The restaurant boom keeps on keeping on. Let me run it all down for you. Also this week, I find a shipshape happy hour on Penn’s Landing and step into a tasty food fight in Media.
Celebrity chefs and first-time restaurateurs — and combinations thereof — will be in the spotlight in the coming months, as the Philadelphia restaurant boom continues.
If there’s one trend, style is in style. Out with Edison bulbs and in with linen. The rustic look has faded, at least for much of what I’m seeing in the crystal ball of restaurant openings for the next 90 days or so.
Also in the forecast are two new restaurants from Mike Solomonov and Steve Cook; an upscale French spot in Old City from Will BYOB alum Christopher Kearse; a fancy Italian from Le Virtu alums Joe and Angela Cicala; a casual pasta bar in the Italian Market from Marc Vetri; an upmarket pasta destination in Rittenhouse from Michael Schulson and Jeff Michaud; a tavern from Townsend “Tod” Wentz in Washington Square West and a change for his Townsend, which is moving from East Passyunk; three ambitious pizzerias (two in Queen Village and another in Montgomery County); two luxe BYOBs on East Passyunk; a collection of Mexican restaurants in one Center City building from the team behind Suraya; and a few chain eateries at the soon-to-open Fashion District Philadelphia.
Here’s the full story.
Burrito Bonito | Old City
Made-to-order, fast-casual Mexican grub at 212 Market St., opening at noon Aug. 19.
Jean-Georges | Logan Square
High-style dining in the clouds (on the 59th floor of the Comcast Technology Center, a.k.a. the top of the Four Seasons Hotel, plus JG SkyHigh Lounge on 60).
June BYOB | East Passyunk
Polished American BYOB at 1911 E. Passyunk Ave., opening Aug. 21
Vernick Fish | Logan Square
PokeOno | Conshohocken
The Ardmore poke-bowl mini-chain marks the opening of its new shop at 103 Fayette St. with 50 percent off bowls on Thursday, Aug. 15.
Ho Choi | Bryn Mawr
Long-running Chinese takeout on County Line Road has packed it in. A branch of KoP’s Pin Wei is moving in.
Johnny Mañana’s | Callowhill
The cantina, once a landmark in East Falls, is done after six months in its relocation, at 315 N. 12th St.
Wahlburgers | Northern Liberties
The celeb-owned burger shop at the Piazza has closed after three years.
Wister | Old City (temporary)
BYOB is down, as building owner Joseph Scorsone says he is looking for a chef.
Moshulu, 401 S. Columbus Blvd., 4-6 p.m. Monday to Friday
On a clear day... Heck, even on a cloudy day, the view from the deck of the Moshulu — the one-time pride of the American fleet — is dazzling. Look off to starboard, and there’s Camden, the Ben Franklin, and Big J. Off port is Penn’s Landing, I-95, and the Center City skyline.
Though sunset falls after happy hour this time of year, it’s a lovely setting for snacks, including veggie sushi rolls ($9), edamame hummus and pita with olives, cucumber, and feta ($9), chicken dumplings ($10), and a cheese plate ($14) — with $5 drink specials including wine/sangria, cocktails, and beers.
Tip: Penn’s Landing Corp. charges $17 for parking in the lot in front. You may be better off taking a rideshare or walking over.
Vernick Fish, 1876 Arch St.
Seafood is the star at Greg Vernick’s sexy new bistro, which lights up the Arch Street ground floor of the Comcast Technology Center, beneath the new Four Seasons Philadelphia. It’s the long-awaited sibling of Vernick Food & Drink in Rittenhouse, set up beneath the daytime-only Vernick Coffee Bar.
First impressions from last night, only the second day open to the public: There’s a happy energy radiating throughout, as the bar stretches along the restaurant and segues into the open kitchen, where Vernick, chef de cuisine Drew Parassio, and crew were whipping out plate after plate from the menu (here’s a look at dinner):
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. (lunch), 3-5:30 p.m. (raw bar), 5:30-11 p.m. (dinner)
Dim Sum Mania, 17-19 E. State St., Media
Tom’s Dim Sum, 13 E. State St., Media
Long story: Where Shanghai soup-dumpling master Tom Guo goes, confusion follows.
He was a partner in Dim Sum Garden when it opened at 59 N. 11th St. in Chinatown in 2007, but sold his stake to two business partners a year later. Those partners, Shizhou Da and her daughter, Sally Song, operated it till late 2013, when they closed and opened a snazzy new Dim Sum Garden nearby, at 1120 Race St.
Guo and associates swooped in and reopened on 11th Street, creating two Dim Sum Gardens.
Online restaurant guides found it hard to differentiate. Many noticed that the 11th Street location had closed and simply treated the Dim Sum Garden name as another failed restaurant.
The name battle ended up in court, and under a settlement, the 11th Street location became known as Tom’s Dim Sum, while Dim Sum Garden remained.
Three years ago, the owners of Tom’s opened a branch at 13 E. State St. in Media, wowing the locals.
But last fall, as Guo said in an interview on July 31, he was asked to leave the business, of which his wife, Dai Zhang, is listed as part-owner. (It is unclear if Guo ever had a stake in Tom’s.)
Zhang and another partner, You Hui Cao, sued the restaurant company in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court in December over their ouster; the case is pending.
Guo himself did not go quietly. This summer, he turned up two doors away from the Tom’s in Media with a new dim sum restaurant, which bears a banner reading “Tom’s Dim Sum Mania.”
This week, the owners of Tom’s Dim Sum filed a federal trademark lawsuit against Guo, claiming that he is trying to steal their business.
It should be noted that the main sign and menus for Guo’s restaurant simply read “Dim Sum Mania.”
The banner below the sign includes the word “Tom’s” and stenciled lettering in the window reads “Tom’s.” The restaurant’s website is dimsummania.com and includes no mention of “Tom’s.”
If you’re searching Delaware County for stellar Shanghai-style xiaolongbao, with delicate wrappers enveloping generous pork fillings and sweet soup, you have two fantastic options, and they happen to be 20 or so feet apart and locked in a bitter rivalry over the name.
Dim Sum Mania (also known as Tom’s Dim Sum Mania), at 17-19 E. State St. in Media, boasts a mod interior, including multi-changing lights and video monitors. It’s bustling, especially at lunch. Don’t miss the dry-pot chicken, served in a wok over a tabletop gas stove. I’ll give DSM an ever-so-slight edge in the xiaolongbao department.
Tom’s Dim Sum, at 13 E. State St., boasts an attractive, wood-clad dining room with murals beneath colored lights. Also order the scallion pancakes and shumai.
Dim Sum Mania hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon-10 p.m. Sunday.
Tom’s Dim Sum hours: 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Inquirer restaurant critic Craig LaBan awarded Fishtown’s latest omakase option, Hiroki, three bells. Edging out Royal Sushi as the most expensive omakase in town (by $5), this sushi haven at the corner of Lee and Master Streets has “powerful rice” and an impressive array of rare wild Japanese fish.
The sixth edition of Philadelphia’s Diner en Blanc goes down next Thursday (Aug. 22). Whether you’re going or not, we’ve got suggestions on what food to pack for a picnic and where to get it.