In these painful times, let’s take a cool break with fun thoughts of that summery, uniquely Philly treat: water ice. Reporter Cassie Owens, who grew up in Mount Airy, dips into her memories for a look at some favorites while also offering recipes for you DIY types.
Also this week, with the Philadelphia area moving into the yellow phase of Gov. Tom Wolf’s coronavirus restrictions, reporter Jenn Ladd explains how outdoor dining will look. Critic Craig LaBan writes about how some Philly "essential nonessential” food-business owners got together to create a care package of artisan-made foodstuffs. It’s the Joy Box.
“When I sit with a bowl of water ice, I feel like it’s a calm Sunday when I’d ask my grandfather about Tranzilli’s after church,” writes Cassie Owens, recalling the Germantown institution that’s been cranking it out since 1969. We also suggest eight good water-ice shops, and offer advice for making your own. I’d like chocolate or lemon, please.
The “yellow” phase holds the prospect of at least one cautious and careful step toward normalcy: outdoor dining, a hallmark of summertime. It’s not clear if Philadelphia itself will allow outdoor seating as the rest of Southeastern Pennsylvania gets the green light on Friday, June 5. There are rules, and Jenn Ladd runs them down: Only outside seating — on patios, rooftops, porches, and sidewalks — is allowed. Outdoor counter seating is allowed, but not if the counter faces a bartender. That means no “bars,” per se. Remember that cocktails-to-go is still a thing.
Six local food companies, largely idled by the coronavirus shutdown, were determined to collaborate and figure out a productive path forward. And so, the Joy Box was born, putting food favorites in one place, explains Craig LaBan. Options range from local craft cheeses wrangled by Third Wheel Cheese Co., to Vietnamese coffee from Càphê Roasters and Mycopolitan mushrooms, along with Triple Bottom’s beers, Lil’ Pop Shop popsicles, and Weckerly’s ice cream.
Drive-in, aka carhop, service is restaurateur Mo Maaty’s answer to the dining room shutdown. He’s borrowed a classic motif from the Sonic Drive-In chain and Philadelphia-area independents like Weber’s, Speck’s, Stewart’s, and Castle Harbor as he reopened his two Chester County restaurants. In a 2020 twist to the 1950s theme, his waitresses found their poodle skirts on Amazon.
Michael Lynch at Miles Table in Graduate Hospital listened to his kids, adding a pop-up coffee and ice cream shop called Sweet Molly Mels out of the restaurant at 1620 South St. It starts Saturday, June 6, from 4 to 9 p.m. (after the restaurant’s usual hours), serving Bassetts ice cream, waffle sundaes, treats from Weckerly’s, and specialty drinks such as dalgona coffee and milkshakes. Lynch plans to give 10% of sales to the Greenfield Home & School Association and Anderson Monarchs.
Speaking of cool, as part of the reopening of Craftsman Row Saloon in Washington Square West for takeout (noon to 8 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday), owners George and Vasiliki Tsiouris have added an ice cream menu, including Bassetts shakes and eventually boozy shakes. There’s also a new “Milkwich” that includes cookie dough ice cream, Chips Ahoy cereal, and Hershey chocolate chips between a “bun” made of chocolate chip cookies.