Philly gets all kinds of interest from out-of-town chefs. Check out this week’s crop of newcomers, including an expanding New York City eatery known for its burgers and pizzas, an edgy American BYOB from a Texas-raised James Beard semifinalist, a stylish Mexican trio from a group whose chef-partner grew up all over the Mid-Atlantic and moved here to cook, and a newish bruncherie from a Southwest Philly-bred chef who made his mark in Chicago.
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It came from New York
Pizza and burgers are two of the most popular American foods, and they make up the backbone of the menu at Emmy Squared, the New York City-rooted restaurant with a cult following. Flush with investors’ cash, Emily and chef Matt Hyland are expanding out of the 212/718 into Nashville and now Queen Village, where they open their rustic bar-restaurant on Friday, Oct. 11 at Fifth and Bainbridge Streets, on the ground floor of the soon-to-debut Philadelphia Queen Hotel.
The menu is, plain and simple, a fat kid’s dream: There’s a fried green tomato sandwich dripping with pimento cheese and Thousand Island-like Sammy sauce. There are cheese garlic sticks. There is chocolate mousse for dessert. There also are seasonal plates that are not quite so calorific, such as roasted cauliflower.
For sheer juicy indulgence, it’s tough to top Emmy’s signature burger: Le Big Matt ($19), two griddled patties of grass-fed beef, topped with two slices of American cheese, lettuce, pickle, and Sammy sauce. It’s assembled on a pretzel bun and is served with crunchy waffle fries.
Pan pizza was a pet project of the Hylands, who no longer are a couple but are business partners. In Matt’s research, he stumbled upon a variation of Detroit-style pizza — square-to-rectangular, airy crusted, generously topped, and possessing a crispy/almost-burnt cheese edge, known as the frico crust, that rises above the pizza itself. (There’s a gluten-free option for pizza.)
Through Oct. 15, they’ll donate a portion of sales of the Tony Luke Jr. pizza (broccoli rabe, roasted garlic, bacon, hot peppers, and provolone) and the Chopped Cheese Fries (basically, cheesesteak atop waffle fries) to a breast cancer-research charity.
Full bar with cocktails and large-format drinks ($40 punch bowls and sangria intended for five or six people); there’s plenty of high-top seating.
Hours: 5-10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 5-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 5-10 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday and Tuesday, for now. Bar open till midnight. Lunch is on the way.
This Week’s Openings
Ambassador | Ludlow/South Kensington
Corner pub at Seventh Street and Girard Avenue, opening later this week.
Emmy Squared | Queen Village
Local Tap | Lansdale
Saturday, Oct. 12 marks the soft opening of a 50-seat beer/wine/liquor/coffee tasting room from the folks behind Village Tavern, at 527 S. Broad St. in Lansdale. Doylestown Brewing Co. will be the primary source of the craft beer.
Nudy’s Cafe | Berwyn
The 10th location of this suburban breakfast-luncher is at 120 W. Swedesford Rd., where Shangri-La was.
River Beer Garden | Penn’s Landing
Pop-up at Race Street Pier from the company behind Morgan’s Pier and Craft Hall; runs through Nov. 3.
River Twice | Passyunk Square
This Week’s Closings
Little Spoon Cafe | South Street West
Oct. 14 will be the bruncherie’s finale at 15th and South Streets.
Mistral | King of Prussia
King of Prussia Mall outpost of the edgy Princeton restaurant bowed out last weekend.
Sakura Spring | Cherry Hill
End of the line after 22 years for Hat Lam and Teresa Wang’s pan-Asian restaurant in Heritage Square.
Where we’re enjoying brunch
Winkel, 1119 Locust St., 267-639-3453
You’re probably herring great things about this Dutch-influenced breakfast-luncher in the Gayborhood from chef Joncarl Lachman and husband Bob Moysan. It opened five months ago at the former More Than Just Ice Cream, putting Lachman back in the morning game (he was an early partner in The Dutch in Pennsport). Lachman, who grew up in Southwest Philadelphia and Delaware County, made his mark in Chicago before returning to Philly for 2013′s opening of Noord in East Passyunk.
At Winkel, Lachman is turning out brunch food for all, in a high-ceilinged room dominated by Moysan’s enormous photo print of an old Citroen parked on a street in Amsterdam: Big portions of familiar dishes (eggs, French toast, breakfast sandwiches, house-smoked fishes) as well as a few choices for the more adventurous.
Whether you’re paying or it’s a Dutch treat, be the smarty pants and translate the phrase boldly written on one wall: "Eet smakelijk.” It means “Enjoy your meal.” Oh, and while we’re at it, “winkel” means “store.”
Where we’re eating
River Twice, 1601 E. Passyunk Ave., 267-457-3698
Got an early look at this sleek, spare, mom-and-pop modern-American BYOB that opens Thursday, Oct. 10 at Tasker and East Passyunk in the former Izumi across from the Singing Fountain. Front and center in the open kitchen is the well-traveled chef Randy Rucker, a native Texan and James Beard semifinalist, backed by sous chef Nate Moyer, while Rucker’s Philly-born wife, Amanda, works the front of the house.
Rucker rocks the sustainable, local theme, and his cheffy menu will change daily. Figure on $18 to $34 per plate. The opening menu includes bluefin tuna belly with trumpet royale mushrooms, alliums, and fresh sudachi; raw scallops with autumn olives, white soy, and roasted cucumber; Jacob’s mushrooms with black kale, soft egg, and benne miso; roasted chicken with shio koji, charred cabbage, and garlic confit.
Rucker served Pennsylvania Wagyu short rib last weekend, but now he is plating it with confit potatoes and charred onions (as in the photo), but also with shaved celery and bordelaise. For dessert, there is black walnut ice cream with aged sheep’s milk cheese and sweet herbs, as well as chocolate cremeux with peanut miso, milk jam, and smoked peanuts.
Try to snag a seat at the counter, as Rucker loves to chat while he works. Oh, and check out the restroom door. It’s a onesie, and its message (“y’all”) manages to convey a whiff of Texas as well as a nod to our gender-obsessed times.
River Twice’s name? It’s from Greek philosopher Heraclitus: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” And, I suppose, no meal will be the same here.
Hours: 5-10 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, 5-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, closed Monday. Reservations via Resy.
Condesa, 1830 Ludlow St.
You’re a restaurateur and you’re offered a space in a new Center City hotel. But the space at Pod Philly happens to front on an alley. Defined Hospitality, the crew behind Fishtown’s Suraya, R&D, and Pizzeria Beddia, brought in Stokes Architecture, which magically designed this dramatic, rustic-chic Mexican newcomer, just off 19th Street south of Market, with a swooping, canted roofline above an all-weather patio that leads seamlessly into the dining room and bar. It also segues from bright to romantic-chic as the sun goes down.
Press materials gush about “blue and yellow heirloom corn tortillas made with volcanic stone-ground masa with corn sourced from Masienda.” Whatever. They’re delicious as tacos (such as the lamb adobado, $14 for 2) or as accompaniments to larger plates such as the parillada, which is a $42 feast-for-two including tasajo, chorizo verde, and tocino, plus bone marrow, cheese, avocado, and other stuff and assorted salsas.
This is actually three projects. Next door, with an entrance on 19th Street, is El Cafe, which greets the day at 7 a.m. with coffee, pastries, and breakfast tacos; it’s open till 5 p.m. Coming soon on the 11th floor will be El Techo, a taqueria/bar/event space with a retractable roof and great views.
Condesa hours: 5-10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 5-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; bar 5 p.m. till “late.” Lunch is on the way. Reservations via Resy.
Wine made in Pennsylvania is more popular than ever. This month, here’s where you can try it.
Craig LaBan dined at Neighborhood Ramen. With its finely honed soups and hip-hop vibe, LaBan discovered why this 20-seater has won the industry-crowd stamp of approval.
Craig LaBan’s question-and-answer is due back next week.