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Your guide to Dine Latino Restaurant Week | Let’s Eat

Also: Insomnia Cookies' new CookieLab, tasty cheeks, and tips on home decorating with a restaurant flair.

Octopus a la parilla with crispy potatoes, avocado mousse, pico de gallo, and jalapeños served at Izlas Latin Cuisine.
Octopus a la parilla with crispy potatoes, avocado mousse, pico de gallo, and jalapeños served at Izlas Latin Cuisine.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

Starting off with some good news: Philly restaurants and event spaces got a green light for more seating soon. We also have word this week on Dine Latino Restaurant Week, the rise of cheeks on menus, the return of Jose Garces with a pizzeria, and the arrival of the world’s first cookie speakeasy. (Or is that a sweetseasy?)

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Michael Klein

Dine Latino Restaurant Week returns

The Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce hosted Dine Latino Restaurant Week in 2020 as a one-time promo to support Latino-owned businesses during the pandemic. It’s now permanent, and the 2021 edition is May 5-9. My colleague María Paula Mijares Torres explains how this year’s partnership with Visit Philadelphia yielded professional photography and an Instagram account, @DineLatino_PHL, to inspire visits to more than two dozen restaurants.

Make dessert: While the world embraces dulce de leche, try your hand at whipping up cajeta, the Mexican confection made with goat’s milk, which has more depth and complexity than its South American cow’s milk cousin. We have the backstory and the recipe.

Hungry? I suggest empanadas from these two new businesses in the Philly area.

Pssst. Wanna visit a cookie speakeasy?

Last weekend, Insomnia Cookies opened a newfangled cookie shop with a twist in South Philly. Stand in front of the bookcase next to the counter, and watch it swing open to reveal CookieLab — a boldly decorated room with a counter for DIY cookie creations as well as a milkshake bar. As you might imagine, lines have been epic. Oh, and if you need, say, a snickerdoodle in the middle of the night, know that there’s an ordering window in the alley that is open till 3 a.m. during the week and around the clock on weekends.

Pinch me! Jenn Ladd wrote an article about cheeks

Braised cheeks. Fried cheeks. Cheek tacos. The tender, juicy offcut is showing up on more Philly menus, and my colleague Jenn Ladd shows how chefs are using them to delicious effect.

14 farm share subscriptions for fresh food this summer

The region’s farms and gardens soon will teem with cucumbers, tomatoes, snap peas, berries, peaches, sweet corn, and more. For a great way to get the best of it, join a CSA (short for “community-supported agriculture”), where you pay for weekly shares. It’s a win-win for you and the farmer. Jenn Ladd shares 10 CSAs, plus four specialty CSAs (fresh flowers, fruit, cheese, and mushrooms), worth considering for the summer.

Old menus as new art

Two pandemic trends — the shift of many restaurants to prosaic QR codes in lieu of menus and the boom in home redecoration — have come together at contributor Sarah Maiellano’s place. She and her husband went through their stack of menus, bought inexpensive frames and custom mats from Etsy, and turned it all into wall art. Here’s how she did it.

Chef Jose Garces is getting into the pizza game

As part of a new act in his restaurant career, chef Jose Garces plans to open a Chicago-style pizzeria with a nautical vibe called Hook & Master this summer in Kensington. Tiki drinks, three varieties of pizza, and an octopus’ garden will be involved.

Restaurant report

Chinatown has its Cantonese standouts, of course. Worth a visit is Luk Fu, the Southeast Asian bar-restaurant option inside the new Live! Casino in South Philadelphia, where chef Wei C. Wu adds a special shareable Cantonese menu Thursday to Sunday. Last week’s offerings included an herbal soup with abalone and chicken feet ($32), as well as plenty of ginger-scallion: It was on the Hong Kong lobster ($78), as well as the steamed sea bass ($68), steamed jumbo scallop ($15), and steamed jumbo oyster ($12). Luk Fu (900 Packer Ave.) is open indoors, open to ages 21 and up. Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily.

Restaurant occupancy will rise in Philadelphia, effective May 7 (just in time for Mother’s Day). For indoor dining, table size limits will increase from four people to six. Outdoors, parties can increase from six people to 10. Restaurants will be permitted to increase indoor dining capacity from 25% to 50% (which is what it is in the rest of Pennsylvania and New Jersey). Restaurants that have met enhanced ventilation standards can go from 50% to 75% of capacity. Catered events will have a limit of 25% capacity and a maximum of 75 people, including guests and staff. Masks will be required and can only be taken off when people are sitting at a table and eating. And any alcohol still must be served with food.

Sabrina’s Cafe at 910 Christian St. — which closed last year — will officially bow out after 20 years. Owners Robert and Raquel De Abreu will be outside from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, April 30 to hand out stuffed challah French toast and say their goodbyes to the Italian Market. The location, a snug former bakery, simply won’t work as a bruncherie in the pandemic era. The couple, searching for a new spot, has four other Sabrina’s, all unaffected by the closing.

Center City District Sips, the warm-weather happy-hour promotion, has been canceled for a second year, but Center City District Restaurant Week will return with about 60 restaurants from May 17-28.

El Merkury’s outpost in Reading Terminal Market has opened. The Guatemalan street-fooder, across from DiNic’s and center court, sells fresh tortillas, pupusas, and elote, and sends customers to roam the market with giant sundaes topped with made-to-order churros.

The Wonton Project is a new ghost kitchen (e.g. pickup and delivery) out of Fork (306 Market St.) from owner Ellen Yin, who is using her mom’s recipe for fried and steamed dumplings. Through May 31, all proceeds are being donated to Asian Americans United and Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

Sean Darragh and Ben Puchowitz have merged the menus at their side-by-side Cheu Fishtown and Nunu in Fishtown. (They’re not calling it “CheuNu,” however.) It no longer matters if you sit inside in either dining room or outside at the streetery — all the sushi, noodle dishes, and drink menus have been unified. In short order, Nunu’s bar will be turned into a sushi bar with dishes (and an omakase experience) from chef Hossain Mobarak.

Israeli-meets-Eastern European comfort food is the deal at Keshet Kitchen in Queen Village, a takeout/delivery shop at 705 E. Passyunk Ave., where Passyunk meets Fifth Street south of Bainbridge. As chef Sharon Shvarzman and business partner Abe Bloom try to ramp up their kitchen staffing, they’re offering a pared-down menu (which is still fairly extensive): chicken shawarma, falafel wraps, garlicky hummus, harissa-infused mac and cheese, roast beef, mashed potatoes, fried chicken, fruit drinks, and desserts. Hours for now are noon-8 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday.