Philly restaurants tentatively have the green light to reopen their dining rooms on Sept. 8. But not all will do so. It’s a conundrum. Also read on for timely round-ups of tasty corn dishes and ice cream sodas.
Philadelphia restaurants tentatively have the green light to open their dining rooms on Sept. 8 — but at 25% capacity. I spoke with restaurateurs in the suburban counties who have tried it over the last two months, in addition to restaurateurs in the city who are considering it. The takeaways: It’s not profitable at 25%, and the dining public as well as employees are expressing doubts, even if servers must wear masks and face shields.
The temporary solution is to dine outside. Critic Craig LaBan explains some of his favorites — tasty food, fine atmosphere, and sound sanitation practices.
Reporter Jenn Ladd notes that pandemic has made delivery more popular than ever, spreading it to eateries of all stripes: corner bars and delis, neighborhood bistros, even fine-dining destinations. There are the delivery apps, of course. She finds out why more restaurants aren’t doing it themselves.
We eat with our eyes, and a glass of bright-colored soda with a scoop or two of ice cream floating within is a crowd-pleaser. Jenn Ladd finds four spots for old-fashioned (but not too-old-fashioned) ice cream sodas, and gives us all a fizz-ics lesson.
Summer’s not complete without corn, and reporter Grace Dickinson finds restaurants that are turning the versatile vegetable into everything from pops to pizza to Lebanese-inspired porridge. Plus, she shares a grilled corn recipe that will knock you on your ear.
August is empanada month in Atlantic City, as Mexican, Dominican, Honduran, Colombian, Salvadoran, Puerto Rican, and Peruvian chefs from 10 restaurants in Atlantic City’s Chelsea neighborhood are competing in the Best Empanada Challenge, a tasty filled-pastry competition. One by one, they have created a restaurant scene independent of the casinos.
Meanwhile, I’ve been grooving on empanadas in the Pennsylvania suburbs. Antonio Rondinelli, who lost his Ambler Spanish restaurant 555 Lagiola to fire last year, has surfaced in North Wales with Empanadas Lab (119 N. Main St., 215-939-7483), where he’s baking savory (and sweet) versions including lasagna, pizza, mixed veggie, and barbecue pork. Best to call for varieties. And it’s just empanadas from a takeout window. Also recommended: Kendall Bajek’s Empanada Mama (21 Donaldson St., Doylestown, 215-230-3330), whose menu also includes salads.
Chef Yianni Arhontoulis had no outdoor dining options at Mica, his Chestnut Hill BYOB. But up the street is Woodmere Art Museum, set in a gorgeous stone building on lovely grounds. CEO Bill Valerio offered the use of Woodmere’s porch, and now Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, Mica pops up with socially spaced fine dining under cover. It’s $100 a head, two seatings a night.
Center City Philly is now without a 24-hour diner, since Midtown III on 18th Street packed it in. There’s overnight takeout and delivery from South Street Diner, which opens at 9 p.m. and covers the wee smalls, breakfast, and lunch before shutting down daily at 3 p.m.
Bibou, one of our town’s prized BYOBs, has closed as owners Pierre and Charlotte Calmels retool the South Philadelphia room into a French grocery called Bibou Boutique.