Smile! We found more than two dozen examples of fine happy hours all over town. In this week’s edition, you’ll find ice cream scoop, a Craig LaBan review of a new Mexican restaurant, a way to get around the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board’s new rationing, and restaurant news that involves Adam Sandler, who apparently loves the tagliatelle Bolognese at Davio’s.
And let me tell you about The Inquirer’s “Let’s Eat” Dining Guide, jampacked 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. Subscribe now and get in on it.
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Great happy hours all over
Not too long ago, happy hours were mainly a Center City thing, when the office buildings disgorged thousands of hungry and thirsty workers after their 9-to-5s. But, as contributor Afea Tucker will tell you (aided by an interactive map), happy-hour deals are spread all over town, covering a variety of cuisines. A shot and a beer, plus an order of fries or pickles for $7? Bao buns or dumplings, priced at $6 or less? Go ahead — spoil your dinner.
Ice cream scoop for you
The Philly area is sprinkled with new ice cream shops. Van Leeuwen is open at 13th and Sansom Streets in Center City, with two more on the books for 2022. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream has two 2 scooperies opening this fall — one at 1901 Chestnut St. in Rittenhouse and the other at 1322 Frankford Ave. in Fishtown. Let’s scream for our new hometown shops. Scoop de Ville is scooping from new quarters at 538 South St. Delaware’s Vanderwende Farm Creamery is prepping a fall opening at 243 Market St. in Old City. Milk Jawn is targeting a spring 2022 debut somewhere in South Philly. And — drumroll — Ryan Fitzgerald and his Kensington by-the-pint company 1-900-Ice-Cream has just gone brick-and-mortar with a scoop shop at 18 W. Lancaster Ave. in Ardmore, replacing Parlour. There’s a constantly changing list of flavors, with free toppings for that $6 cone. Hours: 6-10 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.
Craig LaBan reviews Sor Ynéz in Kensington
In Kensington’s Sor Ynéz, critic Craig LaBan has found a colorful al fresco oasis in a fenced-in parking lot off North American Street, where chef Alexis Tellez pays tribute to the food he learned from his parents — and to the pescatarian tastes of his girlfriend. Ergo, he employs inventive approaches to meatless dishes using traditional Mexican techniques. This happens to be more than a review, as Craig adroitly shares first impressions of a few Mexican newcomers you might want to try.
How to get around the PLCB’s rationing
If you’re a customer of the Fine Wine & Good Spirits shops in Pennsylvania, you may have heard that 42 bottles of high-end Champagne and spirits are now being rationed because of limited supplies. Keep in mind that this is only 2% of the PLCB’s inventory. Further, writes deputy food editor Joseph Hernandez, other booze brands are out there worth subbing. “Dollar for dollar,” he writes, “Krug’s Grande Cuvee is as celebratory, luxurious and genre-defining as Dom Perignon, for instance, while lesser-known Champagne houses like Bertrand Delespierre and Rene Geoffroy deliver high-quality bubbles at comparable prices.”
Mooncakes, as a touchstone
Contributor Grace Wong says she never really liked mooncakes, traditionally served during the Mid-Autumn Festival. It wasn’t until she had a westernized, coffee ice cream-filled version from a Starbucks in Shanghai that she began to appreciate the cakes and the history and culture they’re tied to. As the American-born only child of Chinese parents, she writes in a poignant essay, she is not alone in deciphering which traditions of her parents she would like to keep.
Where did Pennsylvania comfort foods come from?
We may know the origins of cheesesteaks and tomato pie. But what about the backstories of lesser-known Pennsylvania classics such as whoopie pies, banana splits, and scrapple? Watch this “Inquirer Live” video featuring Joseph with Inquirer contributor Kae Lani Palmisano, where they discuss her recent reporting on these overlooked foods. The banana split, she explains, was concocted by pharmacist David Strickler at Tassell Pharmacy in Latrobe in 1904. Why a banana split? It was an auspicious time for America, with all sorts of worldly ingredients reaching our shores. I’d suggest that this mash-up was a ripe example of banana-fest destiny.
A fun podcast debuts from Eli Kulp and friends
Chef Eli Kulp is drawing on his love of morning drive-time radio for his second podcast. Delicious City’s cast of characters includes WMMR’s Marisa Magnatta and Inquirer contributor Sarah Maiellano, and the fast-paced show will take a lighthearted look at the Philadelphia-area food scene. Kulp calls it “an audio food blog.” New episodes will go live every two weeks.
Adam Sandler, restaurant patron
We’re again getting a taste of celebrity, as Adam Sandler leads the cast of Hustle, a basketball movie now shooting in the Philadelphia area — the first cinematic production since the pandemic. Sandler has been spotted at restaurants, including Savona and DanDan, near his Main Line rental. The sightings include his costars, including Queen Latifah and Jaleel White. Even one local bakery got into the act.
Over six years, Kevin Wong transformed a ho-hum Chinatown building owned by his family into a sexy, bi-level bar-restaurant with a roof bar and deck with stunning views. The menu is all Wong’s, as well. He created his own modern riffs on Cantonese cuisine and even designed the cocktail menu, which includes a milk tea drink spiked with rum. Get the run-down on Far East Descendant, with lovely images from Inquirer photographer Charles Fox.
Hey, kids. The Goat is back. The chill Rittenhouse bar, which opened just before the pandemic in the former O’Shea’s at 1907 Sansom St., reopens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 22 after a private party. Slight change of ownership: Jason Evenchik (Vintage, Heritage, Garage, etc.) and business partner Patrick Iselin have joined Fergus Carey and Jim McNamara from Fergie’s. They renovated top to bottom (still casual, more polished), tweaked the name to The Goat Rittenhouse, and brought in a new menu by Vintage’s Mackenzie Hilton. Hours: 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Tuesday-Sunday.
Honeygrow’s Fishtown location is getting close. I’m hearing perhaps Friday, Sept. 24, though next week may be more likely at Fishtown Crossing Shopping Center, 2423 Aramingo Ave.
Lucky’s Last Chance’s Manayunk location will spin off a takeout/delivery operation a mile away called Lucky’s Roadside Stand (5154 Ridge Ave.) in mid-October, offering a streamlined version of the Main Street menu, plus a space for other, unspecified activities.
October is looking to be one of the busiest months for restaurant openings in memory. On the ol’ crystal ball: the Stephen Starr Mexican restaurant LMNO (Front and Palmer Streets in Fishtown); Jose Garces’ pizzeria Hook & Master (Second and Master Streets in Kensington); Nicholas Elmi and Fia Berisha’s The Lark (at the Ironworks at Pencoyd Landing in Bala Cynwyd); Càphê Roasters (Philly’s only Vietnamese coffee bar), at 3400 J St. in Kensington; Victory Brewing Co.’s big splash at 1776 Parkway; Primary Plant Based, Royal Tavern alum Mark McKinney’s vegan BYOB at 161 W. Girard Ave.; and Top Tomato’s takeover of Smokin’ Betty’s at 11th and Sansom Streets.
On the calendar
Philly Vegan Restaurant Week is Sept. 24-Oct. 1. Not all the 31 restaurants are strictly vegan.
Rittenhouse Row Festival, from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 25, has a new format. The streets will be open, for one thing. There will be 20 or so activities and such. It will run on Walnut Street between 15th and 21st Street, across 18th Street, and all around the square, utilizing the street closures and parking lanes established through the streetery program.
The fifth annual B[L]OCK Party is Sunday, Sept. 26 from noon-4 p.m. outside the Bok building in South Philadelphia. It’s a takeover of the 800 block of Mifflin Street with food trucks, a bouncy castle, arts and crafts, live music, and fire truck demos. It’s free and in case of rain will move indoors to Bok’s West Gym.
At the new Farina Pasta & Noodle, chef Daniel Lee has deliciously filled a need for Rittenhouse: Quick and easy, cooked-to-order pastas and noodle dishes from the subterranean hole in the wall next to Luke’s Lobster at 132 S. 17th St. (It was a hot dog shop called Underdogs, way back when.) It’s all scratch-made pasta. Lee and a partner started Farina last year as a delivery-only kitchen. He’s keeping the menu tight — rigatoni, spaghetti, and stuffed focaccia are bestsellers already. There’s a grab-and-go fridge and some table seating, too. Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, till 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Closed Sunday.