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What’s hot in Jersey Shore dining | Let’s Eat

The bars, the essential restaurants, the newcomers — we have it all for you, plus word of a new Han Dynasty location.

Craig LaBan / Staff

We’re back from the Shore with a bucketful of tips for you (and some sand on our floor mats): Craig LaBan drops his two-part series of essential restaurants from Long Beach Island to Atlantic City and from Ventnor to Cape May. Jenn Ladd recaps 13 fun bars. I found six new restaurants, including a cool cocktail lounge whose retro furnishings include the chandelier from an (alleged) mob boss’ house.

While you’re brushing the metaphoric sand from your toes, I urge you to sign up for one of my favorite Inquirer features: Amy Rosenberg’s “Down the Shore” newsletter, which puts beachy dish in your inbox every Thursday all season.

Mike Klein

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Jersey Shore restaurateurs are thinking big nowadays. I’ll run down six splashy newcomers. Four are simply gigantic: LaScala’s Beach House in Brigantine, Mexiquila in Somers Point, Lamberti’s Sunset Marina, and Memories in Margate. One, Black Cactus (shown above), has a Philly chef and a $2 million liquor license behind it. The sixth, Angeloni’s Club Madrid (shown below), has a lofty goal: recapturing the rogue milieu of 1980s Atlantic City. That explains the mobster’s chandelier in the lounge.

Where are this year’s essential Jersey Shore restaurants? Critic Craig LaBan logged hundreds of miles to find them on the barrier islands and the mainland.

🐚Part One spans Long Beach Island to Atlantic City. Read up on a dreamy BYOB, the magic at the region’s first “oystery,” and breakfast sandwich paradise he found in a parking lot.

🐚Part Two covers Ventnor to Cape May, and Craig will tell you about Indian ice cream, excellent Vietnamese food, the quesadilla-like “mega-machete” shown above, and what he says are the world’s best scallops.

If you want to party on the sand, drink in the shade, or watch the sun set over a salt marsh, Jenn Ladd has you covered. Last year, she explored the bar scene in Atlantic City and points south, and this year she’s all over LBI, with a side trip to Brigantine and its new thousand-seat beach destination.

The check arrives, the grumbling begins. Perhaps you’ve noticed that some popular restaurants charge a fee if patrons cancel without notice. Some are applying automatic service charges. Maybe a second charge is added to “help the kitchen.” They could charge a processing fee if you pay with a credit card. Or the pricing is framed differently and you are offered a discount if you pay by cash. Luciano Lamberti opened his new Lamberti’s restaurant in Margate last week with a menu displaying cash prices as well as credit-card prices (3.5% higher).

What do you think of this new reality in dining? Should restaurants just build the prices into the cost of the food and drinks? Or do you want them broken out? Share your thoughts for a potential future article.


Diner en Blanc, the French-rooted pop-up picnic that is now in its 12th year in Philadelphia, will take place on Aug. 15 at a location to be announced early that evening. Attendees dressed in white will travel to a designated spot, shlepping their food, tables, and chairs to the Diner en Blanc site. (The FAQs cover this info.) Organizer Natanya DiBona is expecting 5,100 attendees. (Last year’s Diner at Memorial Hall drew 5,000. The record was 6,000 during the 2019 outing to Boathouse Row, which felt like a bit much, DiBona said.) The first two phases of admission, open to those who attended previously, started this week. Everyone else gets to sign up in the third phase, which begins July 15; tickets are $53 per person plus a $14-per-person membership fee.

Chef Michael O’Halloran, best known for Bistro 7 in Old City and at Stella in New Hope, is now overseeing the vegan kitchens at Bar Bombon (133 S. 18th St,) and Charlie Was a Sinner (131 S. 13th St.), the bar-restaurants founded by HipCityVeg’s Nicole Marquis. Starting with the happy hour menus, he’s moving away from meat substitutes toward working with vegetables — to wit, the fire-roasted oyster mushroom with herb and caper chimichurri at Charlie’s happy hour.

The new Society Hill Hotel has retooled its restaurant hours, cutting breakfast and coffee on weekday mornings as it doubles down on weekend brunch and its daily lunch and dinner.

Some closings to report. Farm & Fisherman’s seven-year run in Horsham ended June 29. The flagship in Cherry Hill, where you can also get the terrific stuffed potato skins shown above, is open and doing well, said co-owner Josh Lawler. But the pandemic changed everything at Horsham, he said, with business lunches never returning.

Also: Tacocat in Margate closed Sunday, and explained on Facebook that factors included “inadequate staffing that is impossible to replace and train in the middle of summer, an expiring lease, and pure exhaustion.” Its food truck will remain. De La Terre in Downingtown’s last service will be July 20; owners did not share a reason for the closing.

Restaurant report

Before he opened his first Han Dynasty restaurant in Exton in 2007, Han Chiang said he was a constant source of disappointment to his parents as an outcast at school in his native Taiwan and then in Chester County, where he initially couldn’t speak English. Then he got kicked out of Drexel University and worked at his mom’s flower business. But at 27 came his lightbulb moment: It began with a Sichuan dish called beef hot sauce style, which he tried at a local restaurant that cooked what he called “real Chinese food.” He told his mother that he wanted to open his own restaurant. She gave him her retirement money, and he promptly poached the cook behind the beef dish to make it happen. Chiang, now 45, prides himself on Han Dynasty’s food, currently found in New York, Philadelphia, and the suburbs. If the beef hot sauce style’s punch is too much for you, there’s always the best-selling General Han’s Chicken, an all-American riff on General Tso’s, but with enough ginger, garlic, basil, and chili oil to make it interesting.

Last month, Chiang moved his Old City location down the block, from 123 Chestnut St. to 110 Chestnut St. The sleek new quarters are spread across two levels with a full bar. (This is actually Han Dynasty’s second move within Old City. Chiang opened at 108 Chestnut St. in 2010 and moved to 123 about three years later.)

Han Dynasty, 110 Chestnut St. Hours: 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Monday-Wednesday; 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Thursday; 11:30 a.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday; and 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday.

Briefly noted

Izzy’s, an izakaya expected to open later this summer at 35 E. Lancaster Ave. in Ardmore, will preview its drinks and menu (such as the bao bun shown above) in a pop-up at the upstairs bar at the Ripplewood, two doors away. It’s 5-9 p.m. Thursday, first come, first serve, with limited seating.

The Good King Tavern’s Bastille Day party will take over Seventh Street between Bainbridge and South Streets on Sunday from noon-6 p.m. Owner Chloe Grigri promises Frenchie street food and drinks, live music including full band, DJs, and accordionists, and games. The Good King Tavern will be open inside from noon-8 p.m. with dining reservations and the upstairs bar, le Caveau, will open first come, first serve, at 1 p.m.

River Twice’s Christmas in July dinner series returns for a third year featuring a five-night guest-chef series from July 15-19. Monday: Zahav alum Zachary Engel, chef-owner of the Michelin-starred Galit in Chicago. Tuesday: Justine MacNeil and Ed Crochet of Fiore Fine Foods in Kensington. Wednesday: Kevin Tien, the five-time James Beard Foundation semifinalist from D.C.’s Moon Rabbit. Thursday: Ian Graye of Pietramala in Northern Liberties. Friday: StudioKitchen’s Shola Olunloyo. Dinners, bookable on Resy, start at 5 p.m. and cost $150pp (or $175 at the seven-seat chef’s counter), plus beverage pairings. River Twice (1601 E. Passyunk Ave.), normally open on weekends, will be closed Sunday, July 14, and Saturday, July 20, to give owners Randy and Amanda Rucker a little breather.

Howl at the Moon, the live-music destination near the Kimmel Center, has closed after 10 years. A new bar is moving in: Cellar Dog, also a live-music venue and bar outfitted with billiards tables, ping pong, and board games.

The East Passyunk Avenue Business Improvement District starts a Thursday night promotion this week: Passyunk Passeggiata is billed as a happy hour and sidewalk market inspired by evening summer strolls in Italian towns where the community comes together after work to see and be seen. It will run through Aug. 31 from 5 to 7 p.m. at more than 40 locations on the Avenue, with live music, menu specials, extended shopping hours, outdoor dining, and happy hour specials from nearly two dozen restaurants, bars, and breweries with $5 beers, $6 wines, $7 cocktails and/or $7 small bites. See more info here.

The City of Philadelphia’s return-to-office mandate, in effect July 15, will have some restaurant specials. Bagels & Co. will give away bagels and cream cheese at both locations (17 S. 11th St. and 1526 Sansom St.) to the first 50 employees starting at 7 a.m. Monday; all orders will be 10% off for city workers through July 31. Liberte Lounge at the Sofitel will give out an appetizer with lunch and a free dessert with dinner purchase from July 15-19. Fashion District Philadelphia will hand out swag bags to the first 75 workers starting at 11 a.m. Monday. Other Monday deals: P.J. Clarke’s will give an appetizer with any burger/entree purchase; Cavanaugh’s Rittenhouse will serve BOGO wings, offering 25% off all week; 1225 Raw will take off 10% from the bill July 16-19; Lamberti Pizza & Market will take off 25% on Monday, plus 10% year-round; Dim Sum House will take 10% off through the end of July; the Ground offers 15% off all sandwiches, bubble tea, lattes, and specialty drinks; DBG (formerly Drury Beer Garden) takes 10% off food; Chika Ramen Bar will give away fried ice cream desserts with ramen/bowl purchases July 16-19; and Village Whiskey will give out “wild” fries with any burger purchase on July 15, and offer what it bills as “buy one, try one” shots (buy a 2-ounce pour and get a different comp pour when you mention you’re back in the office).

❓Pop quiz

A fast-food chain’s future location near Rittenhouse Square will have this as a selling point:

A) a retro playground

B) wine, beer, and spirits

C) free delivery

D) online-only ordering

Find out if you know the answer.

Ask Mike anything

Are there any tapas restaurants in the Philadelphia area that you would recommend? I have been to Barcelona. Any others? — Ben

Philly is in a bit of a Spanish deficit. I’d suggest Townsend Wentz’s stylish Oloroso at 1121 Walnut St. in Washington Square West, as well as the Old City location of Jose Garces’ Amada at 217 Chestnut St. (There are Amada branches in Radnor and Atlantic City, as well.) Spanish-born couple Vanesa Peredo and Alejandro Fernandez are behind the newish A Taste of Spain (104 S. 21st St.), a second location of their stand at Reading Terminal Market. They offer flautas, salads, empanadas, rabas fritas, bacalao, marmita, and a paella of the day in a cafe setting that’s more market than restaurant; there’s no liquor license. (A branch of NYC’s Boqueria was supposed to open on the 1600 block of Sansom Street, but that deal fell through.)

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