Funny thing about the pandemic. As you might expect, 2020 was a slow year for restaurant openings, as so many closed. But in early 2021, the industry showed its plucky, optimistic side. New restaurants began filling empty spaces. Projects got on the books.
In the final days of 2020. Down North, chef Kurt Evans’ mission-led pizzeria that employs formerly incarcerated people to give them a chance to start over, opened its takeout shop at 2804 W. Lehigh Ave. The same December week saw the opening of Ember & Ash (1520 E. Passyunk Ave.), whose specialty is nose-to-tail grilling with a handsome bar.
The others, in alphabetical order:
Glu Hospitality, behind such bar-focused establishments as Vesper, SET NoLibs, and Añejo, has shifted more into food, and is in the early days of Bagels & Co. on the Second Street side of the Piazza in Northern Liberties (formerly Saige Coffee). It’s a cafe, bake shop, and sandwich spot open for breakfast and lunch. Its outdoor space is under the Piazza’s overhang for all-weather dining.
Bar Poulet, new at 2005 Walnut St. from the team behind Tria, specializes in fried chicken and champagne.
Bridget Foy’s, the casual landmark, returned to Second and South Streets, more than three years after a devastating fire.
Fine-dining veteran Anthony DePaul has partnered with Joe Monnich and Justin Weathers on DePaul’s Table (7 E. Lancaster Ave.), an Italian steakhouse that represents a retooling of Monnich and Weathers’ shuttered French spot The Bercy.
Di Bruno Bros. expanded its footprint in the Main Line with a destination at 375 W. Lancaster Ave. in the Stafford Shopping Center in Wayne, sharing a parking lot with Lancaster County Farmers Market. Full nine yards: wine and cheese bar, pizza counter, and coffee bar in addition to cheese, charcuterie, and specialty foods.
Lamberti Pizza & Market (707 Chestnut St., the long-ago Chifa/Rosa Blanca) is a new larger version of Aldo Lamberti’s Pizza Fresca, which closed a few doors away in June 2020. A priced-right menu of pizzas, salads, sandwiches, and pasta for dine-in, takeout, and delivery is supplemented by prepared foods to go.
Chef Nicholas Elmi (Laurel and ITV) and partner Fia Berisha (ex-Elements and Aether) opened The Landing Kitchen, an all-day café, at 619 Righters Ferry Rd. in Bala Cynwyd, part of a redevelopment of the old Pencoyd Iron Works. Terrific breakfast and lunch options, and scenic riverside views. The partners are looking at this summer for the opening of Lark, sporting a seasonal menu, on the seventh floor.
Mexican favorite Las Bugambilias made a move from Second and South Streets to more spacious digs: the former Farmicia at 15 S. Third St. in Old City.
Library II, a 1950s-theme family steakhouse at 306 Route 73 in Voorhees, returned, all cleaned up but still rocking the books, under new owners Marc and David Gelman. Order your meat at the window and dig into the salad bar.
Avram Hornik (Morgan’s Pier, Rosy’s Tacos, Lost Bread, etc.) opened Lola’s Garden at Suburban Square, an indoor-outdoor restaurant, patio and beer/wine garden hybrid taking inspiration from his company’s popular Rittenhouse restaurant Harper’s Garden.
Lost Bread Co. (2218 Walnut St.) is a retail shop and offshoot of a Kensington bakery by baker Alex Bois and restaurateur Avram Hornik. It’s takeout only, with breads, sandwiches, seasonal sides, a small market, pizza bagels in the afternoon, and a nighttime pizza operation.
Morgan’s Brooklyn Barbecue, a New York operation, took the vast bar-restaurant space beneath Grand Lux Cafe in King of Prussia.
Philadelphia Live! Casino & Hotel opened at Ninth Street and Packer Avenue with a branch of The Prime Rib, two Guy Fieri restaurants (one featuring tacos, the other burgers), an Asian sit-downer called Luk Fu, and a food hall billed as 10th Street Market with stands by Lorenzo & Sons Pizza, Sang Kee Noodle Bar & Kitchen, and Termini Bros. Bakery.
Sor Ynez, a sibling of Jill Weber’s Mexican restaurant Cafe Ynez, opened at 1800 N. American St. in a fast-growing slice of Kensington.
Justin Weathers and executive chef Joseph Monnich opened a third Stove & Tap, taking 158 W. Gay St. in West Chester. The partners also have Al Pastor in Exton.