Think it’s easy being a waiter out there? We’ll answer this and other burning questions this week: Where can you find the finest crab gravy in the area (and how you can make your own)? Who’s the hottest kombucha maker in the city? And why must you head to Northern Liberties for pizza?

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What’s it like being a waiter during the pandemic?

Watkins Drinkery owner Jonn Klein serves customers on July 11, 2020.
ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
Watkins Drinkery owner Jonn Klein serves customers on July 11, 2020.

We’ve heard how restaurants are pivoting and chefs are reinventing menus, but how about the waiters out there? Some are back after months off; some never stopped (and are facing the public); and some are still at home, dreading the call to come back. Reporter Jenn Ladd chatted up a dozen waiters and found it’s a changed world out there since mid-March. There’s the good and the bad, particularly when it comes to masks. “I don’t know why wearing a mask is politicized,” said one server. “If you don’t want to wear a mask, don’t come in. That’s also your choice.”

Try his ‘supercharged’ kombucha

Jamaar Julal, 24, who has a fledgling kombucha business, with a bottle of his brew in the kitchen of his Point Breeze home.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Jamaar Julal, 24, who has a fledgling kombucha business, with a bottle of his brew in the kitchen of his Point Breeze home.

Two years ago, Jamaar Julal fell down the fermentation rabbit hole and began sharing his kombucha experiments. Now the culinary school grad has gone pro with JamBrü, as writer Adam Erace writes. The buches are “so supercharged with vivid flavor they seem to threaten to erupt from their bottles like so many miniature geysers.”

Where guest chefs cook free meals for those in need

Shante Tolbert (left) fills a container with rice as the group at El Compadres Peoples' Kitchen prepare another batch of meals.
DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Shante Tolbert (left) fills a container with rice as the group at El Compadres Peoples' Kitchen prepare another batch of meals.

South Philadelphia’s El Compadre restaurant, whose space had been in limbo since owners Cristina Martínez and Ben Miller relocated their renowned Barbacoa South Philly to its current spot nearby, has found a new mission during the pandemic, as Inquirer critic Craig LaBan reports. It’s morphed into the People’s Kitchen at El Compadre, an ambitious community kitchen where a daily-changing roster of guest chefs cooks 1,000 free meals a week for those in need.

Crab gravy: It’s a Philly summer thing

Spaghetti alla chitarra with crab at Cicala at the Divine Lorraine, in Philadelphia on Thursday, July 23, 2020.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
Spaghetti alla chitarra with crab at Cicala at the Divine Lorraine, in Philadelphia on Thursday, July 23, 2020.

Over the last century of Italian American cooking, crab gravy has evolved into a distinctive Philadelphia-South Jersey summer ritual, an obsession-worthy subgenre of Mid-Atlantic regional cooking, writes Craig LaBan. And there are as many variations as there are Sunday gravy pots across the region. Craig explains his favorites, and chef Joey Baldino of Palizzi Social Club shares his recipe if you’re a do-it-yourshellfer.

Poi Dog closes, and an owner writes its obituary

Chris Vacco and Kiki Aranita at Poi Dog, 100½ S. 21st St.
MICHAEL KLEIN / Staff
Chris Vacco and Kiki Aranita at Poi Dog, 100½ S. 21st St.

This week brought news of the shutdown of Poi Dog Philly, which brought aloha culture to Rittenhouse three years ago. Jenn Ladd writes that the business relied on Center City’s lunch rush and the steady catering work from nearby offices — all of which disappeared in mid-March. Co-owner Kiki Aranita weighs in, writing a requiem for her restaurant, which had a powerful impact on the local nonprofit scene.

‘Pizza Gutt’ expands

A 9-inch red pizza at Bourbon & Branch, 705 N. Second St.
COURTESY DAN GUTTER
A 9-inch red pizza at Bourbon & Branch, 705 N. Second St.

Because people who need pizza are the luckiest people in the world: Dan Gutter, whose pizza empire is growing from Kensington to South Philadelphia, has landed in Northern Liberties. He’s revamping the menu at Bourbon & Branch, adding 9-inch tomato, cheese, and white pies, with regular and vegan cheeses.