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How to have a delicious Labor Day weekend | Let’s Eat

Also: Where to find the best tomato pie and cider, the state of the restaurant business, and new restaurants.

View of Center City Philadelphia from the Bok Bar atop the Bok building in South Philadelphia.
View of Center City Philadelphia from the Bok Bar atop the Bok building in South Philadelphia.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

“Happily we bask in this warm September sun, which illuminates all creatures.” And we’re Thoreau-ly impressed with our guide to Labor Day weekend activities. Lots more for you this week: Tomato-pie fans can find our favorite destinations and we offer a dozen local cideries worth checking out. (You might say these cider houses rule.) Read on: A sushi chef gets his own restaurant.

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Michael Klein

Eating ideas for Labor Day weekend

Weather-wise, Labor Day weekend looks like a beauty. Colleague Jillian Wilson and Inquirer contributors have packed our LDW guide with 15-plus experiences in the city, Poconos, and the Shore, and food is most definitely on the to-do list, with recommendations for rooftop bars, outdoor meals with family and friends, and even post-dinner ice cream.

We found the best tomato pie and hard cider

Tomato pie has become ingrained in our local traditions and daily rituals. It’s a snack. It’s a meal. And although it’s a focaccia-like bread topped with sauce and herbs, it’s not pizza, writes contributor Kae Lani Palmisano. She found 11 destinations for excellent tomato pie.

How about dem apples? Pennsylvania is home to some great craft beer, wine makers, and distilleries — but don’t forget the makers of hard cider. “When I think of the top 10 cider states, Pennsylvania is pretty up there,” Michelle McGrath, head of the American Cider Association (ACA), told colleague Nick Vadala. “There’s a lot of amazing apples being grown in Pennsylvania. And it is lending itself to some amazing artisan cider.” Nick breaks down the various categories that make up cider, and names 12 cider makers and destinations to watch.

Fixing the ills of the restaurant industry

How do you fix the labor problems now vexing the restaurant industry? Paying better wages is one way, writes colleague Jenn Ladd. But this may be only a modest step, as she found while reporting a deep-dive article this week. The problems in the restaurant industry are so broad and entrenched that addressing them will require institutional and cultural change on the part of government and consumers.

Padma Lakshmi says disparaging Indian food isn’t funny. It’s ugly.

In an essay for the Washington Post, Padma Lakshmi, host and executive producer of Hulu’s Taste the Nation and Bravo’s Top Chef, takes aim at a recent Gene Weingarten column in the Post’s magazine, headlined “You can’t make me eat these foods.” Weingarten’s targets included “Indian food” as a whole (”the only ethnic cuisine in the world insanely based entirely on one spice: curry”), and the Chennai-born Lakshmi calls it “unintentional anti-humor, regurgitating an unimaginative, racist joke with no punchline.”

Get cooking: Fun with scrapple and back-to-school lunches they’ll like

We go out to restaurants to order scrapple — that Southeastern Pennsylvania staple that we featured a couple of weeks ago. How about using it as an ingredient in improvisational cooking? Deputy food editor Joseph Hernandez shows you how to add scrapple in recipes for okonomiyaki (a Japanese savory pancake) and cloud-like steamed buns.

We have a solution for the back-to-school, back-to-the-office lunch conundrum: delicious dishes that work for everyone. Sonja and Alex Overhiser offer fun, kid-friendly lunch ideas, including baked falafel nuggets.

And also from our recipe collection, why not try making fried halloumi, which adds a cheesy crunch to a summery salad of tomatoes, avocados, and herbs?

Kurry Shack opens 3 restaurants on the same day

Restaurateur Shafi Gaffar opened Kurry Shack on a South Philadelphia corner in late 2019, built both for taste and speedy service from self-ordering kiosks. It’s worked so well that he opened three more Indian restaurants last weekend, in Old City, Rittenhouse, and Francisville. The Francisville location was a bar and he’s dispensing kombucha from the beer taps.

Chlöe closes after nearly 21 years

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” And with those words attributed to Dr. Seuss, Mary Ann Ferrie and Dan Grimes announced the closing of Chlöe, the cozy, casual BYOB they opened across from the Betsy Ross House in Old City in fall 2000.

Restaurant report

After high-profile gigs at such sushi destinations as Zama, Pod, and Double Knot, chef Kevin Yanaga has a place of his own in Fishtown, taking over the former Aether with Glu Hospitality’s Derek Gibbons and Tim Liu.

Izakaya by Yanaga soft-opens Thursday, Sept. 2 with a limited izakaya menu of raw and cooked items and a bar stocked with cocktails, and sakes and wines in a low-lit but high-energy front barroom. Come fall, Yanaga opens an omakase room behind decorative doors in the very back.

Opening hours are being staggered. The first two weekends, it will be open Thursday-Sunday, then Wednesday-Sunday. Recommended: the curry short rib bao, ika fries (that’s calamari and shishito peppers), and all raw fish, including chirashi and maki.

Izakaya by Yanaga, 1832 Frankford Ave., Philadelphia. Hours: 5-10 p.m. Sept. 2-4, then 4-10 p.m. Sept. 9-12, and starting Sept. 15, 4-10 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday.

Briefly noted

River Twice, Randy and Amanda Rucker’s bistro on East Passyunk Avenue, is shifting its menu structure Thursdays-Saturdays, effective Sept. 8. It’s going to 7-course tasting menus for $85 a person, with reservations encouraged. You can get the signature burger on Sundays, when the restaurant focuses on small plates and natural and organic wines; it’s walk-in️ only.

Feastival, the chef-driven tasting event that benefits the city’s performing arts, will return in 2021. It will be Oct. 21 at a new venue: The Budd, 2821 Fox St.

Food trucks and other local food makers, plus a full bar from The Lunar Inn and DJs spinning, will be part of Steph Irwin’s Night Market at Now + Then Marketplace, at 2650 Castor Ave. in Port Richmond, from 5-11 p.m. Friday, Sept. 3. There’s a cool immersive light-up LED fence installation from Klip Collective, too. It’s free to get in and it’s pet- and family-friendly.

Sept. 7 is the target opening for Farina Pasta & Noodle, in the subterranean space at 132 S. 17th St., next to Luke’s Lobster. Chefs Daniel Lee and Joe Liang, who launched the concept as a ghost kitchen, will sell house-made Italian pasta and Asian noodle dishes.

Mac’s Tavern, the joint at 226 Market St. co-owned with It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia stars Rob McElhenney and Kaitlin Olson, reopens Wednesday, Sept. 1 after a 10-month shutdown. Proof of vaccination is required. Initial hours will be 11:30 a.m. till late Wednesday-Sunday (kitchen till 10 p.m.), says partner Eric Vesotsky.

Next week should see the debut of DanDan’s location in Ardmore’s Suburban Square, next to Lola’s Garden. Incidentally, Adam Sandler — in town making a movie — showed up at DanDan’s Wayne location last weekend. Since he does not eat pork, owners Cat and Kevin Huang made him chicken wonton soup, and it’s now on the menu as Sandler’s soup.

Also on nigh is Dolce, a stylish Italian bar-restaurant on the ground floor of the new W Philadelphia hotel, 1439 Chestnut St., opening Sept. 7. Intriguing management team includes veterans of Scarpetta at the Rittenhouse Hotel, as well as the well-traveled chef Terry White (The Palm, Del Frisco’s, Sullivan’s, and Lone Star, Sugarhouse, Revel) and, as the general manager, Lynn Rinaldi, who was chef-owner of the late, great Paradiso on East Passyunk Avenue.

Fishtown Social, the natural wines specialist, is getting a second location: the Jersey Shore. Vanessa Wong plans a spring 2022 opening of Ventnor Provisions Co. Natural Wine Shop & Market at 101 N. Dorset Ave. (the foot of the Dorset Avenue Bridge) in Ventnor. The shop will feature organic, biodynamic, and natural wines with a focus on small producers and farmers, interesting regions, and less common varietals. The shop will also offer craft spirits and beer, unlike the Fishtown location, which sells only wine to-go in compliance with state regulations in addition to its small bar. While half of the space will be a bottle shop, the other will be a market offering local grocery, artisanal cheese and charcuterie, and prepared foods with a focus on both local Jersey and Philly brands.

Sabrina’s Cafe has a new location coming up later this year. The popular brunch spot is taking the former Honey’s Sit N Eat at 21st and South Streets.

A trip to Napa spurred the imagination of Sicilian-born chef Antonio Cammarata, who 15 years ago came up with Terra Nova, offering an ambitious, extensive lineup of Itali-fornia cooking and sushi/crudo/raw bar dishes in an elegant, farmhouse-style building (a former Italian Bistro restaurant) on Delsea Drive in Sewell, Gloucester County. You want tempura “bang-bang” shrimp or a poke bowl or grilled chicken atop spring mix and mozzarella with a side of tagliolini or maybe a mix-and-match seafood entree and the kids want mac and cheese, ravioli, or a flatbread, or grilled salmon? (Yes, grilled salmon is on the kids’ menu.) All yours. There also are about 35 wines by the glass plus cocktails from a full bar.

Best bet: The “pre-fix” dinner menu served 4-6 p.m. weekdays, with a soup/salad, one of four entrees, and dessert for $26.50-$29.50.

Terra Nova, 590 Delsea Drive, Sewell. Hours: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-9 p.m. Sunday. Indoor/outdoor.

Pretty tasty stuff going on at Pretty Girls Cook, Dominique Shields’ comfy restaurant, which is about to mark its fifth anniversary off Girard Avenue near Sixth Street in North Philly. Shields, a teacher-turned-caterer, jokingly calls herself a “culinary school dropout,” and she clearly believes in the adage “more is more.” Every salad, sandwich, and penne pasta platter is loaded. The brussels sprouts, for example, get brown butter, goat cheese, candied pecans, and beef bacon. The Sunday brunch omelet fillings include lump crabmeat.

For you menu scouts, note that the menu is shown online only when the restaurant is open. Shields says that is to prevent disappointment if there are sellouts. You can get ideas by checking Instagram, but there’s no listed phone number. Still, she does a brisk business.

Among the best bets is the Island Gal sandwich, which puts a protein (fried chicken in the photo here) beneath grilled shrimp, lump crab, pepper jack cheese, and sriracha aioli on a brioche bun. The Dorothy Dandridge sandwich is grilled salmon, spring mix, and honey mustard on an English muffin. There’s very limited indoor seating (four tables), so takeout is your best option.

Pretty Girls Cook, 1016 N. Marshall St., Philadelphia. Hours: noon-7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday brunch.