Summer’s approach gets us in an ice cream mood. This week, we share a dozen local favorites, plus Juneteenth recipes, word about a new spiked seltzer from Philly, and a rundown of dozens of new restaurants (and I’ll spill one secret about a new Greek seafood spot).

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Michael Klein

Scoop: Ice creams worth screaming for

No city has claimed the title Ice Cream Capital of America. It’s high time Philadelphia did so. Contributor Regan Stephens delivers the cold, hard facts: 12 terrific shops, with word of two more on the way.

A restaurant boom is happening in the Philly area

Pent-up consumer demand, cheaper rents, and the sight of the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel — coupled with the usual optimism — are shaping up to be a mid-2021 restaurant boom in the Philadelphia area. Among the 60 or so projects on the radar is a revival of the South Street music bar Dobbs, a pizzeria from chef Jose Garces, a Mexican-theme nightspot from Stephen Starr, and a “grown-up” version of the Center City luncheonette Middle Child.

The patrons are coming back. When do critics return?

It’s been a long time since our man Craig LaBan and other food critics have uttered a peep of constructive criticism about a dining experience. When is it fair game, ethical, or even necessary for a critic to return to their consumer reporter function? Craig shares his thoughts.

And what will “normal” look like in Philadelphia restaurants? For one thing, those plastic barriers are coming down.

Restaurateurs discovering a new sideline business

The pandemic is teaching restaurateurs to think differently. For some, it means adding special events to their repertoire. Zahav’s Mike Solomonov and Steve Cook and South’s Robert and Ben Bynum are entering the events biz with their own events venues. Amid all this optimism, I also spoke to veteran caterer Joe Volpe of Cescaphe, who explains just how bad it was for his industry in 2020.

Here’s more about Lilah, the events venue from Cook and Solomonov. It will include a location of Goldie, their falafel shop.

Two Robbers break into the hard-seltzer market

Though White Claw and Truly dominate the hard-seltzer market, Philadelphia has a homegrown maker with big ambitions of its own: Two Robbers, run out of the Bok building by twin brothers Vikram and Vivek Nayar. Colleague Jenn Ladd says that with $6 million in financing from investors, Two Robbers could be looking at an effervescent future. Also new in the beverage space is Osena, a spiked coconut water invented by two Wharton grads.

Red recipes for Juneteenth

June 19 is Juneteenth, commemorating the end of slavery in the United States and emphasizing the history and contributions of Black Americans. It was named a city holiday in Philadelphia in 2020. Red foods have come to symbolize the blood and resilience of enslaved people, and contributor Tiffani Rozier shares three recipes, including red peppers, kidney beans, tomatoes, and strawberries, to honor that tradition.

Three Black-owned food businesses, meanwhile, are in the spotlight at the ongoing Philadelphia Flower Show. Sweet Nina’s, KakeMi Cakes, and Jillian Bakes are sharing a sales tent, thanks to the Enterprise Center’s Dorrance H. Hamilton Center for Culinary Enterprises.

Restaurant report

It’s Black Restaurant Week in Philadelphia, and Craig weighs in on his favorite restaurants that celebrate the flavors of African American, African, and Caribbean cooking.

Briefly noted

New brunch option at the Jersey Shore: Sabrina’s Café is taking over the food truck at The Lot at Tomatoes in Margate every Saturday and Sunday this summer, starting this weekend, 8 a.m.-sellout, first come, first served. Brunch classics and Sabrina’s fan favorites will be available for dine-in and takeaway.

Wawa is embracing its Delcohood, writes my colleague Stephanie Farr. The convenience-store chain is hosting a Mare of Easttown Day on Thursday, June 10 at the opening of its new location at 418 W. Baltimore Pike in Upper Darby. The 100 customers at the 8 a.m. opening will receive free coffee and a limited-edition Wawa Delco shirt. Also, from June 10-17, all 42 Delco stores in the chain — and only the Delco stores — will also feature a limited-edition Mare of Easttown spicy cheesesteak.

Closings: Superior Pasta, which had sold fresh pasta and prepared foods from the Italian Market, has closed. Honey’s Sit ‘N Eat’s location at 21st and South Street is done; the Northern Liberties original is unaffected. And June 30 will be the end of the line for Trolley Car Cafe in East Falls.

How Greek is West Chester’s Opa Taverna? It offers not one but two preparations of grilled octopus. There’s this off-the-menu Greek style (shown above), finished with olive oil, red vinegar, and raw onions. The menu version is served over hummus with pickled onions. Don’t miss the addictive lightly fried Opa chips (eggplant and zucchini) with tzatziki. There’s a well-stocked bar including house-made syrups. It’s open from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday. Indoor-outdoor seating. (And the secret: Savvas Navrosidis, who owns this with Kostas Botos, also owns several restaurants in Philly’s Fairmount neighborhood. Across from his Fare restaurant is the former Hickory Lane, on the corner of Corinthian Street and Fairmount Avenue. He’s fixing to open in a few weeks as Pierbar, an outdoor-only bar restaurant specializing in Greek seafood.)

Fiorella, Marc Vetri’s bustling pasta bar at 817 Christian St. in South Philly, was barely a month old when the world shut down in 2020. After months of takeout and outdoor dining, it’s back open inside for mainly counter seating at the former butcher shop, whose stoves are overseen by Matt Rodrigue. That’s a particularly luscious lamb tortellini en brodo with green garbanzo, one of seven pastas on a recent menu that included an antipasto of soft-shell crab over hollandaise and horseradish and scallop crudo. Among desserts is an intensely minty mint gelato with dark chocolate and mascarpone, and butterscotch budino with Belgian waffle and strawberry preserves. Italian wines, cocktails, beers. Indoor-outdoor. Hours: 4-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 4-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Tasting menus vanished in March 2020. With the return to indoor dining comes a first from Greg Vernick, Ryan Mulholland, and the team from Vernick Food & Drink They’re offering a a cozy, low-lit experience Thursday to Saturday next door at Vernick Wine, the bottle shop next door. Chef Robert Newcomb’s six-course, $135 menu changes from night to night. Recent offerings includes tuna and eel on warm brioche with kabayaki, spring onion, and radish; king crab wrapped in feuille de brick and then fried and served with uni mustard; turbot and white asparagus; lamb with green tomato “sauce vierge” and hollandaise; and — more tortellini, as shown above. This was filled with foie and served with mushroom consommé.