You can go out to drink and chat. How about going out to drink, chat, and play games? There’s a new generation of cafes to do just that (and no, I’m not talking about head games, which is a whole different bar story). A new one just started rolling the dice. Also this week: a bargain happy hour on the Main Line, a cheap and delicious Chinatown newcomer, and a French charmer in South Jersey.
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Queen & Rook is a board-game cafe with a twist
Last week, I told you about the new restaurants specializing in seafood boils. This week, it’s board game cafes, which let patrons eat, drink, and choose from hundreds of games. It’s a fun way to while away an hour or three.
Near as I can tell, this new line of bars got started in Canada as a cold-weather diversion that requires less space than, say, curling.
Philly’s first game cafe-bar is acknowledged to be Thirsty Dice, which opened last year at 1642 Fairmount Ave. Also, there’s the Basement Board Game Cafe in Roxborough, which also opened in 2018 but does not have a liquor license.
New on the scene this week is Queen & Rook at 607 S. Second St., in the former Hikaru just off South Street in Queen Village.
Owners Edward Garcia and Jeannie Wong — he works for the city Commerce Department and she’s in nonprofits — have more than 1,000 games packed into the intimate Queen & Rook, which looks similar to the Japanese restaurant it replaced. You can even sit in a tatami room.
Here is the twist: Menu is vegetarian (with vegan and gluten-free options), and though they’re selling fries and mozz sticks, they’re also going for something a bit fancier than pub grub: blistered shishito peppers with tamari glaze and black sesame ($5), jerk or barbecue seitan rinds ($6), and three-for-$10 tacos (jackfruit carnitas or Salvadorean sea fry). Beers are in cans; there are two $5.50 wines by the glass, and a few mixed drinks.
Garcia, who with Wong has two small children, says he wants to make it easy for families to come out without breaking the bank.
It’s free to come in and play Monday to Wednesday; you pay for food and drinks, of course. The rest of the week, it’s $7 for three hours plus food and drink. Initial hours are 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday.
And stand by for more: University City is expected to get a game cafe this November. It’s Board & Brew, out of Maryland, going into the former coZara at 32nd and Chestnut Streets.
This Week’s Openings
City Winery | Center City
Live music venue/restaurant/winery opens Sept. 19 at 990 Filbert St. as part of Fashion District Philadelphia.
Enza | Wyndmoor
Pizza and Italian-inspired entrees in an energetic, family-friendly bistro at 909 E. Willow Grove Ave.; it’s a spin-off of Zavino.
Firebirds Wood-Fired Grill | North Wales
Moderate-price chain steakhouse opens its fourth Philly-area location at Gwynedd Square Shopping Center.
La Provence | Ambler
French BYOB in the old Ambler SEPTA station; chef Abde Dahrouch has a sterling background on the Main Line.
Spread Bagelry and Workhorse Brewing Co. | Center City
Townsend | Rittenhouse
Relocated from East Passyunk to 2121 Walnut St., Tod Wentz’s French-ish bistro is serving a Center City District Restaurant Week menu for its first two weeks; decor-wise, it’s still a work in progress.
Umi | Center City
Yong Kim of Bluefish and B2 is partnered at Reading Terminal Market with Suzi Kim, who owns the nearby John Yi Seafood Market stand, on a sushi-seafooder with a six-seat sushi bar and plenty of take-away options.
Yellow Bicycle Canteen | Washington Square West
Chef Ian Natowsky is behind this take-out spot at 1112 Locust St. that offers healthful platters and sides.
This Week’s Closings
Cafe y Chocolate | South Philadelphia
Mexican restaurant has closed at 2100 S. Norwood St., pending a move nearby to 1532 Snyder Ave. (just off 16th Street and West Passyunk Avenue). Reopening is targeted for Oct. 1.
Cotoletta | Bala Cynwyd
After three years plus, the Italian cutlet specialist in Bala has shuttered. The new Cotoletta location at Fitler Square remains.
Izzie’s Deli | Blue Bell
Four-year run at Blue Bell’s Shoppes at Village Square has ended, which will mean a changing of the lox.
Mildred’s | Strathmere
The venerable Jersey Shore destination has closed after 67 years in Strathmere.
Where we’re enjoying happy hour
The Ripplewood, 29 E. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore, 610-486-7477; 4-6 p.m. Monday to Friday
Ardmore’s bustling whiskey bar is set up on Lancaster Avenue, in a strip of stores near the SEPTA rail line formerly known as the R5.
As such, the number 5 figures in the Ripp’s happy-hour menu. For $5, you can get an old-fashioned, a Manhattan, a glass of pinot noir or pinot gris, or any draft beer in the house. And five bucks more gets you brisket sliders on a pretzel roll, a pizza flatbread, a smoked chicken quesadilla, or the signature jalapeño- and brisket-topped Ripp Fries.
Where we’re eating
Chiu’s Kitchen, 122 N. 10th St., 267-606-6625
Good news for Chinatown watchers. This small, basic-looking Hong Kong-style Chinese spot in a walk-up at 10th and Appletree Streets has retained the low-price policy and one of the fun dishes of its predecessor, Hidden Gem. It’s the French toast. Not cloyingly sweet or dredged in cinnamon (though a cardiologist’s nightmare), Chiu’s French toast starts with two thick slices of white bread, which get the familiar egg-and-milk dipping action. A smear of peanut butter goes between the slices. It’s griddled and slathered with butter and sweetened condensed milk — all for $2.95.
The extensive menu covers many bases, as the eatery opens at 9 a.m. for congee eaters and stays open well into dinnertime.
Pepper beef chow fun with black bean sauce ($8) brought fine noodles and tender beef. Even tastier were the hot rice dishes — beef and Chinese broccoli ($6.50) and especially the creamy diced chicken with corn on rice ($6.50); all were accompanied by small bowls of vegetable soup.
Hours: 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday; 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Closed Wednesday.
The Little Hen, 220 Kings Highway East, Haddonfield, 856-528-2282
Having done the Philly thing at such acclaimed spots as Little Fish and Fish, chef Mike Stollenwerk decamped to Haddonfield several years ago to open Two Fish, a cozy BYOB on Haddon Avenue with fiancee Felice Leibowitz. A few months ago, they opened a second salon, opting for French classics in a spare 20-seater in a former candy shop at Haddon Avenue and Kings Highway.
The Little Hen, with Alan Lichtenstein at the stove in the open kitchen and Leibowitz working the room out front, fills up nightly mainly with locals searching for such Franco gems as creamy chicken liver mousse, a respectable cheese plate, meaty frogs legs drenched in a lemon-garlic sauce, escargots in hazelnut butter, duck frites, and luscious skate-wing meuniere.
Desserts are made in-house. Figure on under $100 for two, plus tip.
Hours: 5-9 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday, 3-7 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
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The members of this beer club range in age from 70 to 90. They call themselves the Last Sip Brew club.
Craig LaBan’s Q&A does not appear this week.