Center City’s nightlife epicenter has been Rittenhouse Square for years, but lately it’s crossed Broad Street. I’ll tell you about three cocktail spots that have opened in just the last five weeks in Washington Square West.
Also this week: A first taste of Mike Solomonov and Steve Cook’s new Zahav-ish skewer house in Kensington and word of a new hideaway up the hill in Manayunk.
Hope you’ve been investing in velvet rope. Three low-lit but high-energy cocktail bars have joined the scene in the Gayborhood in the last five weeks. This means more après-dinner options in one of Philly’s restaurant-richest neighborhoods (Barbuzzo, Lolita, Sampan, Zavino, El Vez, etc.), and more dressed-up beverage stops to elevate the game played by the likes of Time, Tiki, Bar, Porta, and Tradesman’s.
The coolest concept, which opened just before New Year’s, is Blind Barber (1325 Sansom St.), a barbershop by day and lounge by night. It also has a celebrity connection: Tonsorially gifted Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper is a partner in the NYC-based operation. The $55 haircuts include a cocktail, such as a Hot Heather with tequila, pamplemousse, pineapple, lime, and ginger. It’s also the roomiest of the newcomers. There’s a barroom tucked behind three barber chairs on the street level, as well as multiple rooms, a larger bar, and a DJ booth upstairs. Light food menu, too. Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily (barbershop/retail), 6 p.m. to late (bar).
Bodega Bar (1223 Walnut St.) marks the return of brothers Alex and Stavros Vasiliadis (Monkey Bar, Bump) to the lounge scene, as they’ve converted a longtime nail salon next door to their former luncheonette, Pandora’s Lunch Box, into a snug, well-stocked bar with a live music and a DJ booth to allow general revelry after 10. This is the most food-forward of the newcomers. Executive chef Shain Wancio’s Latin-ish menu of sandwiches/bar snacks is studded with novel dishes, including Nashville “hotoctopus” (a seafood version of hot chicken). Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.
It’s cocktails-only three nights a week at Derek Gibbons and Tim Lu’s plush hideaway Leda & the Swan (1224 Chestnut St.), which opened last weekend in a previously little-used private-event space behind 1225Raw. Riffing on the bar’s name (based on a Greek myth), veteran cocktailer Ryan Fenton has set up a $14 cocktail list in book form that gives each of its nine drinks its own page with a fanciful description. Recommended: the Cursed Creator, which mixes tequila, Cynar, Suze, lime, and pomegranate. There’s banquette seating along one wall. Live music runs early, while the DJ gets cranking late for dancing and screamed mingling. Hours: 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday to Saturday.
Atlanta Wings | South Philadelphia
Southern-style wings and Philly sandwiches from a former pizzeria at 2355 S. Bucknell St. (basically 24th Street and West Passyunk Avenue).
Casa Mexico | South Philadelphia
South Philly Barbacoa is in the soft-opening phase of its Mexican offshoot at 1134 S. Ninth St.
The Coffee Bar | Ardmore
Coffee replaces Snap Custom Pizza at 4 Station Rd., across from the train station.
Human Robot | Kensington
Brewery replaces St. Benjamin’s at 1710 N. Fifth St., and Poe’s Sandwich Joint works out of a window inside.
Laser Wolf | Kensington
Renata’s Kitchen | University City
West Philly favorite has moved into the 40th Street trolley portal at 3940 Baltimore Ave.
Cantina Los Caballitos | East Passyunk TEMPORARY
Popular Mexican bar-restaurant is getting a spruce-up and is due back online Feb. 11.
Cosi | Center City
The branch at 1700 Market St. buttoned up Feb. 3.
Hickory Lane | Fairmount
Just acknowledging the recent shutdown of this bar-restaurant across from Eastern State Pen; management never replied to my messages.
M Restaurant | Washington Square West
Elegant dining room attached to Morris House Hotel goes dark after dinner Feb. 16. Feast Your Eyes catering will take over the weddings and other catering events. Have a gift card? Hotel management promises to refund.
Mad Mex | Wynnewood
Large chain Mexican cantina is down after four-plus years in Wynnewood Shopping Center.
Minado Japanese Seafood Buffet | East Norriton
Rolled out after more than a decade in Swede Square.
Red Kings II | Chinatown
Szechuan spot with karaoke has buttoned up, joining the original Red Kings, which closed a year ago.
1225Raw, 1225 Sansom St., 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 4 to 6:30 p.m. Sunday.
A happy hour available on Saturday?! Great values abound seven days a week at Tony Rim’s reliable sushi specialist in Washington Square West, which now backs up to Leda & the Swan (see above).
Check the menu, with offerings including so-called sumo tacos (they’re overfilled buns), wings, sushi rolls, and dumplings, washed down with $4 draft and bottled beers, $6 cocktails, $5 wines, and $6 sake bombs.
Laser Wolf, 1701 N. Howard St.
Luscious, char-grilled meats and family-style Israeli salads (a.k.a. salatim) are the draws at Mike Solomonov and Steve Cook’s colorful Israeli skewer house, which opens Thursday, Feb. 6 in a former warehouse on a corner in Kensington (a block or so from Fishtown). The reservation book opened Tuesday and it’s jammed. (Psst. Try walking in. They have some tables and there is always the bar.)
“Zahav Lite” might describe Laser Wolf, named after the butcher in Fiddler on the Roof, but imagine a livelier, more colorful atmosphere amid bright globe lighting and string lights. The look is inspired by the open-air Machane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem, which is featured in that enormous poster near the hearth at Zahav.
Tables are covered with oilcloths, making it all highly informal. See notes from a test dinner I attended in December. If you’re not into meats, by the way, you’re still in luck. For $18 a person, you can order just the dozen salatim plates. Citrusy drinks are the focus at the bar.
Hours: 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
The Rook, 4001 Cresson St., 267-323-2906
Megan Keel, who founded Bishop’s Collar in Fairmount with her ex, has decamped to Manayunk, transforming the former shot-and-a-beer East End Tavern into a bright, attractive corner bar with flowers on the table, plenty of TVs, and (in season) a killer patio out back.
She’s overseeing the kitchen herself, and the menu is (as she says) “nothing crazy.” But quality stuff. That is, a few burgers, wings, mussels, a couscous bowl, a chicken sandwich, a veggie sandwich, and topped fries. Come up the hill for the Irishman’s potatoes ($9), which tops wedge taco fries with braised short rib, cheese sauce, jalapeños, fried onions, and sour cream and chives. And then waddle down the hill. There’s a brunch menu on weekends.
Ten beers on draft, plenty of bottles and cans.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesday to Sunday, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday.
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