Oh, it’s Spicy Time, all right. This week, I found a Fishtown bar that brings in a chef cooking Thai food on Saturday nights.
Also this week: Word on an Irish-theme brunch spot in Delco and a new corner bar on the edges of Kensington and Northern Liberties. And if you dare, peruse a Day of the Dead menu that’s positively offal.
In the Totally Random Philly Department:
Brian Hood, a bicoastal digital marketing specialist, observed L.A.'s thriving Thai street food scene on his trips there. Armed with curiosity, access to great ingredients, and a keen palate, he started cooking Thai at home. Friends loved it and suggested he share his gift with the world.
At least with Fishtown. He approached Doreen Thompson of Les & Doreen’s Happy Tap, the classic corner bar at Susquehanna and Thompson.
Now on Saturday nights, Hood is serving a small menu of flavor-packed Thai snacks out of the Happy Tap’s service window and at the bar, where you pay Hood for food and the bartender for beers (and I promise you will need beers). It’s cash-only, all around. The pop-up/collab feeling, which Hood brands as Spicy Time, is reminiscent of Francesco Bellastelli’s Italian cooking at the nearby Murph’s Bar on Girard Avenue. And there’s even karaoke.
Hood’s menu helpfully lists all ingredients. Start with a crispy rice salad ($7), whose deep-fried curried rice is a crunchy base to a salty-spicy mix of chiles, cilantro, onion, fish sauce, and lime, or a more familiar shredded green papaya salad ($8). Move on to the spicy pork salad ($9), made with pork shoulder, or maybe to the Boxing Day chicken ($8), whose grilled thighs are topped with a sauce including coconut milk, cilantro, and garlic. There’s also the more familiar noodle dish pad see ew ($7).
Everything comes out in paper bowls with plastic utensils.
“This is not Kalaya,” Hood told me, referring to the South Philadelphia newcomer that has quickly become a go-to among Thai cognoscenti. “It’s street food.”
Tip: Order sticky rice ($2) to help cool the fires. Hood can work with you on seasoning, to a point.
Hours: 5-11 p.m. Saturday, except for Nov. 7. Cash only.
Gabi | North Broad
Monday, Nov. 4 is the debut of chef Peter Woolsey’s all-day French cafe at 339 N. Broad St., near Roman Catholic High.
The Hadley | Logan Square
It’s 1959 again at this chic, Mid-Century Modern bistro at Park Towne Place at 22nd and the Parkway.
The Juice Pod | Bryn Mawr
Juice/smoothie/bowl specialist opens its third location, at 1005 Lancaster Ave.
La Cocina del Café | South Philadelphia
Adorable all-day taqueria at Broad and Dickinson Streets.
Loco Pez | Southwest Center City
Mexican bar finally opens at 20th and Bainbridge Streets.
Melt Shop | Downingtown
Fast-casual specializing in melted sandwiches comes to Brandywine Square (Route 30 and Quarry Road) on Nov. 2 with three days of giveaways.
Mobay | Abington
Leston Donaldson’s Jamaican cafeteria on Old York Road near the library is closed; a sign says a relocation is in the offing.
Plenty Cafe and Village Bar & Kitchen | Various
The Mascieri brothers shuttered their Plenty locations on East Passyunk and Rittenhouse, as well as the recently rebranded location in Queen Village.
El Rey, 2013 Chestnut St.
Ants and snails in mole. Little “boats” of masa filled with worms, grasshoppers, and crawfish. Bone marrow with ant larvae. Once a year, El Rey, the Starr-owned Mexican spot in Rittenhouse, goes all-out with a Day of the Dead-theme menu.
It’s actually tasty stuff. Memelitas de insectos, for example, has a pleasing crunch. There’s blood sausage (sauteed with squid, potato confit, and arbol salsa). You’ve heard of cooking with heart? Yes, heart is in the tacos. What really might get you to thinking, literally, are the ravioli, whose filling includes brain. Menu is on through Sunday, Nov. 3.
The Hearth, 1901 E. Darby Rd., Havertown, 484-454-3176
Former stay-at-home mom Laurie McGarrity and longtime friend Sinead Butcher, who used to babysit McGarrity’s kids, have set up this Irish-inspired bruncherie tucked off Darby Road in what used to be McKenna’s. Homey, auntie-friendly decor includes tin ceiling, exposed beams, plenty of curios, and, yes, a hearth.
Breakfast all day includes the traditional Irish breakfast (rasher, banger, black-and-white pudding, baked beans, sauteed mushrooms) and bap sandwiches (a rasher, a banger, an over-easy fried egg topped with Irish cheddar). Pay special attention to the fries, which are hand-cut and served very well done; tip: get them with curry sauce on top, or go wild with the chip, pea, onion and gravy, which tops the fries with beef gravy, mushy peas, and sauteed onions.
Salads, especially the salt-roasted beet, are a good way to go at lunch.
Need a can of Batchelor’s beans in a pinch? Note the Irish groceries and snacks by the register.
Hours: 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday.
Ambassador, 635 W. Girard Ave.
Not too many years ago, you wouldn’t be headed to Seventh and Girard for seared salmon with herb pesto and wild rice, or a falafel burger. But development what it is, the Ludlow neighborhood — abutting south Kensington and Northern Liberties — is on the rise.
Ambassador, borrowing the name of a long-ago kosher dairy restaurant across the intersection, opened early this month. It’s on the former site of Melrose, a bar so tough it reportedly had a concrete bunker to protect staff. Khalil Mir and partners stripped it down to the walls, adding tin panels, shiny floors, an oversize neon sign reading “food,” multiple TVs behind the well-stocked cocktail bar, and come next spring sidewalk seating.
Chef John Calvert, who spent nine years at R2L at Liberty Place, executes a something-for-everyone American menu of small, medium, and large plates, plus house-made desserts. Sixteen beers and a cider are on tap; you can build a flight of four 6-ounce pours for $8.
The bar is introducing itself to the neighborhood from 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 30 with comp food and drink specials.