Warm breezes, cool drinks, masks, and social distancing. Outdoor dining will take on a new dimension this season, and critic Craig LaBan offers you a look ahead.
Also this week: Pennsylvania and New Jersey have allowed cocktails to go, and we run down some options and offer DIY ideas, if home drinking is your jam. Plus, I’ll share some sweet news and word of a Center City restaurant that’s actually six eateries in one.
The restaurant industry, devastated by dining-room shutdowns since coronavirus precautions took effect in March, awaits a breath of oxygen in the form of a green light for outdoor seating. My colleague Craig LaBan has found that restaurateurs are not entirely sure what it will be like. Even a question as mundane as how to go to the restroom becomes a puzzle.
Also, restaurateur Avram Hornik is so certain that outdoor dining will be allowed to resume soon, he has opened the reservation book at Morgan’s Pier and Harper’s Garden for June 5.
There was more big news this week as Philadelphia gave food trucks the green light to resume and walk-up food ordering in restaurants was permitted.
At long last, to-go cocktails are legal in Pennsylvania. Rather than contemplate why it took this long, how it’s going to be implemented, or why it’s so difficult to buy booze in the state to begin with, why not celebrate with a to-go drink? Staff writer Jenn Ladd offers a growing list of cocktail destinations, and for those choosing to stay at home, how about some recipes.
I run down the technical side of the Pennsylvania legislation, which forbids shots and open containers. Speaking of which: North Wildwood, N.J., is allowing open containers.
The pandemic has clobbered the city’s collection of neighborhood bars. Prospects for their resurgence don’t seem too bright. “We’re going to try to hang in there,” Maria Lauer of Bonnie’s Capistrano Bar in South Philadelphia told Jenn Ladd. "What’s the alternative? Sell it? Sell it to who? Who’s even going to want a business that you can’t open?”
We tend to think of “chefs” as the freewheeling masters of the savory hot kitchen who nurture our most elemental hungers. But the Gods of Sweetness have their own brilliant chefs, too. Craig LaBan finds several inspired artisans whose blowtorches are still ablaze — offering hope.
With the delivery apps, you don’t have to set foot in a restaurant. Look closely, though: Six restaurants share the address 1107 Walnut St. in Center City, across from the Forrest Theatre. Besides Top Tomato Bar & Pizza, which for 12 years has served beer, cocktails, and pizza, there’s Outlaw Burger, Philly Burgers & Shakes, Firebelly Wings, Grilled Cheese Society, and a chicken joint called Mother Clucker. They’re one and the same. One storefront, one kitchen, one owner. And Sam Cohen is finding that this diversification helps the bottom line.
Tria Taproom at 20th and Walnut Streets is open for takeout, but it’s changed its name to Joyride Beef & Ale and switched up the menu to a more deliverable/takeout-able concept of fried chicken sandwiches and roast beef sandwiches, along with canned beer. Expect more restaurants to rebrand, especially in the short term.
Also worth noting: The hit Mexican bar Condesa at 19th and Ludlow Streets has just returned, with an abbreviated menu and cocktails to go.
Stephen Starr’s Barclay Prime steakhouse on Rittenhouse Square has opened a wine shop run by his daughter Sarah.
And if you find yourself in Kyoto, Japan, pop into Mr. Maurice’s, an Italian restaurant in the new Ace Hotel, maybe for the pork chop Parm. That happens to be Marc Vetri’s new project.