It might be midweek, but I have Sunday on the brain. Specifically, Sunday gravy, that stick-to-your-ribs Italian American feast. I’ll share an amazing deal I found in Old City.
Also this week, the food stops include South Philadelphia at a new Indonesian restaurant, South Jersey at a quirky new seafooder, and Rittenhouse Square for a happy-hour deal. Craig LaBan drops tips on his favorite breakfast spots.
Sunday gravy, the Italian American tradition, features an overwhelming plate of rigatoni topped with sauce (yes, "gravy"), meatballs, and sausage, with maybe braciole or ribs tossed in.
You follow it with dessert, and then a nap.
It's a lot of food. Sunday gravy = Monday leftovers.
In Center City, Giuseppe & Sons serves the sausage and meatball over spaghetti, as it's been done in the Termini home for generations. At Little Nonna's, the gravy comes with beef shortrib, a meatball, hot fennel sausage, and broccoli rabe. In the Pennsy burbs, Main & Vine Bistro in Villanova does the sauce out of beef, pork, and veal and tops it over gemelli. (Now there's a twist.)
For sheer tasty value, I'll steer you to Wister BYOB, a homey little place at 26 N. Third St. in Old City that seems to change chefs with the calendar. Wister breaks from its usual "American" menu format from 5 to 9 p.m. Sundays to serve only the gravy, portioned to your party size.
Chef Mary Gallagher starts with a big salad, segues into a platter of cheeses, olives, and focaccia, and brings on the Sunday gravy, topped with a meatball (meat is from Esposito), sausage (from Canulli), and a big spoonful of ricotta. There's cheesecake for dessert. And it's only $35 a person.
Chill atmosphere. Bring wine and friends.
Arts Yard | Camden
Pop-up beer garden with food from chef Aaron McCargo Jr. at 317 Market St., near Rutgers Camden. It's open from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday.
Circles + Squares | Kensington
Pizza man Daniel Gutter, formerly of Pizza Gutt, has surfaced at 2513 Tulip St. (at Firth) with a small shop serving not only the square Detroit-style pies he specialized in at his previous stop (inside W/N W/N bar) but also rounds. It opens at 5 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday.
Jembatan 5 | South Philadelphia
Melody's Viet-Thai Grillhouse | Ambler
Thanh Nguyen, chef-owner of the Gabby’s banh mi shops, has gone with a sitdowner at 47 E. Butler Ave. in Ambler Borough.
London Grill | Fairmount
Saturday, May 18 (10 a.m.-2 a.m.) is the last day of service under Terry and Michael McNally at their Fairmount landmark, which they have sold. Sunday, May 19 beginning at 2 p.m., there will be a cash-only party at the bar, with beers and comp snacks.
Ruby Tuesday | Center City
The chain has ended a nearly 14-year run on the ground floor of Liberty Place.
Scarpetta, Rittenhouse Hotel, 210 W. Rittenhouse Sq.; 4-7 p.m. Monday-Friday
A hideaway in plain sight: That would be the bar at Scarpetta, tucked off the lobby of the Rittenhouse Hotel.
Happy-hour deals are generous and enjoy long hours, and it's all simple: $7 cocktails, beers, and a wine or two, as well as $7 snacks served all night, such as meatball sliders, locatelli ravioli, arancini, whipped ricotta with crostini, deviled eggs, and cute spoons bearing morsels of tuna and avocado in a salmoriglio sauce.
Cocktails include a refreshing Italian Ice with limoncello, vodka, and San Pellegrino limonata, and the spicy Pompeii you see here, which mixes basil- and grapefruit-infused tequila, a bit of simple syrup, and Aranciata Rossa.
Jembatan 5, 932 S. 10th St.
Howard Ginting and his wife, Nadia Laksana, got the urge to open an Indonesian restaurant. But as they lived in Harrisburg, they predicted that cultural unfamiliarity would be hard to overcome.
Next stop, Philadelphia, whose Indonesian community is considerably larger and has a James Beard Award semifinalist restaurant, Hardena, in its midst.
Ginting and his mother, Jun Then, are in the kitchen at their new BYOB in Bella Vista in the 10th Street spot that long ago was Shank's & Evelyn's. The name, by the way, is based on a neighborhood in Jakarta.
Atmosphere is simple: pale blue walls with a silver ceiling festively festooned with round lights, bare-topped tables. Laksana, who in all likelihood will serve you, will guide you through the extensive menu, which includes sublime chicken dumplings ($5.95; they're pan-fried on the menu, but the kitchen will steam them), rice and noodle dishes, satay, and curries. Heat-seekers should target the ayam rica-rica ($9.95; spicy pieces of chicken bathed in chili sauce), and if it's a variety of meats you crave, try the nasi campur ($8.95, which gives you a hard-boiled egg and morsels of barbecue pork, slices of a tofu-skin wrap known as gohyong, sweet pork sausage, satay chicken, and cucumber around a mound of rice).
Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday.
Oceancrat The Boiling Seafood, 1134 Route 73 North, Mount Laurel
The name is a puzzler. Add an out-of-the-way location (across the parking lot from a Rodeway Inn and sharing a building with Kazumi, a restaurant specializing in sushi and hot pot) and your eyebrows may arch skyward.
But Steve Lin, who owns Kazumi and the Megu Sushi spots in Cherry Hill, Haddonfield, Sea Isle, and Ventnor, seems to have the right idea with this no-airs BYOB in Mount Laurel, where you duck around fishnets and other nautical trappings, put on plastic gloves and bibs, and dig into buckets of steamed seafood sold by the pound.
Figure on less than $30 a head for, say, an order of middleneck clams and snow crab legs served in a choice of sauce, as well as add-ons such as corn on the cob and boiled potatoes; there's a daily special that brings the price tag down even further. (You also can get fried seafood, but why.)
Hours: weekdays from noon-2:30 p.m. for lunch, and 4-10 p.m. for dinner; on weekends, it runs straight through: noon-10:30 p.m. Saturday and noon-10 p.m. Sunday.
What is Urban Outfitters doing with the Amis restaurants? The lease on the flagship location, which opened in 2010 at 13th and Waverly Streets in Washington Square West, expires in August.