Contortionists, singers, and sax players; plush seating, dramatic lighting, and a bathtub; high-end cocktails and whole roasted goat, stuffed turnip, and grilled octopus on the menu. All this — we just have to see. I’ll lay out details of the soon-to-open Fabrika, a cabaret and supper club in Fishtown.
This week’s travels also led me to a quirky and charming Chinatown newcomer and a casual Venezuelan street-fooder in South Jersey.
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More is more at Fabrika in Fishtown
It’s a restaurant, it’s a cabaret, and it’s a private-event space.
It’s Fabrika, where more is more. It opens next week in a vast former factory next to Barcade at 1108 Frankford Ave. in Fishtown.
Want a lineup of late-night variety-show entertainment — jugglers, singers, contortionists, what have you — performed on a round stage that retracts into the floor? Intimate airs, even in a 150-seater under a 40-foot ceiling? Three bars? More crystal chandeliers than you can find in a lighting showroom? A bathtub outside the restrooms? Mediterranean food from Kanella Grill’s Konstantinos Pitsillides and Dominic Santora?
If you’re saying “yes” to any of this, check out my preview.
This Week’s Openings
The Board & Brew | University City
Board-game cafe with a pub component comes to the Drexel U spot that previously was CoZara at 3200 Chestnut St.
Fabrika | Fishtown
See above, and here.
HNT Chicken | Nicetown
Rapidly growing chicken chain opens Jan. 30 at 2749 W. Hunting Park Ave.
Hudson Table | Northern Liberties
Demo kitchen, opening Feb. 1 at the Piazza (1001 N. Second St.), will host Iron Chef-type battles and reservation-only dinners.
Leda & the Swan | Washington Square West
Chill cocktail-music bar-lounge at 1224 Chestnut St.
Olive Tree Bistro | Paoli
Greek-Mediterranean BYO at 231 W. Lancaster Ave. is back; it had been closed by family illness.
The Rook | Manayunk
Bar-restaurant is in its opening days at 4001 Cresson St., replacing East End Tavern.
Top Chef Quickfire | Logan Square
Cafe offering cheffy sandwiches and salads, inspired by Top Chef, is now open in the Comcast Center, 1701 JFK Blvd.
This Week’s Closings
The General | Lafayette Hill
The reincarnation of the landmark General Lafayette Inn closed this week after 2½ years, says co-owner Bob Devine, who also co-owns the From the Boot restaurants. Gift cards can be redeemed at the Ambler and Lafayette Hill locations.
Helm Rittenhouse | Rittenhouse
Second-story restaurant at 1901 Chestnut St. underperformed. Owners are back at their original location, a BYOB in south Kensington.
Roots Cafe | Maple Shade
“We enjoyed being on Church Road but feel we will be able to provide the level of service and food we reach for every day at our future location,” says the note on the breakfast and brunch restaurant’s Facebook page.
Swiss Haus Cafe | Rittenhouse
No information — just a “closed” sign on the door at 1740 Sansom St.
Wander Inn | South Philadelphia
Jonn Klein (no relation) has shuttered his chill bar at Third and Porter Streets; he’s looking for someone to take it over.
Yangming | Bryn Mawr
Sunday, Feb. 2 is the finale for this troubled landmark.
Where we’re enjoying the tropics
The Aloha Room at Grain Craft Bar + Kitchen, 108 W. State St., Kennett Square
Mild winter notwithstanding, we all could use a dose of the tropics. Lee Mikles has (1) an enclosed roof deck with a lovely view and (2) a fun imagination at his bar in Kennett Square.
He’s turned it into a tiki bar for the foreseeable future. That means staff in Hawaiian shirts (and wearing Greg Brady-style tiki pendants), scorpion bowls and other umbrella drinks (some frozen), strings of lights, thatched roofs, and tiki everything.
Cheesy fun? Sure. There’s a mural that’s perfect for Instagram photos. TVs play clips of old movies and TV shows with tropical themes. The menu goes all out, too, with a tropical edge. Like pineapple? It’s on the Polynesian chicken, in the slaw that tops the Kalua pork sliders, and atop the blackened mahi mahi.
Where we’re eating
More Sugar, 125 N. 11th St., 267-541-2260
The menu is in English and Chinese, and the restaurant is set up on a corner in Chinatown, but the sleek More Sugar is not an Asian restaurant.
Ping Lin and Edison Wang, who are among the partners in the nearby sushi-focused Bubblefish, rolled out this full-service restaurant, done up in muted shades of gray, in the former N2 Sweet Cafe. “More Sugar” applies to the bakery/coffee/tea menu.
There’s little web presence, so I photographed the brunch and savory menus. Brunch, served all day, includes avocado toast on sourdough ($11.95), eggs Benedict with smashed avocado ($12.95), shrimp quesadilla ($12.95), and what’s described as a “big breakfast sampler” of scrambled eggs, ham, sausage, scrapple, baked potatoes, and a mixed-green salad ($14.95).
The “other side” of the menu is the ambitious part, taking cues from all parts of Asia: a fish fillet burger ($10.95); seafood udon ($14.95) with clams, shrimp, and calamari; grilled quail ($15.95) served with fries and a salad; whole grilled sea bass ($17.95); and rack of lamb ($18.95) with herb-crusted lamb, black rice, and assorted vegetables with a red wine-blueberry sauce.
Sweet service at a recent lunch included comp bowls of squash soup as starters. Desserts include cheesecake (both New York and tofu), cake roll, and tiramisu.
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday and Monday and Wednesday and Thursday; 11 a.m.- 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Closed Tuesday. Cash only.
Que Ricas, 46-A Haddon Ave., Westmont, 856-858-8500
South Jersey-bred Sahar Soleymani is honoring her Venezuelan mom’s roots with this simple Latin counter tucked into a strip center across from the Westmont Theater. She has traded her training in electrical engineering for the opportunity to serve arepas, tequeños, and empanadas.
You can go simple, as I did, ordering a flaky “Jawn” empanada ($3.25) filled with cheesesteak and onions, and a rich, dense “Curvy Queen” arepa filled with chicken and avocado salad, sweet plantains, and smoked Gouda ($9.50). Or you can go in for a platter ($12.50 and $13.50): Choose a protein such as shredded beef or chicken, fried steak, chorizo, eggs, or a black bean burger, then request a style, such as “Flower Power,” which is cauliflower, rice, peppers, onions, and guasacaca, or “Hangover," which brings yuca hash browns, fried egg, and cilantro mojo.
The photo of the beauty queen on the counter, by the way, is Susana Duijm of Venezuela, crowned Miss World 1955.
The Super Bowl is this weekend, and while Philadelphians will debate whether to cheer for Kansas City Chiefs (and former Eagles) coach Andy Reid, we can all agree on the snacks. Here are some recipe ideas for better appetizers and cocktails. (And don’t forget the wings recommendations Craig LaBan gave last week.)
We visited Reading Terminal Market’s newest permanent vendor, Taste of Spain, to find out more about its most prized product: melt-in-your-mouth jamón Ibérico.
Beer has a freshness date: Here’s how to spot it and what to know.
And finally, for Black History Month 2020, we’re diving into the legacy of Philadelphia pepper pot soup. Do you have a family story? How about a recipe? We’d love to know.
Craig LaBan’s Q&A does not appear this week, but don’t miss his review of East Passyunk Avenue’s latest standout.