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Where the cool kids get the best water ice | Let’s Eat

Also this week: A great sandwich shop and an offal-ly ambitious restaurant.

John's Water Ice at Seventh and Christian Streets is many smiles apart from the rest of the frozen-dessert pack.
John's Water Ice at Seventh and Christian Streets is many smiles apart from the rest of the frozen-dessert pack.Read moreSteven M. Falk / Staff File Photo

Things are heating up as we reach the middle of July. This week, we take an inside look at one of the hottest new grill restaurants in town, get spicy with a visit to an outstanding new sandwich spot, and cool things down with an inside guide to Philly’s finest water ice. As they say in the water-ice-ratings biz: Many are cold; few are frozen.

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Michael Klein

We have the cold scoop on water ice

Ninety-degree days in Philly can only mean one thing: It’s time to dip a plastic spoon into a tall cup of sweet, frosty water ice. Service editor Jillian Wilson offers you eight outstanding water ice destinations. I’m partial to the lemon at John’s, although I’d never turn down a sorbetto from D’Emilio’s or a vanilla fudge (!) from Jimmy’s.

If you’re down the shore, by the way, critic Craig LaBan loves the spicy gelati from the brand-new Willow’s Way in Ventnor, part of his two-part series on the best new dining options at the shore:

» READ MORE: Craig LaBan's favorite restaurants for summer dining at the Shore, Part 1

» READ MORE: Craig LaBan's favorite restaurants for summer dining at the Shore, Part 2

Take a bite of these great South Philly sandwiches

Don’t miss this one: Craig raves about the hoagies, pork sandwiches, and pizza steaks at the buzzy, new Dolores’ 2Street, on Second Street near Mifflin. He also walked out of there with a taste of South Philly history and the tale of a restaurant family reveling in its comeback.

Going for blood at Ember & Ash in South Philly

Craig has some offal-ly nice things to say in his review of Ember & Ash, an ambitious bar-restaurant that opened midpandemic on East Passyunk Avenue. Its wood-fueled hearth pays homage to the rustic art of off-cut cooking, and no organ is left behind. If you don’t take Craig’s word for it, consider that David Ansill, arguably Philly’s best-known offal chef, remarked: “These guys are good, aren’t they? Better than I was.” Stay tuned for Craig’s next review, coming this weekend: The Landing Kitchen in Bala Cynwyd.

What’s driving the labor shortage in restaurants?

A labor shortage is roiling the restaurant industry, and reporter Jenn Ladd gets to the bottom of it with a deep-dive that includes an eye-opening exclusive survey of nearly 200 workers. The upshot: Those boosted unemployment benefits have factored into the shortage — but not how you might expect. Instead of keeping workers at home, it afforded them the chance to reconsider their industry. Many have chosen to find a new line of work.

A Philly brewery is recognized as a force for good

Certified B Corporations are the good guys out there, meeting high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and legal accountability. Philly’s Triple Bottom Brewery recently joined the likes of Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia, and King Arthur Flour with this classification. Jenn sat down with co-founder Tess Hart to learn how TBB not only talks the talk, but walks the walk. It’s the state’s first certified B Corp brewery — and one of just over a dozen in the country.

Restaurant report

Mark McLean, a Central Jersey caterer (Remarkable Cuisine), and friend Zach Simmons-Glover, who runs a youth program called Project 99, roll out butcher paper on the tables at The Burgerly, their new shop at 137 S. Main St. in New Hope. In fact, a pile of napkins is absolutely necessary, as well.

McLean grills the 5¾-ounce burgers smash-style on a “singing” 48-inch flattop called Etta. Look down ↓ for the Simply Amazing, mopped with a red wine-Worcestershire reduction and topped with cooked onions and sweet-onion aioli, creamy Havarti, ripe tomato, and lettuce mixed with micro-arugula, radish, and mustard for punch.

Also on the menu: The Dam Dog (a 4:1 natural-casing grilled frank topped with BBQ brisket, pickled cabbage, spicy mayo), plus barbecue tenders and panko-crusted chicken sandwich. Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 11 a.m.- 7 p.m. Sunday. It’s mostly takeout.

Briefly noted

This just in: Chef Mark McKinney, who’s made his mark with vegan fare at Royal Tavern and with his Primary Plant Based pop-up out of the Khyber, is getting into the restaurant ownership game at age 51. He will take over 161 W. Girard Ave. when Cadence bows out at the end of August. Primary Plant Based will offer stylish fare when it opens this fall.

Chef Jennifer Zavala’s food-trucking, pop-upping, Top Cheffing, cannabis-cooking culinary career is taking yet another turn: She has signed a lease at 1941 E. Passyunk Ave. to house Juana Tamale, a permanent location for the birria tacos, tamales, and other Mexican food she sells around town. Opening is targeted for September.

Pinto, the Southwestern yearling in downtown Glenside, has reformatted. Chefs Shannon Dougherty and Liz Petersen, who also own Cedar Point in Fishtown, have divided the concept, going casual downstairs as Pinto’s Nacho Spot (effective Wednesday, July 14) and going upstairs in September with fixed-price, multicourse meals served monthly (the cleverly named Upstairs at Pinto). Hours: noon-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, noon-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon-6 p.m. Sunday.

Last week was last call for Fox & Hound’s Center City location after nearly two decades at 15th and Spruce. My colleague Samantha Melamed beautifully and cheekily captured the essence of this sports bar a few years ago.

Restaurateur Marsha Brown, who relocated to New Orleans to care for a family member, has ceded control of her Marsha Brown restaurant in New Hope to a former manager and partners. Mike Sklar, Wilfer Naranjo, and Gaspar Ferrera and Vincent Farrera will reopen in September as the Old Stone Church of New Hope.

New locations are on the way for Honeygrow, Misconduct Tavern, and Pizzeria Vetri (attention, Main Liners).

Saladworks has opened a Saladworks location that’s dual-branded with its acai/pitaya Frutta Bowls label. It’s at 95 E. Germantown Pike, just off Dekalb Pike in East Norriton.

Diner en Blanc is back for 2021 after skipping 2020. The public pop-up picnic will be the evening at Aug. 12 at a TBD location.

A reminder that A Mano, chef Townsend Wentz’s homespun Italian BYOB at 23rd Street and Fairmount Avenue, reopens Wednesday, July 14 with chef George Sabatino in charge. He’d been working at a farm during his pandemic break, and there is much freshness on his menu. Stay tuned.

This pescado dorado taco flavor-bomb is just one example of chef Alexis Tellez’s vibrant Mexican cooking at the roomy, sultry Sor Ynez, a new sister of Cafe Ynez and Rex 1516 in the NextFab building at 1800 N. American St. in Kensington, also home of the Neon Museum. This is a sleeper.

Many dishes are vegan-izable. Menu includes tortas served on pillowy house-baked bread, mushroom carnitas tacos, Michoacán enchiladas, shrimp ceviche. Cocktails (interesting tequila and mezcal list), nonalcoholic bebidas, lots of outdoor dining space, free parking, and even a cute display of Mexican wares (co-owner Jill Weber is an archaeologist by day and you never know what she’ll dig up).

Hours: 4-9 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, noon-9 p.m. Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday.

Here’s a tip, as they say in the manicure trade:

Ikki, a glittery, two-level Japanese bar-restaurant, has replaced Queen Nails at 310 Market St., next to the former High Street on Market. Albert Zheng, whose holdings include Engimono Sushi and Engimono Poke & Deli (both on Fairmount Avenue), Kabuki near City Hall, and Atlanta Wings in South Philadelphia, is working with New Yorkers Joanne Xue and Jay Tang, an alumnus of Kashi Sushi.

Ikki packs plenty into its narrow storefront: bar tables in the front and a full bar and sushi bar. Up a narrow staircase is a more spacious dining room that overlooks the ground floor. Menu has the usual dozens of silly-named specialty rolls, maki, and sashimi, plus a few surprises — lots of cold seafood-and-avocado combos, filet mignon carpaccio, and a luscious entree called King of the Sea (grilled lobster tail, shrimp, scallops, asparagus, and corn with a lemon sauce, at a still fairly priced $29).

Hours: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon-10 p.m. Sunday.