi, yuzu, and calamansi in the dead of winter? Contributor Adam Erace is juiced about four fruit producers that will deliver.

Chef Steek will open a Chicken Guy shop in the Philly area

Back to Delco we go. Chef Kevin “Steek” Cooper of Drexel Hill had a lot on his plate while competing on the Food Network show Guy’s Chance of a Lifetime last year, but he proved to Guy Fieri that he could operate a Chicken Guy fast-food eatery. Now, the caterer and private chef has his own Chicken Guy location on the way.

Chickie’s & Pete’s partners on Parx Sportsbook in Chester County

In what is touted to be the only race and sportsbook in the country to open inside a restaurant and/or sports bar, Parx Casino has cut the ribbon on the Parx Race & Sportsbook at the new Chickie’s & Pete’s location in Malvern, the 19th in the chain founded by Pete Ciarrocchi. The location has live tellers and sports-betting kiosks. This is a role reversal: Chickie’s & Pete’s was an original food tenant inside Parx when it opened in Bensalem in 2010.

Restaurant report

When a “futuristic” restaurant enters the future, it needs a refresh. Stephen Starr has updated Pod, the Penn campus spot he opened in October 2000. Wednesday, Feb. 9 marks the grand opening of Kpod — a more subdued yet still energetic atmosphere (the dining pods remain, but the big red lounge “barge” and sushi conveyor are gone) and a big menu of Korean American stylings from his longtime chef Peter Serpico. I got an early look-see. When you go, don’t miss the honey butter fries.

Briefly noted

Heirloom Kitchen, which recently ran a banger of a pop-up restaurant at 931 Spring Garden St., will not reopen in that space, partner Neilly Robinson confirmed. She and co-owner chef Dave Viana are working on their forthcoming Lita, a modern Iberian concept, in Aberdeen Township, N.J., about 10 minutes from their Heirloom location in Old Bridge. They’re keeping open the chance of a permanent Philly restaurant.

The vegan Blackbird, which opened in 2017 at 614 N. Second St. in Northern Liberties, will close Feb. 20 as its five-year lease expires. Mark Mebus founded Blackbird on Sixth Street near Lombard Street in 2010; that location closed in 2018 after the city ruled the building as unsafe. Mebus also owns the vegan 20th Street Pizza (108 S. 20th St.), which continues, as does the Blackbird Foods line of frozen pizzas and seitan available at natural-foods stores. Chef Ian Graye, who has been running plant-based pop-ups under the name Moto Foto, will take over the Northern Liberties storefront with a new name and concept.

Little Susie’s, the Kensington pie, coffee, and soup shop, is almost ready to open a branch at the old passport photo shop at Second and Chestnut Streets in Old City.

Main Line Today Restaurant Week will run from Feb. 21-March 6 with 30-plus suburban restaurants offering three-course prix fixe menus for lunch ($26.95, plus tax, beverage and gratuity) and dinner ($39.95, plus tax, beverage and gratuity).

Longshore, a short-lived bruncherie at Route 70 and Cropwell Road in Marlton, soon will become Marianne’s Cafe under Marianne Cuneo-Powell, who had a nearly two-decade run with A Little Cafe in Voorhees. Her French-Asian menu will debut for dinner about March 1.

Raising Cane’s, the fast-growing national chicken-finger specialist, will open in early April at 3925 Walnut St., the former Penn campus Bobby’s Burger Palace. The opening will mark the chain’s opening in its 33rd state. A location at 12th Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue on the Temple University campus is penciled in for summer.

Baby Blues BBQ (3432 Sansom St.) reopens from a pandemic break on Thursday, Feb. 10.

New Ridge Brewing Co. (6168 Ridge Ave.), a hit pandemic newcomer in Roxborough, has restored Sunday hours and revived its Sunday brunch (10 a.m.-2:30 p.m.).

Frame, which opened last week at 222 Market St., is designed to help revive Old City as a scene, its owners say. First-time executive chef Brianna Wellmon calls the food “diverse and elegant but also relatable” and she’s stoked about her nostalgic late-night menu (Thursday-Saturday from 10:30 p.m.), which includes a fried PB&J with a saucy name.

Frame, 222 Market St. Hours: 4:30 p.m.-midnight Thursday, 4:30 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon-midnight Sunday; late-night menu starts at 10:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday.

Head south of South Philly, and you hit Paulsboro, N.J. (after a little splash in the Delaware). And that’s where chef Nicholas Tomasetto turns out solid South Philly/South Jersey-style Italian food at the comfy new Osteria 545, a restaurant with a bar on the side, tucked into a strip mall behind the local landmark Don & Bert’s Custard Stand. Menu ranges from sandwiches (such as this stellar roast pork on the lunch menu) to your parm dishes, meatballs, and a steak pizzaiola ($38), stuffed pork chop saltimbocca style ($38), and the best seller, braised Angus short rib ($30) in a spicy carrot puree with baby carrots, white truffle veal reduction, and pistachio gremolata.

Tomasetto, a vet of such Jersey spots as Arugula and La Polpetta, and partners Rich Shaget and Angelo DeStefano opted for table linens as they’re going for a home-style vibe. “We’d rather sacrifice a little bit of profit for the experience,” said Shaget, a restaurant rookie and recently retired corporate IT professional. DeStafano, his cousin, worked in the front of the house at predecessor restaurant Nino Gervasi’s. DeStafano and Shaget had long mused about buying the place, and pulled the trigger after Shaget’s retirement approached and Nino Gervasi’s suffered during the pandemic.

Osteria 545, 545 W. Broad St, Paulsboro, N.J. Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturday (dinner starts at 5 p.m.), 3-10 p.m. Sunday (dinner starts at opening).

What you’ve been eating this week

Have a great meal or drink? Slide into my DMs with photos. Thanks to @phillygefiltefishy for passing along a snap of this fiery Sichuan-style peppercorn fishpot with striped bass from Xun Yu Si Kao in Chinatown and to @wani_the_poo for touting the lamb adobado tacos made from house-ground masa at Condesa in Center City.

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