We’re grinding it out this week — coming up with our favorite coffee shops, getting inside a new Stephen Starr restaurant, visiting the reincarnation of a French BYOB in Collingswood, and dropping the news that a popular deli is returning.
And here’s a word (actually, 59 words, but who’s counting?) about The Inquirer’s “Let’s Eat” Dining Guide, jam-packed with exclusive looks at the region’s restaurant scene. This glossy book will be included with home-delivered newspapers, at no additional charge, on Thursday, Oct. 7. Digital-only subscribers will get subscriber-exclusive and other special digital-only content. The link to subscribe is here.
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Best coffee shops in Philly
“At its core, a coffee shop should serve as a community hub,” says Justin Moore, who runs Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books in Germantown. With that in mind — and fueled by countless cups of coffee — contributor Kae Lani Palmisano scoured the city to find the finest coffee shops. She’s bean to them all, apparently.
More on the local coffee scene:
Bower Cafe, Thane Wright’s shop on 10th Street near Spruce in Washington Square West, is headed to Penn Medicine’s new Pavilion in University City at the end of next month.
Càphê Roasters, the first and only Vietnamese specialty-coffee roastery in Philadelphia, soft-opens its first cafe on Oct. 2 at J Street and Kensington Avenue. Keep an eye on Inquirer.com for more on Thu Pham’s entrepreneurial coup.
The Story joins Ardmore’s coffee and restaurant boom as the town’s third coffee shop to open in the last year, after Blue Pearl Cafe and Up to Eleven. Opening Friday, Oct. 1, it’s a cafe/bookstore in a former VFW post at 45 E. Lancaster Ave., with a social mission of giving back to the community. Although Calvary Chapel of Delaware County in Ardmore, a nondenominational church, is behind it, patrons don’t need to be involved with the church. Andrea Cummins-Disbro of Lost Orchid Interiors executed stunning art installations.
Sisterly Love Food Fair holds its first fund-raiser
Sisterly Love Food Fair, a collaborative and roaming food event among women-run food makers and businesses around the city, is hosting its first charity event: the Sisterly Love Sunday Supper, a cocktail party and open-air dinner at the Cherry Street Pier’s garden. Co-creator Ellen Yin tells deputy food editor Joseph Hernandez that Sunday evening’s cohost, pastry chef/essayist Lisa Donovan, partly inspired the event, which will benefit Women Against Abuse.
Stephen Starr opening LMNO, a Baja Mexican bar-restaurant
For his 36th restaurant (!), Stephen Starr is showcasing the food of Baja, Mexico in a sprawling bar-restaurant called LMNO on the Fishtown-Kensington border. It opens next Wednesday, Oct. 6. The design by tastemaker Serge Becker has a modern-meets-rustic side, and includes a hidden room where vinyl will be spun as well as a shop where you can dine amid art books for sale.
Craig LaBan reviews June BYOB in its new New Jersey home
The pandemic was not kind to chef Richard “Todd” Cusack and his wife, Christina, who were forced to close their South Philadelphia restaurant, June BYOB. But they saved and sacrificed and tried again, opening in Collingswood in August with the same rarefied, Frenchified airs — an anomaly in this new age. As critic Craig LaBan notes in his review: “I’d argue that a place like June BYOB has become even more valuable. With the sad demise of Bibou during the pandemic, Cusack is now one of the few skilled guardians of Philly’s long Gallic tradition, dating back to Le Bec-Fin and La Panetière.”
Jose Garces reopens Volvér with a chefs-in-residence program
Volvér in Spanish means “to return,” and chef Jose Garces is bringing back Volvér, his swank restaurant in the Kimmel Center, with an altruistic twist: a chefs-in-residence program, with a focus on chefs who were affected by the pandemic and whose dishes will appear alongside Garces’. Kiki Aranita from Poi Dog Philly is first at Volvér’s stove, from Oct. 6 through Nov. 28.
Koch’s Deli is coming back
A great cry of anguish arose from West Philadelphia last week when a demo crew was spotted clawing up the facade of the venerable Koch’s Deli at 4309 Locust St., a side effect of the building’s changing hands last year. Took some digging, but I’ve been able to confirm with the building’s new owner that Koch’s will return, under its most recent operator, after renovations. (No chef-in-residence program here, though.) Timeline for reopening depends on city inspections. Do you remember Koch’s motto, from back in the days when Bobby and Lou Koch ran it? Read on ↓ .
Told you last week about the impending return of The Goat, the chill Rittenhouse bar that had opened just before the pandemic in the former Oh! Shea’s at 1907 Sansom St. Fergus “Fergie” Carey and Jim McNamara from Fergie’s are now joined by Jason Evenchik and Patrick Iselin (Vintage, Heritage, etc.). After deadline, I got a look-see. They’ve bumped up the atmospherics significantly, adding booths and even a pool table — which Fergie had never allowed in his establishments because they take up seating. They also split the room, moving the second bar into a new space that handles overflow and small private events. Do not miss chef Mackenzie Hilton’s next-level BLT club with thick-sliced bacon, chipotle mayo, lettuce, and tomato on toasted sourdough, or the sardine rillettes, served cleverly in a sardine tin with accoutrements. Hours: 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Tuesday-Sunday. (Remind me to tell you about Carey and McNamara’s next bar project, in South Philly.)
The omakase counter at Royal Sushi & Izakaya in Queen Village, Philly’s most exclusive Japanese experience, is back after its pandemic shutdown, with changes: It’s sleeker, as some of the bricks on the back wall are gone in favor of neutral tile. The counter also was rebuilt to give chef-owner Jesse Ito more room to maneuver. Most important, Ito now limits the $152pp experience to two seatings (6 and 8:15 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday) with only eight people per turn, so you truly have to stalk Resy. (Check Craig LaBan’s review.)
Papaya Vietnamese, tucked behind a ski shop on Route 309 in North Wales, has closed after five years, pending a move nearby. New deal is not yet signed.
South Jersey’s restaurant row, Haddon Avenue, is getting two new family-run pizzerias in 2022. Tacconelli’s Maple Shade branch is opening in Westmont, while Sal Cusumano of My Angelo’s in Berlin is opening Pizzeria Cusumano in Collingswood.
Closings: Rose Tattoo Cafe appears to have closed after 38 years at 19th and Callowhill Streets. Founders Michael and Helene Weinberg sold it in 2019 to developer Michael Maltepes, and it had been open in fits and starts since. Phone is disconnected, social media is silent, and Maltepes has not returned messages. ... Side-by-side vacancies on the 1100 block of Walnut Street: Destination Dogs and Bareburger. DD’s Jimmy Cronk told me that he is location-scouting elsewhere in Philly.
Back to Koch’s. ↑ The West Philly deli’s motto was always “More meat for less bread.” Founders Bobby and Lou Koch, who have since died, were famous for handing out samples to customers waiting in line. It’s been said that one guy collected about three-quarters of a pound of meat and a quarter-pound of cheese. He then got out of line, bought four rolls, and went home to make his own sandwiches.