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And now, we’re talking turkey | Let’s Eat

Also: The sad news about the closing of a Philly dining institution, a tale about a chef reclaiming his old oven, and first word of a veteran Mexican restaurant’s incarnation.

A pair of Red Bourbon heritage breed turkeys at the Quarry Hill Farm in Lower Salford Township.
A pair of Red Bourbon heritage breed turkeys at the Quarry Hill Farm in Lower Salford Township.Read more

It’s probably not an understatement to say that Thanksgiving 2020 will be different. Today we will tackle your meal and event planning. You don’t want a smaller turkey, by the way. Read on for sad news about the closing of a Philly dining institution, a tale about a chef reclaiming his old oven, and first word of a veteran Mexican restaurant’s reincarnation.

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Michael Klein

What’s the story on turkey this year?

Reporter Jenn Ladd went out into the field and got folks in the poultry biz to talk turkey. Among the many takeaways: This year, people are shopping early. ‘Almost daily, I’m having customers come up and say, “You know what, I decided I’m gonna do this,” and we’ll cut up their turkey and they’ll put it in the freezer," says Dean Frankenfield of Godshall’s at Reading Terminal Market. “They don’t want to deal with that holiday rush.” And rethink the idea of buying a smaller turkey. “You are gonna be sorry come Friday or Saturday and it’s like, ‘Oh, I wish I would have had a little bit more.’”

How about a fresh turkey?

Jenn has also found a dozen markets and farms in the Philadelphia area to score a fresh turkey and other Thanksgiving items.

Let’s go outdoors for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is usually a time we cozy up around the dinner table and share food and stories with those we love. But given the pandemic, experts are recommending a new strategy, writes staff writer Grace Dickinson. (And don’t you just love this illustration by Inquirer news designer Cynthia Greer?)

Thanksgiving 2020 means fewer plates at the dinner table, smaller turkeys, first-ever Zoom celebrations, Thanksgiving takeout, or an al fresco feast. Our contributor Tiffani Rozier offers four ways to do the holiday.

Plastic panels and dining nooks: Restaurateurs make changes to seat diners indoors.

As the weather chills, many restaurateurs are warming further to the idea of indoor dining, mindful that a significant percentage of patrons say they will not dine in and that staffers are generally wary of it. Some are getting creative in their methods to create social distancing and other safety features, including UV-C lights and electrostatic air filters. The Olde Bar in Old City, which has lots of space, created a library effect, adding walls (and books) to separate patrons.

Restaurant news

Restaurant closings keep coming. This week brought the closing of City Tavern, the colonial-themer at Second and Walnut Streets in Old City. City Tavern opened in 1976 but it wasn’t until 1994, when consultant and chef Walter Staib signed on, that the restaurant achieved prominence. Staib, who went on to a cookbook and TV career, brought the restaurant into the 18th century. In a good way.

Also down for the count is Paris Bistro, a French/jazz restaurant in the Chestnut Hill Hotel, which never reopened after its March 2020 shutdown. And if bad news comes in threes, consider the pullout of Snap Kitchen from the area. The shops sold healthfully prepared, refrigerated foods. The Texas-based parent company is now doing overnight delivery.

A couple of notes:

Tria has taken its Fermentation School virtual, holding classes via Zoom.

South Philly Barbacoa has switched to takeout only through winter.

A decade ago, Jose’s Tacos was our Inquirer go-to for tasty budget Mexican food in a shack at 10th and Buttonwood Streets under the Reading Viaduct (now the Rail Park). But the namesake Jose returned to Mexico, and it closed. His nephew Jose Medina, who goes by Alex, took it over six months later, naming it El Purepecha while maintaining the homespun airs.

Now Medina and his wife, Janneth Lorena Sinchi, have gone big-time with El Purepecha as it’s moved three blocks away to 315 N. 12th St., previously Brick & Mortar and, very briefly, Johnny Mañana’s. They’ve picked up a bar and changed the look into a tasteful indoor streetscape. Food is still terrific, especially the carnitas tacos. Bar includes the usual, plus a few cocktails including a Michelada. It’s open (indoors/delivery/takeout) for lunch and dinner Monday to Saturday, plus Sunday brunch.

A chef reclaims his old pizza oven

Six years ago, chef Joe Cicala imported a pizza oven from Italy for Brigantessa, the restaurant he was opening on East Passyunk Avenue. Cicala and his partners parted ways, and Brigantessa closed at the end of 2019. The oven, meanwhile, was still there, and Cicala and the new owners struck a deal this fall. They punched another hole in the wall and trucked the oven to Cicala’s new restaurant, Cicala at the Divine Lorraine, where it will be used again to bake Neapolitan pizzas. The new restaurant at 1520 E. Passyunk Ave., to be called Ember & Ash, has installed a gleaming hearth.