The coronavirus’ grip on the Philadelphia restaurant scene has been loosened ever so slightly. This week, we bring you word of the return of indoor dining to the city, as well as a poignant tale of one family’s comeback from COVID-19, a look at a Black-owned winery in Overbrook Park, and some Philly dining dish — including a look at new restaurants.
There’s good news and bad news as the city resumed indoor dining on Tuesday, Sept. 8, about six months after Mayor Jim Kenney took it off the table. Gov. Tom Wolf announced that restaurants statewide can increase indoor occupancy from 25% capacity to 50% on Sept. 21 if they complete the state’s online coronavirus safety certification. But the state added a new restriction, one that’s been in effect in the city: Starting in two weeks, restaurants and bars must stop alcohol sales at 10 p.m. — the reason, of course, is that nothing good ever happens late at night. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy gave the indoor green light to 25% occupancy last Friday.
Philadelphia, meanwhile, has no immediate plans to expand beyond 25% capacity, which is a blow to the small BYOBs that have defined the city restaurant scene. There also is a sizable contingent of restaurateurs who refuse to open indoors, as they wish to minimize risk to staff. Speaking of staff: Servers must wear face shields in addition to masks. Tables in the city are limited to four people indoors, six outside. Statewide, patrons cannot sit at a bar and those who wish to order an alcoholic drink must also order a meal.
Read on for more new rules.
Staff writer Jenn Ladd scoured the city for restaurants choosing to open indoors, and came away with 10 options, both on the fancy and casual sides. On her list, you have Vetri Cucina in Center City, whose owner, Marc Vetri, has been a vocal proponent of indoor dining, as well as the Dim Sum House locations in Center City and University City.
The big operators have added indoor dining, such as all of Starr Restaurant Organization’s Philly restaurants except for Alma de Cuba, Pod, and Serpico; the Schulson Collective restaurants Osteria, Sampan, Double Knot, Via Locusta, and Char Kol (seating inside of Harp & Crown) in Center City; Safran Turney’s Barbuzzo, Bud & Marilyn’s, Little Nonna’s, and Lolita in Washington Square West. Also: Oyster House and Harper’s Garden in Rittenhouse; Caffe Aldo Lamberti in Cherry Hill; Bourbon & Branch, Jerry’s Bar, SET NoLibs, Germantown Garden, Urban Village, and Añejo Philly in Northern Liberties (which opened a few weeks ago with outdoor seating along Second Street at the Piazza); Bank & Bourbon at the Loews, Kontrol, Tradesman’s, U-Bahn, BRU Craft & Wurst, Rosy’s Taco Bar, and Finn McCool’s Ale House in Center City; Evil Genius Beer Co. in Fishtown/Kensington.
Old City District compiled a list of other indoor restaurants: 2nd Story Brewing, The Bourse Food Hall, City Tavern (opening Sept. 10), Cuba Libre, Fork, Forsythia, La Peg, La Famiglia, Nick’s Bar & Grille, Oui, Panorama, Red Owl Tavern, Victoria Freehouse, and Vista Peru.
Also, be advised that Kensington Quarters in Fishtown, which started as a butcher shop/meatery, has turned the scales to become a seafooder, with an emphasis on sustainable stuff from the Atlantic seaboard. Opens for indoor dining on Wednesday, Sept. 9 with a raw bar. (This news was dropped only recently. Clearly, owners Mike and Jenniphur Pasquarello and chef Nich Bazik were playing their cods close to the vest.) Open Wednesday-Sunday at 5 p.m.
Jenn Ladd helpfully summed up the whys and wherefores of indoor dining.
“It feels like working in Groundhog Day, we have the same conversations over and over again,” one server told reporter Grace Dickinson. “Not just with guests, but with each other as a team — about folks not wearing masks, about how scared we are.” Say thanks with your tips.
Sophie’s Kitchen, a casual Cambodian restaurant on Washington Avenue in South Philadelphia, is a family affair. In early April, Sophia Neth and husband Danny Duk and two of their four adult children were rushed to Methodist Hospital in South Philadelphia with COVID-19 symptoms so severe, they were immediately separated and admitted for several days. Critic Craig LaBan tells the story of how they found their way back.
Frank and Kenya Mitchell, who started making wine in 2012, offer at least a dozen varietals under the Mitchell & Mitchell brand. Staff writer Brandon T. Harden tells the story of one of Philly’s only Black-owned wineries.
Be advised that Center City District Restaurant Week starts Sunday, Sept. 13 and runs through Sept. 25.
Devil’s Pocket Food & Spirits at Catharine Street and Grays Ferry Avenue wrapped its six-year run. “Cause of death: the one-size-fits-all approach the city took with bars and restaurants,” said owner Marcus Versace.
Be further advised that Saturday, Sept. 12 will be the last night of service for High Street on Market at 308 Market St. It’s not billed as a closing, as a new location is in the works.
Rosalie, a gorgeous Italian from the Fearless Restaurants crew (Moshulu, White Dog Cafe), opens Sept. 10 at the Wayne Hotel.
HUDA, a sandwich shop from former Abe Fisher chef Yehuda Sichel, opens Sept. 10 at 32 S. 18th St.
The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society opens a pop-up beer garden on Sept. 9 at 106 Jamestown Ave. in Manayunk.
For you late-summer shore birds: Ocean City, N.J., has a true beach brunch restaurant again. Sand House Kitchen opened in July on Beach Road on the former site of Northend Beach Grill. Tropical theme, casual dining inside, on a porch, or on the sand. They’ll be there at least through September.
Isrrael “Izzy” Romero hates to identify his former employer, where he was chef. But they’d be green with envy to see the flashes of Mexican creativity among the egg dishes and other brunch items at his solo debut, Izzy’s 33 (1703 S. Ninth St.). It’s the former short-lived Bistro La Bete near Passyunk Square, open from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. daily with indoor and patio seating and a cash-only policy. There’s not much online presence other than Instagram.
Nicole Jacoby and Lambros Psounos have just opened a branch of their vegan sandwich/salad/juice cafe Greens & Grains at 1700 Sansom St. It’s technically their second Center City location, but their first, beneath the Comcast Center, is closed for the foreseeable future. There are grab-and-go options, and takeout and delivery through Toast and Grubhub. Hours: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. daily.