Let’s wrap up 2019 by looking toward the restaurants on the horizon for 2020. Also in this special Monday edition of “Let’s Eat,” I take a sidetrack to a snazzy bar-restaurant in the old Souderton train station and find a respectable Euro-style BYOB on Lancaster Avenue in Bryn Mawr. I’ll offer you a first look at Phillies star Bryce Harper’s pet project: a combination barber shop-cocktail lounge in Center City. And speaking of train stations, the Main Line is abuzz over the unexpected shutdown of Tango after 19 years at the Bryn Mawr SEPTA station.
“Let’s Eat” will resume its regular Wednesday schedule on Jan. 8.
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What’s new on the restaurant scene, 2020 edition
This time last year, we were salivating at a bumper crop of forthcoming restaurants including Jean-Georges, Vernick Fish, Cry Baby, Pizzeria Beddia, Cicala, Musi, Alpen Rose, Via Locusta, and Hiroki — all of which have been met with popular acclaim.
For 2020? Not as much. The restaurant scene likely will see overall growth — e.g. openings outpacing closings — but there are fewer entries. We will have a new Vetri restaurant (albeit a 14-seater, a pasta bar called Fiorella), plus one more from Mike Solomonov and Steve Cook (the skewer specialist Laser Wolf) and one long-awaited revival (Modo Mio from Peter McAndrews).
Today, I run down the openings expected in the next 90 days or so. The fun starts in the next week or so with Dig, a healthful option across from Liberty Place; the return of the Greek seafooder Dmitri’s; and The Goat, a Rittenhouse bar from the duo that runs Fergie’s. And it will be a sweet year on South Street West; get yourself over to the new branch of A La Mousse (started in Chinatown, with a location in Narberth) that opens on New Year’s Eve.
This Week’s Openings
A La Mousse | South Street West
The fancy bakery’s third location opens Dec. 31 at 1622 South St.
Alice | Washington Square West
The Rome-rooted pizzeria, known for its pizza al taglio, has set up a small branch at 1234 Market St.
Amazing Crab House | Queen Village
Casual seafooder (with a bar) at 604 S. Second St., next door to the forthcoming revival of Bridget Foy’s.
Blind Barber | Washington Square West
Cajun Heroes | Queen Village
Another one of those boiled-seafood eateries; this New Orleans-themer replaces the short-lived Bincho at 228 South St.
Million’s Crab Boiled Seafood | Chinatown
Yet another boiled-seafood eatery; it’s a takeover of the splashy Canton 11, at 1025 Arch St.
Oori | Pottstown
Korean-influenced menu from chef Michael Falcone (ex-Funky Lil Kitchen) at 2228 Pottstown Pike, near Owen J. Roberts High in South Coventry Township, Chester County. That Pottstown mailing address is tricky.
This Week’s Closings
Palma’s Cucina | Fitler Square
The recently rebranded Italian restaurant, formerly Mama Palma’s, has closed after 24 years.
Tango | Bryn Mawr
The restaurant at the Bryn Mawr train station called it quits after 19 years.
Where we’re getting ... a drink and a haircut(!?)
Blind Barber, 1325 Sansom St.
Center City Philadelphia is now home to the improbable pairing of an old-time barbershop and a low-lit, speakeasy-ish cocktail lounge. It’s the Blind Barber, mere days old at Juniper and Sansom Streets. It’s down the block from Time, Bar, and Opa, right next to the rear door of West Elm.
Blind Barber, now in five cities, started a decade ago in New York, with two guys from the Philly area among the four partners. More recently, they gave a cut of the business to the follicly blessed Phillies star Bryce Harper.
The three-chair barbershop clips by day, while the two full bars (one separate from the chairs on the ground floor, the other on the second floor amid a few cozy lounge spaces) serve drinks and light food in the evening. Haircut ($55) and shave ($60) prices include a cocktail. There’s also a line of grooming products, such as shave cream and beard oil.
Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. daily (barber shop/retail), 6 p.m.-late (bar)
Where we’re eating
Northbound, 2 W. Broad St., Souderton
The slice of suburbia straddling the Montgomery-Bucks County line in the Souderton area is not exactly a dining hotbed. This makes Northbound, a cozy bar-restaurant set up in the old Souderton train station, all the more special. And quirky: It’s on the southbound side of the old tracks. Why not name it Southbound? “We just liked Northbound better,” says Jeff Sacco, one of the owners.
There’s a truly something-for-everyone menu, and a recent dinner yielded priced-to-sell crowd-pleasers such as French onion soup with Vidalia onions in veal stock, a Wagyu burger with cheese and pepper bacon that’s a steal at $11, a grilled pork chop over whipped sweet potatoes and haricot verts ($20), and a salmon entree with Brussels sprouts, Parmesan risotto, and grilled asparagus ($15).
Then comes the most random item: light, crunchy-crusted, highly sauced Detroit-style square pizza baked in pans.
Well-stocked bar is just right for drop-ins. Be advised that it’s owned by the same people at Harleysville’s Butcher & Barkeep and Lansdale’s Boardroom Spirits. Parking is plentiful.
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Sunday.
The Choice, 845 Lancaster Ave, Bryn Mawr
Ukraine-born chef Volodymyr Hyvel, who worked in London and New York before landing on the Main Line, seems to mix all of Europe (with a stop in South America) at his polished, upmarket BYOB tucked between Tiffin and El Limon on Lancaster Avenue.
It’s a popular destination for boomers seeking a leisurely lunch or date-night dinner from a menu that is not the same old (lobster, various tartares, duck). Not cheap, either: Most entrees are in the mid-$20s, with occasional gusts into the $30s.
Special notes: Order the chicken, shrimp, or beef skewers at lunch if only for the spicy, tomato-based Peruvian sauce, which also tops the rack of lamb at dinner. And chocolate meltdown with vanilla ice cream is your go-to dessert.
Hours: noon-10 p.m. daily.
This year saw a resurgence of French restaurants, an omakase boom, and a fleet of blue drinks. Check out all of Philly’s 2019 food trends.
New Year’s Eve is tomorrow night. Do you have a dinner reservation?