My colleague Allison Steele writes about a new pop up dining series inspired by Netflix’s The Chef’s Table. Also, you may scream for ice cream in the July heat. How about cold soups? Critic Craig LaBan is here with some of his favorites.

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We can be happy Underground

A traveling dinner series called the Underground Kitchen will pop up in Philadelphia Saturday, August 17, bringing a one-night-only meal served by a visiting chef to guests at a secret location.

Based in Richmond, Va., the Underground Kitchen travels the Mid-Atlantic, holding multicourse dinners at various places for a limited number of guests. The locations, menus and wine pairings are kept under wraps until a day or two before the dinners take place.

This year’s tour, which is also making a stop in Wilmington on Aug. 10, is called “The New Americana.” Inspired by the Netflix show The Chef’s Table, the dinners will tell the stories of the nation’s chefs through their dishes.

The chef for the Philadelphia dinner is Michael Stuckey of Southern Way, a major catering company in Columbia, South Carolina.

The Underground Kitchen was founded in 2014 by branding and design expert Micheal Sparks, and aims to highlight underrepresented voices in the food scene.

The event is from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Aug. 17. Tickets are $150 and are on sale now at

— Allison Steele

This Week’s Openings

Ace of Steaks | South Philadelphia

Talk of the Town (3020 S. Broad St.), down by the stadiums, has rebranded under Billy Dambrosia, son of the founders.

Boiling Pot Seafood Bar | Old City

Bar-restaurant’s specialty is the seafood pot; at 319 Market St.

Gold Standard | Center City

The longtime West Philly drop-in adds a location at 1318 South St.

ChopHouse Grille | Exton

PJ Whelihan’s is behind this smart-looking, casual steakhouse opening July 25 at 301 Pottstown Pike.

This Week’s Closings

Humpty’s Dumplings | Queen Village

Dumpling specialist at Passyunk Avenue near Fifth Street has pulled out; its Glenside location remains.

Park Plates | Elkins Park

After five years, the last night of Owen Lee’s American BYOB will be July 27.

Where we’re enjoying happy hour

Fried olives at Maison 208.
Fried olives at Maison 208.

Maison 208, 208 S. 13th St., 5-7 p.m. Monday to Saturday

Speaking of summer heat: Every so often when the sweltering takes a break, Herb Reid and partners at this two-level bar restaurant in Washington Square West crank open the retractable roof above the upstairs bar and lounge.

At happy hour, you get inviting street views plus a small offering of discounted beverages ($5 beer, $6 cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay, $7 cocktail of the day) and food deals: $5 chips and dip, $5 spiced nuts, $7 lemon pepper wings, $7 fries with truffle aioli, and addictive $7 fried olives stuffed with sausage.

Tip: From the regular menu, order the dish labeled “crab" ($10). It’s a small but share-worthy bowl of crab meat in a creamy yuzu emulsion and topped with torn pasta and crunchy panko. See more photos here.

Where we’re eating

A shrimp appetizer from Zeppoli.
Allison Steele
A shrimp appetizer from Zeppoli.

Zeppoli, 618 W. Collings Ave, Collingswood, 856-854-2670

Check out the bread basket at Joey Baldino’s tiny BYOB in Collingswood, and you’ll find a delight: bites of warm tomato pie — a reminder that even though Zeppoli serves what many say is some of the best Italian food in the region, the dishes still taste homey and familiar.

The pastas and fish also taste fresher and lighter than what you might expect from such a rustic, Sicilian-influenced menu. Take the whole shrimp ($14) are sautéed with garlic, parsley, lemon, and a touch of chili, and served over a bed of cannellini beans. The spinach and ricotta gnocchi ($20 for a full portion) are rich but pillow-soft. On a recent night, a special of squid ink risotto ($16 for a half portion) was topped with bread crumbs that gave the dish a crunchy, buttery touch. The thick grilled swordfish steak ($38), cooked with lemon and olive oil, sounds simple enough. But it’s also the juiciest, most flavorful piece of fish imaginable.

Zeppoli is also part of Craig LaBan’s guide to the best restaurants in South Jersey; click here for more ideas.

— Allison Steele

Hours: 5:30-10 p.m., Wednesday-Monday. Closed Tuesday.

Vegetarian platter at Linda's Vegetarian Village, 6381 Germantown Ave.
Vegetarian platter at Linda's Vegetarian Village, 6381 Germantown Ave.

Linda’s Vegetarian Village, 6831 Germantown Ave., 215-438-2500

Summertime also means lighter eating for many people, and Linda Smith has you covered in the Mount Airy/Germantown section of the city at her charmingly homespun corner cafe-slash-market.

Come sit and Smith herself will tell you what you want, while regular customers parade in for groceries, nutrition advice, and chitchat. Last week, she told me I wanted the vegetarian platter: carrot salad finely chopped to almost the consistency of a spread, a sweet-and-tangy-dressed kale salad, a creamy ersatz chicken salad made with soy, and a scoop of couscous ($10). She also told me to try the vegan Southern-style beans (a combo of black-eyed peas and pea beans in a rich gravy, $5). Smoothies and sandwiches round out the menu.

Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, noon-6 p.m. second Monday.

Dining Notes

Craig LaBan heads to Exton and gives two bells to Mama Wong, which was opened by a pharmaceutical exec so his many Chinese employees could get a taste of home.

Spaghetti made of yarn? A sundae made of cotton balls? Drew Lazor heads to Philly Spells writing camp where kids learned how to be food critics with some, shall we say, unconventional foods.

Summer is prime barbecuing season, but what happens if your grill is far from the kitchen? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.


Avocado and zucchini soup with pickled green tomato, radish, cucumber, spicy Padron peppers, and black lime grated over top from
Avocado and zucchini soup with pickled green tomato, radish, cucumber, spicy Padron peppers, and black lime grated over top from