You’re up late. Now where to grab a bite? This week, we have the answer to that, as well as Craig LaBan’s favorite Jersey Shore Mexican restaurants, word on a wine that pairs well with hoagies, and some restaurant intel, including new dining options from former Top Chef rivals.
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Where to enjoy the best late-night dining
The pandemic has taken its toll on late-night dining. First, the early curfews imposed on bars sent customers to Wawa. Then came the current reality: Most dining rooms button up earlier because restaurateurs are short on staff. Colleague Jillian Wilson found 19 spots open late for those post-dinner cravings of tibs and injera, short rib fries, and shrimp toast.
Craig LaBan’s favorite Mexican restaurants at the Jersey Shore
Say “Jersey Shore food favorites,” and certain dishes come to mind. Critic Craig LaBan says he’s added tacos al pastor, molcajetes, and mole enchiladas to his must-eat list. And that makes sense, too, when you consider how essential Mexican immigration has been to South Jersey over the last few decades. From Manahawkin to Cape May, here are his favorite Mexican restaurants.
Craig’s next restaurant review, hitting online Friday and in print Sunday, is Clementine’s Stable Cafe on North Broad Street.
What to do with that sweet Jersey corn
Contributor Tiffani Rozier has come up with five recipes for sweet Jersey corn. You can have it pickled, grilled, fried, and even blended into a sweet corn and blueberry no-churn ice cream. I’m all ears.
Break out the stemware and unwrap the hoagie
A wine that will pair with a hoagie! Contributor Marnie Old suggests the Campo Viejo Garnacha now on sale for $6.99 at Pennsylvania’s state stores. Like so many garnacha-based wines, she writes, ”it features a rough-and-tumble scent that is quite meaty and spicy, like the smell of a peppery salami.”
Where to find the best ice cream and whoopie pies
As National Ice Cream Month melts away into August, contributor Carolyn Desalu offers nine ways to stay cool all summer long, with great ideas for making and eating ice cream.
What makes an outstanding whoopie pie? Contributor Kae Lani Palmisano says the cream filling is key. Too thick, and the cake will be too dense and rich; too light, and it will squish together. “It’s like holding the same poles of two chocolate magnets together and watching them levitate on a weightless cloud of cream,” she reasons as she describes 10 of the best whoopie pie destinations in the region.
A food-delivery service aimed at small businesses
Víctor Tejada and his Philadelphia company Delivery Guys are taking on the food-delivery giants such as Grubhub and UberEats. His calling card: helping small business owners, especially those run by marginalized entrepreneurs.
When we last checked in with Reuben “Big Rube” Harley earlier this year, the chef and proponent of “Black folk style cooking” had set out into the ghost-kitchen delivery world. But, as he told me the other day, he was soon vexed by staffing issues and the profit-sucking nature of food apps, and he moved on. Through his friendship with David Lee at Pizza Jawn in Manayunk, Harley set up on Main Street during the Manayunk Art Festival. And from there — bingo. He landed next door at Pitchers Pub (4326 Main St.), taking over the kitchen from 5 p.m.-midnight Thursday and Friday, noon-1 a.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday for his menu, notably his signature fried chicken, cheesesteaks, and burgers.
Drinking with your dog: Avram Hornik and his crew at Fishtown’s Craft Hall have set up a hybrid beer garden and dog park. It opens Friday, July 30 at 4 p.m. Unleashed Bark & Beer is a fenced-in dog park, where you can hang while Rover roams. Order via QR code on your phone, and wait for a Craft Hall server to fetch your food, which will be delivered to you at the front gate. For the full experience, there’s Puppy Porch next door — a dog-friendly outdoor patio that seats 40. Unleashed and Puppy Porch will serve dog cocktails — non-alcoholic cocktails made with dog-safe ingredients, such as fruit and vegetables, and dog biscuits from Lost Bread Co. Hours: 4-11 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday.
How to cope with stress? Restaurateurs are shutting down for a week to give themselves and their staffs a break.
Fun trivia: Two Philly chefs who competed on Season 16 of Top Chef (in late 2018) are making noise: Eddie Konrad and Natalie Maronski.
At Messina Social Club in South Philadelphia, honcho Jason Cichonski has brought in Eddie Konrad — the former chef de cuisine at Laurel — as a partner and executive chef. (Cichonski is focusing on other projects such as Attico in Center City and his pasta company, Little Noodle.) Through the summer, Konrad offers six-course tasting menus ($95) by reservation Thursday through Saturday — and they are stunners.
Last weekend’s, for example, started with steelhead trout cured in lemon, chilies, and poppy, and served with radishes, cucumber, and green tomato and an herb dressing. It segued into poached mussels served with shaved zucchini with benne seeds, crispy garlic, charred zucchini puree, and a smoked mussel emulsion. Following was a filet of barbecue-spiced and roasted tilefish over corn and jalapeño succotash with whipped polenta and served with a fermented blueberry vinaigrette. Then came a dish of rye gnocchi sardi with beet, dill, horseradish, pickled mustard seeds, and pumpernickel, followed by dry-aged Hudson Valley duck breast and house-made duck sausage and served with an apricot stuffed with sugar plum puree and creamed Swiss chard. The dessert was coconut risotto with blueberries, honey, rose, and crispy rice. Cocktails and wines are available.
The fall is expected to bring additional days, hours, and a la carte dining.
Keep in mind that Messina is a club, so you need to be approved and pay a $25 annual fee that covers the member and up to three guests. Want an application? Use the password insider2021 to get into the site. A limited number of memberships are now available.
Chef Edmund Konrad’s six-course tasting menus ($95) at Messina Social Club, 1533 S. 10th St., are served from 6-8:45 p.m. Thursday-Saturday by reservation. Bar is open until midnight Thursday and until 3 a.m. weekends. Membership required.
Chef Natalie Maronski, the Jose Garces alumna who oversaw Volver and Amada, landed in 2020 at the Divine Lorraine Hotel on North Broad Street to open assorted projects with Robert Del Femine, the Philly DJ and entrepreneur known as DEL.
Trading as underground concepts. (you’ll note the copious use of lowercase and periods), Maronski and DEL started in October with the daily., a coffee shop on the landmark’s Fairmount Avenue side. More recently, they headed downstairs — beneath the elegant Cicala restaurant — with broad hall., hosting pop-up music, food, and art events. Their latest is foundation., a cool, sexy subterranean cocktail bar (with a soon-to-open recording studio tucked behind glass) accessible from what appears to be a subway staircase off the corner of Broad Street and Ridge Avenue. If the stone walls could talk, they’d spill secrets about the space’s history as a speakeasy.
Maronski brings on the funk with her tight, nine-item menu, including an arugula salad brightened by fish sauce vinaigrette and togarashi, and the kimchi on her cheeseburgers (both plant-based and beef versions). Do not miss the BLT, which builds Neuske’s bacon, gem lettuce, and thick-sliced heirloom tomato, on a seeded Big Marty’s potato roll smeared with scallion relish; the app-size dish labeled “potato” with asparagus, rhubarb, and sweet potato in a rich, coconut sauce; and the sorrel panna cotta for dessert, dotted with grapes and raisin puree and topped with croutons made of thin-sliced croissant.
Full cocktail bar (six cocktails, seven wines by the glass, five beers), killer sound system, good vibes.
foundation., beneath the Divine Lorraine, 699 N. Broad St., is open from 5:30 p.m.-midnight Thursday-Saturday. Kitchen is open till 10 p.m.
Mullica Hill is pretty much smack in the middle of some of South Jersey’s finest farmland, which informs chef Jim Malaby’s BYOB blueplate (again with the lowercase!). Hearty breakfasts roll easily into casual lunches and dinners, and it call comes with lovely country-style environs, whether you’re in the dining room or out on the patio watching Main Street rolling by.
This bowl of housemade spaghetti is simplicity itself: juicy Jersey tomatoes chopped in sauteed garlic and extra-virgin olive oil, with shredded Parmesan on top. Don’t miss the maccherone burger, whose beef patty is topped with Dr Pepper-barbecue glazed pork roll and cheddar, or the cold roast beef sandwich topped with Swiss cheese, red wine onions, and mayo on an herbes de Provence roll.
blueplate, 47 S. Main St., Mullica Hill, is open from 6 a.m.-9 p.m. daily.