No dairy and no meat but plenty of flavor and creativity. Philly Vegan Restaurant Week is back, and dozens of restaurants whose menus are all vegan as well as omnivorous are at it. Also this week, a Mexican favorite opens in its new South Philly home, and I find fine barbecue in a shopping center in South Jersey. I’ll also steer you to a $5 chicken sandwich, among other $5 specials, in a Rittenhouse happy hour.
Critic Craig LaBan’s Q&A is back. (He’d been busy putting together his Ultimate Dining Guide that home-delivery subscribers will receive with their newspapers Oct. 17. Click here to preorder a copy. ) Read on, as this week Craig gets his arms around his favorite octopus dishes.
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Vegan specials all week
Philly Vegan Restaurant Week was such a hit last year, organizers decided to do two this year. We’re now in the thick of the fall edition (on through Saturday, Oct. 19).
The crop of participants is an interesting mix of vegan-only spots (Bar Bombon, Charlie was a sinner, Gangster Vegan Organics) and conventional restaurants (Martha, Pumpkin). Some are doing special dishes, while others offer fixed-priced meals. List is here.
A cut of all proceeds goes to Misfit Manor, an animal-rescue group.
A couple of suggestions: Nashville hot tofu at Khyber Pass Pub in Old City; the Vegan Happy Meal featuring the McLuhvin at LUHV at Reading Terminal Market, and the marinated tofu at Chatayee Thai in Washington Square West (which happens to offer plenty of vegan selections).
If you’re looking for variety under one roof, check the vegan food court pop-up at The Rotunda (4014 Walnut St.) from 6-9 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 17.
Disclosure: My daughter owns the vegan catering company Miss Rachel’s Pantry, which hosted a fund-raising event Oct. 15 but is otherwise not a restaurant week destination.
This Week’s Openings
Cafe y Chocolate | South Philadelphia
Ease Bar | South Philadelphia
Turning the BYO idea on its head, this bar wants you to bring your own food to enjoy with its collection of vinyl and its beer/wine selection. It’s 824 S. Eighth St. in the Bella Vista space that last was Acadia and previously Coeur.
Eggcellent | Old City
Breakfast sandwiches and brunch foods in a bright, airy corner storefront at 113 Chestnut St.
El Limon | Flourtown
This is location Numero 10 for the casual cantina, which is set up at the former Flourtown Bakery, 810 Bethlehem Pike.
Spread Bagelry | Bryn Mawr
The Main Line will get a branch of the Montreal-style bagel shop, at 925 Lancaster Ave., “sometime next week.” This one will be designed to look like a train station.
This Week’s Closings
Lumbrada | Devon
Independent Mexican bar-restaurant has folded and will yield to the Plaza Azteca chain.
Trolley Car Diner | Mount Airy
The Germantown Avenue diner’s last day was Oct. 15 after 19 years.
Where we’re enjoying happy hour
Twenty Manning Grill, 261 S. 20th St. , 4-7 p.m. Sunday to Thursday
Here’s a rarity, folks: A happy hour that’s observed on a Sunday. Here’s another rarity: A $5 menu in Rittenhouse.
The chill Twenty Manning Grill delivers both, in style, and there are 11 diverse choices — including deviled eggs, shoestring fries, spicy calamari, salmon poke, chicken satay, Mediterranean tuna salad toast, and a crispy chicken sandwich whose “build” changes as the kitchen sees fit.
Where we’re eating
Cafe y Chocolate, 1532 Snyder Ave.
This week marks a new home for Maricela Tellez and Arturo Lorenzo’s popular Mexican bruncherie, as it’s moved from its longtime base in Point Breeze to the West Passyunk walk-up storefront previously occupied by Chaat & Chai.
Cheery atmosphere has carried over, and the slightly expanded menu is studded with savory and sweet treats. Start with cinnamony Mexican coffee or hot chocolate, and segue into tacos, burritos, or any of the bread products — a torta (perhaps carnitas or pollo asada), or molletes (a Portuguese roll layered with refried beans and melted cheese, toasted and topped with queso fresco). Any place that offers a squeeze bottle of chipotle sauce can’t be bad.
Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursday to Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. Closed Wednesday.
N.B. This neighborhood adjacent to the Melrose Diner, known as West Passyunk or Newbold, is in growth mode. It’s home to Cafe Nhan, The Thirsty Soul, and Stina and is expected to get a hipster coffee house in coming months where Di Nic’s Tavern was.
Rochester’s Barbeque & Grill, 130 N. White Horse Pike, Lawnside, 856-547-7427
Lawnside, historically a working-class African American community, was once home to many restaurants and bars known for Southern food and barbecue. The last one closed a decade ago. Which might have been the end of the story. But six years ago, Vincent Rochester and his brother, Vernon, opened Rochester’s, a comfy culinary homage to their parents, Ernestine and Vincent, who lived nearby.
The Rochester family, who lived in Philadelphia before settling in Camden County in the mid-’70s, were the neighborhood cooks, putting out lavish spreads influenced by Ernestine’s North Carolina upbringing. Vincent, their middle child, does the same now, next to the ShopRite in a shopping center on Route 30.
From his Ole Hickory smoker come pork and beef ribs and chicken. He cuts no corners, smoking and then braising his meats, tossing them on the charbroiler to order. It’s all solid, honest stuff, down to the sides. The mac salad with tuna is worth a trip alone.
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, noon-9 p.m. Saturday, noon-7 p.m. Sunday.
How to tame the avalanche that is the October cookbook deluge? We did the work for you, and picked five new goodies.
Get in the spirit! You’ll want to go to these Halloween pop-up bars.