Before I forget: The next Center City District Restaurant Week will be Jan. 13-25, which means $35 dinners and, in many cases, $20 lunches at 110 downtown restaurants. New on the list are Bai Wei in Chinatown and Giuseppe & Sons near Rittenhouse.
On the "Let's Eat" plate this holiday week: a new grill room on Broad Street, a pizzeria in Ardmore, a wine bar in Washington Square West, and a breakfast option just off Rittenhouse Square.
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Broad Street gets a grill
Del Frisco’s Double Eagle steakhouse at 15th and Chestnut happens to be the top-grossing restaurant in Center City, with revenues reportedly flirting with $15 million a year.
Why not open another? Its corporate masters did almost that, installing Del Frisco's Grille — a slightly less upscale version — about four blocks away.
The slick 250-seater is complete with a revolving door, enormous wine towers, and a low-profile balcony in new construction beneath the Cambria Hotel (across from the Bellevue). From its opening early this month, it's been jammed, particularly at the bar.
While steaks and seafood dishes and classic cocktails are the keys at Double Eagle (whose dinner tabs average $110 to $120 per person), the Grille offers a wider-ranging menu, cocktails, and 14 beers on tap (dinner averages $55 to $65).
In addition to a bone-in filet, filet mignon, New York strip, rib eye, and the prime rib (only available on Fridays and Saturdays), the menu includes cheesesteak eggrolls, artichoke beignets, ahi tacos, steakhouse salad, kale-and-Brussels sprout salad, and Quinn’s Filet Burger, named after head chef Shawn Quinn.
It’s open for lunch/brunch through dinner daily.
This Week’s Opening
Aurora Grace | Society Hill
Pastry chef Aurora Wold, who has been plying her chocolates on Etsy, joined the brick-and-mortar world with this snug cafe at 517 S. Fifth St. There are a few tables at which to enjoy granola, macarons, cookies, scones, savory galettes, cupcakes, breads, and pies.
This Week’s Closings
Biga | Bryn Mawr
A partnership rift spelled doom for this popular pizzeria/bottle shop, which closes after dinner Dec. 29 after two years.
Bufad | Loft District
Management of this pizzeria at 13th and Spring Garden Streets elected not to renew its lease after six years.
Rouge | Rittenhouse Square (temporary)
The landmark bistro, which ushered in sidewalk dining on the square, will shut down Jan. 2 for a two-month renovation.
Where we’re enjoying happy hour
Vintage, 129 S. 13th St., 4-6 p.m. Monday to Friday
While the rest of the 13th Street restaurant row in Washington Square West throbs with energy (Sampan, Double Knot, El Vez, Lolita), Jason Evenchik’s storefront wine-bar charmer is dialed down. The low-lit Vintage is an homage to Paris, where he and wife Delphine lived before relocating to Philly in 2002. Mackenzie Hilton’s brasserie-style menu pairs well with the 60 wines available by the glass.
At happy hour, $6 bubbly or sangria, $5 select wines, and $4 beers are offered with fries ($3), a half-portion of mussels ($7), a charcuterie plate ($7), and the fig and gorgonzola bruschetta, a melange of sweet and tart, smooth and crunchy.
Those who hanker for French onion soup or baked Brie late at night: the kitchen is open until midnight weekdays and until 1 a.m. on weekends.
Where we’re eating
Oath Pizza, 59 St. James Place (Suburban Square), Ardmore
Starting with the name, there's a lot of preachy marketing surrounding this expanding, Boston-based pizza chain, which recently opened in gleaming quarters across from the Apple Store in Suburban Square, from the "100% pure grain North Dakota Mills flour" it uses to the Certified Humane approval from Humane Farm Animal Care that governs the sourcing of toppings.
Just as important, though: The pizza is tasty, in a flatbread way. The 11-inch thin crusts are grilled and then seared in avocado oil, which provides a buttery crunch. Toppings are not exactly heaped on, either, so you get balance. The menu offers stock combinations, but customization is encouraged.
Oath's pricing is higher than at Snap Custom Pizza, its design-your-own competitor across the way. Oath's cheese-only pie is $8.75 and a "selfie" is $8.95, while the so-called "highly decorated pizza" — including the Spicy Mother Clucker (chicken, mozzarella, pickled red onions, spicy aioli, sriracha, and scallions) and the Luau (mozz, barbecue pulled pork, pineapple, crushed red pepper, scallions, and barbecue sauce) — ranges from $9.95 to $13.95.
It’s open from 11 a.m to 10 p.m. daily.
Spice Finch, 220 S. 17th St. (Warwick Hotel)
Hometown hero Jennifer Carroll and her fiance, Billy Riddle, impress with their smart-looking Mediterranean bistro at the Warwick, and the accolades have rolled in for the vegetable-forward menu and killer cocktail setup.
The quiet star is breakfast, served 7 to 10:30 a.m. weekdays. It's a somewhat limited menu, symbolic of the dearth of morning options nearby — made more painful by the closing earlier this year of Little Pete's, the diner across the street.
Breakfast dishes include pancakes with orange blossom maple syrup; avocado toast with an egg in the hole; a green smoothie bowl that mashes spinach, banana, apple, flax, and granola; and the addictive date truffles from the dinner menu that Carroll and Riddle have been making for years.
Prices are in the teens. (I can imagine a Little Pete's regular topple from his counter stool at the thought of paying 14 bucks for two eggs and potato hash with a side of bacon or merguez, but hey.)
Weekend brunch, served 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., brings a more expansive menu, including shakshuka, flatbread sandwiches, and salads.
Philly chef Marc Vetri's next bet is a new restaurant in Las Vegas. It's the second coming of his Spruce Street eatery, Vetri Cucina, but 56 floors up.
Restaurant critic Craig LaBan gives Fishtown's Nunu two bells in his latest review, citing how it walks the line between bar and restaurant.
Need healthy eating tips after all that holiday food? Try shopping with a doctor at the grocery store, a trend that’s catching on on the Main Line.
Craig LaBan’s Q&A does not appear this week.