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How my favorite grocery store changed my world | Let’s Eat

Also: Craig LaBan reviews Charley Dove, Nick Vadala lays out 10 winery-focused day trips, and we offer a collection of new restaurants in the city and suburbs.

Aldi's supermarket on Moreland Road in Willow Grove, Pa., on Oct. 19, 2021
Aldi's supermarket on Moreland Road in Willow Grove, Pa., on Oct. 19, 2021Read moreMICHAEL KLEIN / Staff

We head to Aldi for an appreciation of this quirky supermarket chain. Also this week: Craig LaBan reviews Charley Dove (the redo of Audrey Claire), Nick Vadala lays out 10 winery-focused day trips, and I sum up a collection of new restaurants in the city and burbs. (Wait till you see the pizza from Jose Garces’ new place.)

But first: We’re in cookie mode. Do you have a cookie recipe your friends and relatives can’t stop asking for? The Inquirer Food team is putting together a baker’s dozen of cookies that represent Philadelphia, and we want to know about your cookie! Want to be included? Submit your signature cookie recipe, what makes it special, and a photo of the cookies (if you have one) to the Food team at this submission form. (Please limit descriptions to 200 words or less.) Submissions will be posted to Inquirer social media, where readers will help choose the finalists by voting for their favorite.

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Mike Klein

Confessions of an Aldi nerd

Contributor Emily Christensen was down and out when she discovered Aldi, the German-owned, no-frills, deliberately down-market grocery chain. Once she got the hang of the store, she writes, shopping became a comforting game — “one many of my fellow shoppers clearly enjoy.” FYI: I just checked up on the planned Aldi location at the old chocolate factory at 21st Street and Washington Avenue, which won zoning approval in January 2020; it’s still a good two years away, the developer says.

Mural of the story: Art is a key part of restaurant atmosphere

Bold murals bring art and energy to cafes and bars. Contributor Kae Lani Palmisano tells the stories behind six of her favorites. “It’s a conversation piece,” says Ram Krishnan, who owns the Center City bar Writer’s Block Rehab, home of two wall murals. “It provokes thought and creates a reaction.”

Craig LaBan reviews Charley Dove

Critic Craig LaBan visits 20th and Spruce Streets to check out Charley Dove, the new incarnation of the pioneering BYOB Audrey Claire. Craig gives owner Rob Wasserman a lot of credit for finally shaking things up, “for recognizing the pandemic’s interruption as an opportunity to make a change. He’s also managed to evolve this bistro with the astute recognition that it didn’t need to change too much, as much as be updated.” Wasserman, you’ll observe, even adopted Audrey Claire Taichman’s naming convention, as Charley Dove is his daughter.

All you first-nighters: Charley Dove’s sibling up the block, Twenty Manning (261 S. 20th St.), reopens Wednesday, Oct. 20 after its pandemic closure. Menu is now Middle Eastern street food (brisket hummus!), with bar items to match. Website is not finished yet. Hours: 5-11 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.

Take a wine trip

Here’s some fall fun. Staff writer Nick Vadala rounded up 10 Pennsylvania wineries all within about 100 miles of Center City — so feel free to plan a day trip. Whether you’re looking to sip vino in a beautiful setting, or maybe just take a bottle or two home, Nick has you covered.

Or stay in and drink. Wine columnist Marnie Old recommends a French rosé, now on sale for $10.99, whose summery scent is “as clean and subtle as that of linen dried in a sea breeze.” Linen after Labor Day?!

Toast: A new brewery in South Philadelphia

Cartesian Brewing Co., which structural engineer Evan Roth established as a locally focused South Philadelphia brewery, rolls out its tasting room Wednesday, Oct. 20 with a pop-up can sale. Taps will flow Friday, Oct. 22 for the grand opening starting at 5 p.m. It’s at 1326 E. Passyunk Ave., down the street from street-food emporiums Pat’s King of Steaks, Geno’s, JJ’s, and Insomnia Cookies — which explains the bring-your-own-food policy. Hours: 3-10 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, noon-10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Vegan breakfast option in Center City

Breakfast has been hard to find around Center City lately. Two reasons: The office population is down considerably, and restaurateurs are having trouble staffing even the more profitable lunch and dinner times. But Lamarr Ingram and Todd Butler have a key second location for Vegan-ish, their mostly vegan sandwich shop. It’s at 1519 Spring Garden, across from Community College of Philadelphia, around the corner from the School District of Philadelphia headquarters, and an easy Uber Eats hop into all of Center City. Killer breakfast wraps ($9), filled with Field Roast Chao cheese and faux meats, are cooked to order on Butler’s house-made flatbreads. This location and the West Philly original (1214 N. 52nd St.) also offer lunch and early dinner. P.S. It’s “vegan-ish” because seafood is offered on a few dishes. P.P.S. The menu is not online, though UberEats offers one.

Vegan-ish, 1519 Spring Garden St., Philadelphia. Hours: 8 a.m.-9 p.m. daily.

Restaurant report

The fourth quarter of 2021 is all about the openings of all those restaurants that had remained on hold during the pandemic. Matt Cahn’s Middle Child Clubhouse opened this week in Fishtown for breakfast and lunch, and starts dinner on Thursday, Oct. 21. Hook & Master, chef Jose Garces’ pizzeria-seafood spot in Kensington, opens Wednesday, Oct. 20 for takeout and delivery in advance of its Oct. 29 grand opening. Lark, chef Nicholas Elmi-Fia Berisha’s partnership above their hit Landing Kitchen in Bala Cynwyd, will throw its doors open on Saturday, Oct. 23 in advance of an Oct. 27 debut. The Refectory, on Villanova University’s campus, officially reopens on Monday, Oct. 25 after its pandemic shutdown. I’m also hearing of the softest of soft openings in the immediate offing for Rex at the Royal (1524 South St.).

Nicholas Elmi and Fia Berisha have a hit at their casual drop-in Landing Kitchen at the Ironworks at Pencoyd Landing in Bala Cynwyd, set among the iron beams and other industrial touches on the bosky banks of the Schuylkill, across from Manayunk. Now, seven months later, they’ll unveil Lark, their refined offering on the seventh-floor rooftop. They go live Saturday, Oct. 23, and then regroup before resuming on Wednesday, Oct. 27. Dazzling views, full bar, and a “coastal Mediterranean” menu from Elmi and chef Michael Millon, who are offering house-made pastas and sustainable seafood. Two musts: sea urchin deviled eggs with chive, preserved citrus, and caviar; and the goat cheese gnocchi with broccoli, pine nut, and crispy speck.

Lark, 611 Righters Ferry Rd., Bala Cynwyd. Opens Oct. 23. Initial hours: 5-11 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday.

Tiki bar? Three varieties of pizza? Seafood small plates? Jose Garces’ new Hook & Master — billed as Chicago-style pizzeria meets tiki bar with a nautical theme — is almost ready to go at Second and Master Streets in Kensington, a spiffy redo of the old Liquid Room. Right now, you can try the pizza for takeout (through a window) or delivery through Sunday. Oct. 24. Garces (Amada, Distrito, etc.) needs an additional week to fully ramp up the rest of the menu for indoor seating and takeout/delivery. Chef Steven Seibel collabed with the Chicago-bred Garces on a thin and crispy Chicago tavern-style pizza, a pan-style pizza with a mozzarella cheese crust (not to be confused with deep dish), and more familiar Brooklyn-style pies. An outdoor “octopus’ garden” is planned for next spring.

Hook & Master, 1361 N. Second St., Philadelphia. Temporary takeout/delivery hours are noon-10 p.m. through Sunday, Oct. 24. It will then close until the grand opening on Friday, Oct. 29.

Matthew Cahn has gone beneath the El in Fishtown to deliver a bigger younger sibling to Middle Child, his popular Center City luncheonette. Middle Child Clubhouse does walk-in counter-service for breakfast and lunch Tuesday to Sunday with the same sandwich/salad format as the 11th Street original, plus coffees. There’s a bar, too, with cocktails, natural wines, and a massive tap selection. Dinner (starting at 5 p.m.) runs Thursday to Sunday with a menu from chef Adam Sosnowik that includes a cheeseburger (plus a vegan patty melt), a fried shrimp and shishito basket, a chicken Milanese bigger than your face, and five rotating small plates (some vegan/gluten-free offerings), including a pimento cheese appetizer (served with saltines) and latkes with okonomiyaki toppings and trout roe.

Middle Child Clubhouse, 1232 N. Front St., Philadelphia. Hours: 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Thursday, 8 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday. The kitchen takes a siesta from 2-5 p.m. Thursday-Sunday with snacks only.

The Refectory, the casually elegant restaurant on Villanova University’s campus, officially reopens after a pandemic shutdown on Monday, Oct. 25 under new management with ties to Main Line destinations: Ken Kearns (118 North), Chris Perella (Ardmore Music Hall, 118 North), and chef Biff Gottehrer (Ripplewood) have brought on Steve Khuu, who ran the recently shuttered Enoteca Tredici, as general manager. Something-for-everyone menu, from burgers (and Gottehrer’s burger is among the best on the Main Line) to seafood towers.

The Refectory, 862 E. Lancaster Ave. (at Ithan Avenue, park in the garage), Villanova. Hours starting Oct. 25: 4-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 4-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Lunch will begin Nov. 1 and weekend brunch starts Nov. 13.

Restaurant notes

Artisan Boulangerie Patisserie, the James Beard-nominated South Philadelphia bakery and a prime source of fine banh mi rolls, is closed as owners Amanda Eap and Andre Chin battle health issues. Eap told me that she hopes to be back in several weeks after her own surgery; meanwhile, Chin, her husband, is fighting what she called an aggressive relapse of cancer. Customers are stepping in to help the couple. Daniel Weber has organized a GoFundMe, and Miss Rachel’s Pantry in South Philadelphia — full disclosure: chef/co-owner Rachel Klein is my daughter — is hosting a benefit cocktail party on Nov. 1 ($75 a ticket) that will include live music, food from Conscious Cultures, Rowhouse Grocery, and FarmArt Produce, and raffles.

The Chester County destination restaurant Vickers in Exton will close Oct. 30 after 50 years, reports the Daily Local News. Arturo Burigatto, who owned and ran the restaurant since 1972 (minus a gap from 1999 to 2008), is retiring.

Brooklyn Bowl, the music venue/bowling alley opening Nov. 4 off of Delaware Avenue in Fishtown, has named a chef: Bela Durst, whose CV includes Feast Your Eyes Catering, Frog Commissary at the Franklin Institute, and Cafette in Chestnut Hill before he bounced into his last gig: Spin, the Ping Pong parlor in Center City. Menu is here.

Elwood, Adam Diltz and Jenny Ko’s cozy Fishtown BYOB (around the corner from Brooklyn Bowl), won its five-year zoning battle for outdoor dining in its backyard. It will launch next spring.

Field notes

Tasting menus — and by that, I mean fixed-price meals with few or no choices — have become popular with chefs in these days of tough staffing and ingredient shortages. Craig LaBan ran down a bunch of exciting tasting menus, including River Twice and Vernick Wine, in the 2021 edition of the “Let’s Eat, Philly” dining guide. Two more, for your consideration: Pinto, Shannon Dougherty and Liz Petersen’s casual Southwestern BYOB in Glenside, now offers a fixed-price supper on Sunday and Monday (once a month) in its elegant upstairs dining room. The tab is $75 and includes comp cocktail pairings. October dinners are booked, so follow Upstairs at Pinto on Instagram. Also, Ari Miller is about to revive the dinner experience at Musi, his South Philadelphia BYOB, with a fixed-price format. He’s doing the “zero decision, I’m-cooking-for-you” experience, which means you indicate carnivore or herbivore, and tell him about food allergies and aversions. I’m trying it out, and will report back. (His Frizwit cheesesteaks, which have achieved Philly sandwich icon status, will remain on weekends.) Meanwhile, follow Musi on Insta.