Cristina Martinez, the well-regarded Mexican chef and immigrants’ rights activist from South Philly Barbacoa, has a new restaurant three doors up Ninth Street. Also this week, a stop at a new mid-priced bar option in Rittenhouse and a Japanese restaurant from a Morimoto alum in the northern burbs.

If you need food news, click here and follow me on Twitter and Instagram. Email tips, suggestions, and questions here. If someone forwarded you this newsletter and you like what you’re reading, sign up here to get it free every week.

South Philly Barbacoa goes upstyle with Casa México

Dining room at Casa Mexico, the former Koukouzeli, at 1134 S. Ninth St.
MICHAEL KLEIN / Staff
Dining room at Casa Mexico, the former Koukouzeli, at 1134 S. Ninth St.

Cristina Martinez, the James Beard semifinalist and champion of immigrants rights, has just opened a second restaurant a few doors from her South Philly Barbacoa. It’s the sunny-bright Casa México (1134 S. Ninth St.), with a considerably more expansive menu and more polished airs.

Unlike the lineup-for-food situation at Barbacoa (on the corner of Ninth and Ellsworth Streets), Casa México is full service. But no reservations, it’s cash-only, and for now is closed Wednesdays.

Martinez is working with chef Dionicio Jimenez (El Rey) on this project. The other night, I spotted El Rey chef Jimena Cuellar at the stove, making tacos.

Weekday lunch (10 a.m.-3 p.m.) is comida corrida — a $13 deal with guisados (stews), soup/salad, and main course. Dinner (5-10 p.m.) is a la carte, and includes such dishes as shrimp ceviche ($14), black mole with soft cheese and purslane ($13), a salad of clementine, tomato and grilled avocado ($10), braised chicken legs, potatoes, bacon, and scallions ($17), grilled whole branzino with frijoles puercos ($24), and braised pork shank with plantain pure ($26). There’s a $15 buffet brunch (10 a.m.-3 p.m.) on weekends.

Aguas frescas and fresh orange juice are made in the window, as are fresh tortillas.

It’s been a long journey since early 2014, when Martinez and husband Ben Miller started selling lamb tacos and chickpea-lamb consomme out of a cart parked on the sidewalk near their home at Eighth and Watkins Streets. In 2015, they quit the cart and went the brick-and-mortar route with a location elsewhere in South Philadelphia. Bon Appetit named South Philly Barbacoa as one of the 10 best new restaurants of 2016.

This Week’s Openings

Casa México | South Philadelphia

See above

Dim Sum House | Rittenhouse

Jane G’s at 20th and Chestnut Streets has been reconfigured into a dim-sum specialist, along the lines of Jane Guo’s Dim Sum House at 3939 Chestnut St.

Miles Table | South Philadelphia

Popular South Street West bruncherie opens a branch Saturday, Feb. 22 at the Bok Building, 821 Dudley St.

Williams Sonoma store | King of Prussia

Not a restaurant, of course. The kitchen-supply retailer will open its store at the King of Prussia Town Center on Friday, Feb. 21 with an appearance by Top Chef winner Kevin Sbraga, who will serve comp hot chicken sandwiches from noon-2 p.m.

This Week’s Closings

The Poke Spot | Rittenhouse

Poke eatery lasted about a year and a half at 1804 Chestnut St.; the Health Department shutdown last fall was no help.

House of Tea | Queen Village (future)

Long-running tea salon at 740 S. Fourth St. says it’s closing at the end of April.

Where we’re enjoying happy hour

Mini-paella is offered for happy hour at Valanni.
COURTESY VALANNI
Mini-paella is offered for happy hour at Valanni.

Valanni, 1229 Spruce St., 5-7 p.m. weekdays and 10 p.m.-midnight Friday

If I see one more wing, or gravy fries, or fried pickle... Ordinary happy hour fare is not the case at George Anni’s coolly elegant Mediterranean in Washington Square West. There’s a Spanish bent, especially in the form of the mini-paellas (vegetable $10, meat $15, seafood, $15) that are on offer. Menu includes $5 tapas such as spicy pulled chicken empanadas, mussels (red or white), and buffalo chicken croquettes.

The $5 drink specials are generous, too: four cocktails, an Aperol spritz. red, white, and rose wines, sparkling brut, and even a draft beer.

Where we’re eating

Hot chicken sandwich at The Goat,. 1907 Sansom St.
MICHAEL KLEIN / Staff
Hot chicken sandwich at The Goat,. 1907 Sansom St.

The Goat, 1907 Sansom St.

Seems like a reasonable aim: Fergus “Fergie” Carey and Jim McNamara, his business partner at Fergie’s in Wash West, set out to reach an underserved middle-of-the-road audience in Rittenhouse with their quirky new bar in the former Oh! Shea’s. And by early indications, they are succeeding.

By the numbers: 2 bars, 118 seats, 2 fireplaces, 8 draft beers and a cider, plus nearly two dozen beers by the bottle and can, cider by the can, a hard seltzer, and a dozen wines by the glass. Decor includes a nonfunctional push-button pay phone labeled “ye olde antique” (with a dinosaur painted beneath it, no less) and an R-rated light fixture resembling a skateboard, carved into a female form, whose on-off switches resemble nipples.

Hits: the Reuben burger ($15), whose Angus beef patty is topped with pastrami, Swiss cheese, Napa cabbage, and red onions, plus Russian dressing on sesame brioche; the angry mussels ($12), simply seething in Cajun-style kielbasa, jalapenos, tomatoes, and roasted garlic on toasted garlic flatbread; and a crispy honey hot chicken sandwich ($12) that layers chicken, lettuce, ranch dressing, and sweet-and spicy-pickles on a sesame brioche bun.

Hours: 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Monday to Friday, noon-2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Tuna sampler at Hachi, in Chalfont.
MICHAEL KLEIN / Staff
Tuna sampler at Hachi, in Chalfont.

Hachi, 4275 County Line Rd., Chalfont

Not to get all alliterative, but “suburban sushi surprise” is the line on Hachi, a sleek Japanese-with-a-couple-other-cuisines BYOB tucked into a shopping center off County Line Road in Chalfont, in central Bucks County.

That’s where Morimoto alum Benshun Yu reaches high with cooked and raw dishes, including intriguing soups and salads. The tuna sampler ($16) has pepper tuna, toro tartare with a quail egg, and bluefin toro sashimi, with fried shiso leaf wrapped around spicy tuna and nori. Try to snag a seat at the sushi bar to chat with the chefs.

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

Dining Notes

Three restaurant weeks to put on your radar: Chestnut Hill runs one Feb. 23-28. East Passyunk does one Feb. 24-March 6. Haddonfield offers one March 3-8.

The James Beard Foundation is bringing a Taste America pop-up dinner to Philly. Jennifer Carroll and Billy Riddle will host chef Vishwesh Bhatt of Snackbar in Oxford, Miss., at Spice Finch on April 20.

Fishadelphia and Philly high schoolers are making local seafood more accessible. The students manage the community-supported fishery that connects New Jersey fisheries with Philly customers.

What happens after a restaurant goes viral? Taqueria Morales, a South Philly family spot, is building a customer base after an initial bump from the internet.

Cook with a date or a crowd date: Hudson Table brings its hands-on cooking classes to the Piazza in Northern Liberties.

Craig LaBan’s question-and-answer feature does not appear this week.