The optimism that inspires people to open restaurants has not faded, even in the days of COVID-19.
Restaurant leases are being signed, so take the signings as a sign that although the industry has taken a beating in the last year, life will go on — and not just among the chain restaurants that have the deepest pockets and wherewithal to survive this steep downturn.
Let’s update the crop of 2021 restaurant openings to include a slate of independents: BBQ Unlimited, a barbecue restaurant in Old City from a longtime caterer; Morgan’s Brooklyn Barbeque, bringing its ribs and brisket from Park Slope to the King of Prussia Mall; Ancient Spirits & Grille, a Center City bistro calling itself “America’s first herbal cocktail lounge”; LesbiVeggies, a vegan restaurant in Audubon, N.J.; a new location of the Japanese restaurant Megu in Maple Shade; Keshet Kitchen, an Israeli restaurant in Queen Village from a winner of Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race; and Luciana’s Bar & Grill, a bar down the street in South Philly from Angelo’s Pizzeria.
More immediately, we’ll see activity at the new Philadelphia Live! Casino & Hotel in South Philadelphia, which already opened Luk Fu and two bars, will roll out Lorenzo & Sons Pizza and Termini Bros. Bakery on Wednesday, Feb. 3, followed on Monday, Feb. 8 by Guy Fieri Taco and Guy Fieri Burger eateries, Morty’s Deli, and Sang Kee Noodle Bar. The Prime Rib, the casino’s destination restaurant, opens to the public on Feb. 24.
Also on the 2021 calendar, previously noted here, are an all-day cafe (The Landing Kitchen) and restaurant (Lark) on the Main Line from chef Nicholas Elmi and veteran restaurateur Fia Berisha; Lola’s Garden, an indoor-outdoor operation from Avram Hornik in Ardmore’s Suburban Square; a Di Bruno’s location in Wayne; Sor Ynez, a Mexican restaurant in Kensington from the owners of Jet Wine Bar and Rex 1516 (which itself will move next door into the refurbished Royal Theater sometime in 2021); LMNO, a long-awaited Mexican restaurant from Stephen Starr; an unnamed sandwich shop on West Passyunk from the owners of SliCE pizza; an unnamed Mediterranean restaurant on the former site of Paradiso on East Passyunk; the sweet-savory syndicated sitdowner Sugar Factory American Brasserie in Cherry Hill; and a big move for Oceancrat, The Boiling Seafood from Mount Laurel to Maple Shade.
We’re also awaiting a revival of Warmdaddy’s, the soul food-and-blues destination from Ben and Robert Bynum, in new quarters at 1410 Mount Vernon St., but that awaits Philadelphia’s return to 50% occupancy. Also awaiting word of a rumored pizzeria from Michael Schulson and Jeff Michaud on the former site of Zavino at 13th and Sansom.
Here is the rundown of openings, in expected order:
Lorenzo & Sons Pizza and Termini Bros. Bakery at Philadelphia Live! Casino & Hotel, 900 Packer Ave., Philadelphia (Feb. 3)
Guy Fieri Taco and Guy Fieri Burger, Morty’s Deli, and Sang Kee Noodle Bar at Philadelphia Live! Casino & Hotel, 900 Packer Ave., Philadelphia (Feb. 8)
Poke Burri and Lifting Noodles Ramen is a duopoly — poke and ramen menus under one roof — at the former Cheu Noodle Bar, 255 S. 10th St., Philadelphia (Feb. 9)
Stove & Tap, the versatile, rustic-theme bar-restaurant with locations in Lansdale and Malvern, at 158 W. Gay St., West Chester (Feb. 11)
LesbiVeggies, caterer Brennah Lambert’s vegan/gluten-free debut restaurant, at 112 W. Merchant St., Audubon, N.J. (Feb. 12)
Lamberti Pizza & Market with pizzas, salads, sandwiches, and prepared foods to go from Aldo Lamberti and crew, at 707 Chestnut St., Philadelphia (Feb. 15 or Feb. 22)
Megu Sushi opens its fifth South Jersey restaurant (after Cherry Hill, Haddonfield, Ventnor, and Sea Isle City) at 300 Young Ave., Moorestown (Feb. 17)
The Prime Rib, a retro-steakhouse operation unrelated to the former location at the Warwick Hotel (now operating as Rittenhouse Grill), Philadelphia Live! Casino & Hotel, 900 Packer Ave., Philadelphia (Feb. 24)
Sor Ynez, a sibling of Jill Weber and Evan Malone’s Mexican restaurant Cafe Ynez and Rex1516, will serve an all-day, vegetarian-leaning menu from chef Lucio Palazzo, 1800 N. American St., Philadelphia (February)
Bagels & Co., a cafe, bake shop, and sandwich spot open for breakfast and lunch from GLU Hospitality, at the Piazza in Northern Liberties, 1001 N. Second St., Philadelphia (”late February”)
The Landing Kitchen, an all-day café serving breakfast and lunch from chef Nicholas Elmi (Laurel, ITV, Royal Boucherie) and partner Fia Berisha (ex-Elements and Aether) at 619 Righters Ferry Rd., Bala Cynwyd (March)
Keshet Kitchen, with Israeli comfort food from New York-bred chef Sharon Shvarzman (a contestant on the Food Network’s Worst Cooks in America who went on to win The Great Food Truck Race), 705 E. Passyunk Ave., Philadelphia (March)
Ancient Spirits & Grille is a Center City bistro whose menus are based on the holistic medicine practice of Ayurveda, at 1726 Chestnut St., Philadelphia (March)
Di Bruno Bros. is building out a huge space in Strafford Shopping Center for a full market including tasting stalls, two bars, a coffee bar, and a demo kitchen, at 375 W. Lancaster Ave., Wayne (mid-March)
Morgan’s Brooklyn Barbecue, the Flatbush Avenue bar-restaurant owned by veteran NYC restaurateurs Peter and Penny Glazier and son Mathew (Michael Jordan’s The Steakhouse, Striphouse, Tapika, and Monkey Bar) is building a branch at the former Mistral space in King of Prussia Mall, 160 N. Gulph Rd. (mid-March)
Luciana’s Bar & Grill, from Danny DiGiampietro of Angelo’s Pizzeria, will replace Bar One, down the street at 767 S. Ninth St., Philadelphia (”sooner rather than later”)
Lark will be a coastal restaurant from Elmi and Berisha on the seventh floor, above The Landing Kitchen, 619 Righters Ferry Rd., Bala Cynwyd (April)
Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, the toast of New York, opens its scoop shop in Washington Square West across from El Vez, 119 S. 13th St., Philadelphia (April)
Caterers Sean and Nikeah Green, who expanded their BBQ Unlimited as a ghost kitchen for delivery at 1308 W. Girard Ave. in the fall, are going the restaurant route in Old City at 246 Market St., Philadelphia, the former Karma Indian Restaurant (April)
Kensington is expecting Forin, described as a cafe and lifestyle hub combining a coffee shop and retail, at 2041 Coral St., Philadelphia (early May)
Oceancrat, The Boiling Seafood, one of the earlier entries in the boiling-seafood genre, moves from its home next to the Rodeway Inn in Mount Laurel into larger quarters with a liquor license at 28 S. Church Rd., Maple Shade, the former Roots Cafe (May)
Avram Hornik (Morgan’s Pier, Rosy’s Tacos, Lost Bread, etc.) is headed to the Main Line with Lola’s Garden, an indoor-outdoor restaurant, patio, and beer/wine garden hybrid at Suburban Square in Ardmore, taking inspiration from his popular Harper’s Garden (spring)
Chris Fetfatzes and Heather Annechiarico (Hawthornes Beer Cafe and Pivot, Wine Dive, The Cambridge, Tio Flores) are behind Grace & Proper, a neighborhood corner bar and kitchen with Jon Medlinsky (Martha in Kensington), at Eighth and Carpenter Streets, Philadelphia (spring)
La Chinesca from Michael Pasquarello (Kensington Quarters, Cafe Lift) will meld Chinese and Mexican cuisine with a bar in a former Jiffy Lube at 11th and Spring Garden Streets, Philadelphia (spring)
The Chinese bar-restaurant DanDan opens its third location (after Center City and Wayne) at Suburban Square in Ardmore, next to Lola’s Garden (spring)
Two yet-to-be-named restaurants will fill the former Wahlburgers at the Piazza in Northern Liberties, 1033 N. Second St., Philadelphia (spring)
Marlo and Jason Dilk (SliCE, P’unk Burger) are behind a to-be-named eatery with what they call “a modern take on old-world favorite sandwiches” at 21st Street and Passyunk Avenue, Philadelphia (spring)
LMNO, Stephen Starr’s collaboration with nightlife impresario Serge Becker (La Esquina, The Box), will be a Mexican themer next door to Evil Genius in Fishtown at 1739-49 N. Front St., Philadelphia (June)
Sugar Factory American Brasserie, which has a sweet and savory menu (like Max Brenner), will take over for Zinburger at Garden State Park Town Center, 923 Haddonfield Rd., Cherry Hill (June)
Corey Baver, who co-owned the former Paradiso on East Passyunk, is behind a total renovation of that space for a to-be-named Mediterranean restaurant at 1627 E. Passyunk Ave., Philadelphia (”mid-summer”)
And patience, for those awaiting Victory Brewing Co.’s taproom and brewery on the Ben Franklin Parkway at 18th Street. That is up for the second quarter of 2021 at the earliest.