It’s never easy opening a restaurant. But at this point in the pandemic, it’s a particularly frustrating challenge. Attitudes are shifting as are rules for capacity and masking. There’s a dearth of staffing. Construction permits and health inspections are being delayed because government agencies are short inspectors and clerks. Then add the dreaded “supply-chain issues” — building materials that are suddenly unavailable or furniture that is stuck in a crate on a ship halfway around the world.
Still, the optimists soldier on.
Here’s a list of projected restaurant openings in the Philadelphia area, but their timelines may be anyone’s guess.
Saigon Quy-Bau: Corey Nguyen said Colonial Quy-Bau, his elegant French-Vietnamese-Thai restaurant in Willow Grove, did not lend itself to takeout during the height of the pandemic, and he closed it after eight years.
Nguyen, a veteran of the Fountain and Swann Lounge at the old Four Seasons Hotel, is now partnered with his brother, Alan, on a new version, opening officially Thursday, Aug. 12. They’ve taken 1318 South St., on the edge of Center City Philadelphia, for Saigon Quy-Bau, a similarly polished BYOB.
(“Colonial” was too hard on Chinese and Vietnamese speakers, Corey Nguyen said. Quy is Alan’s given name and Bau is Corey’s, and spoken together, “Quy Bau” means “prestigious” in Vietnamese, he said. )
On South Street, the restaurant will open at 7 a.m. for breakfast (mainly American-style), before segueing into lunch and dinner daily. Sunday opening is at 8 a.m.
June BYOB: Richard “Todd” Cusack and Christina Cusack are launching the reservation book on Aug. 12 for an Aug. 19 public opening of June, which closed a year ago in South Philadelphia and is resurfacing in all its gilded, white-tablecloth, modern French glory at 690 Haddon Ave. in Collingswood, the corner of Haddon and Collings Avenues, across from Kitchen Consigliere. If you’re missing the shuttered Bibou, know that chef Pierre Calmels (now at the private Philadelphia Club) is advising Cusack, his former second, who went on to work at Daniel in New York City before returning to Philly to cook at Le Bec-Fin, Parc, and (back under Calmels) Le Cheri.
June’s à la carte menu, served Wednesday to Saturday, is studded with Gallic goodies, such as pressed duck, pig’s trotter, braised rabbit leg with chitarra, , and specifically Calmels’ escargot. Cusack will also do a medallion of strip loin with roasted fingerling potatoes, asparagus, and Bordelaise sauce. Sunday’s offering is a $65 four-course dinner.
Wilder: For two years, chef Brett Naylor (formerly of Oyster House and Mission Taqueria) and artist Nicole Barrick have been developing the sprawling former Philadelphia Academy of Social Dance at 2009-2011 Sansom St. into a restaurant, bar, and private-event space. They’re looking at a fall 2021 opening for Wilder. According to a release, the couple chose the name “to signify the fresh bounty of ingredients they like to source, cook, and eat, a name that also aptly describes their vision for the space — one that naturally evolves as you move through, a meaningful progression that is also free and unrestrained.”
Naylor and Barrick have brought in chef Bob Truitt, a James Beard semifinalist for pastry in 2012 and a Food & Wine best new chef in 2013 (with New York’s Ai Fiori and the Altamarea Restaurant Group). Wilder’s first and second floors will be set up for dining (an exhibition kitchen with pizza and crudo on the first floor), while the third floor will be private. The design by Hope Velocette of Velocette Studios will include vintage Persian rugs, sewn together and sculpted to the walls in a curved pattern outlined by patinated brass, as well as Barrick’s murals painted on the ceilings and walls.
Cousins Maine Lobster: Here’s the first word on the Shark Tank-launched Cousins Maine Lobster, which is opening in the Promenade at Upper Dublin (Dreshertown and Welsh Roads), near an impending Smashburger and homegrown LaScala’s Fire. The Promenade is across Welsh Road from the soon-to-open Copper Crow in Horsham, an American restaurant from the crew at Blue Bell Inn.
Ma Lessie’s Chicken & Waffles: Reading Terminal Market is getting a soul food eatery, eight months after KeVen Parker’s Soul Food Cafe closed following Parker’s death. Perry Ison, the shop’s former manager, and his cousin Stacy McCarthy are behind Ma Lessie’s, opening at the same location in September. Ison left the cafe in 2019 to open Ma Lessie’s as a food truck.
The Pullman: The former Tango at the Bryn Mawr train station is getting new life as a bar-restaurant inspired by old-fashioned railcar dining, complete with piano lounge. It’s still in demo phase, so this is a ways off.
Van Leeuwen Ice Cream: The Brooklyn-bred Van Leeuwen, known for its vegan varieties (10 at a time) as well as its 18% butterfat ice cream dips (14 varieties), is eyeing an Aug. 18 opening at 13th and Sansom Streets with scoops, shakes, sundaes, and coffee/espresso. (This location is a former Capogiro, the gelato brand that was similarly uncompromising with ingredients.) But first, check out Van Leeuwen’s truck, which will be handing out samples at various locations (such as Rittenhouse Square, East Market, Dilworth Park, and 23rd & South Streets) on Aug. 12, Aug. 16, and Aug. 17 between noon and 6 p.m. Reminder: Van Leeuwen partnered with Federal Donuts on a strawberry lavender doughnut flavor.
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams: The Ohio-based scoop shop has not officially released its first two Philadelphia locations or the opening date, but my sources tell me they will open in the third quarter of 2021 at 1901 Chestnut St. in Rittenhouse (a former Snap Kitchen) and 1322 Frankford Ave. in Fishtown (across from La Colombe’s flagship).
Crumbl Cookies: The fast-growing cookie chain is looking at an Aug. 20 grand opening at the Baederwood Shoppes in Rydal (1657 The Fairway).
Sugar Factory American Brasserie: The sweet-and-savory chain is getting closer on its location in the former Zinburger at Garden State shopping center in Cherry Hill. Supposedly, a location also will be coming to the former Porta at 1214 Chestnut St. in Center City.
What else is coming
Farina Pasta & Noodle: Joe Liang and Daniel Lee are saying the end of August for their subterranean pasta shop at 132 S. 17th St.
Rex 1516: The South Street bistro is expected to reopen soon next door, in the restored Royal Theater.
Top Tomato: The Walnut Street pizzeria is preparing a takeover of the shuttered Smokin’ Betty’s at 11th and Sansom Streets in September.
Dobbs, the storied rock hall that enjoyed a run from 1975 to 1996 at 304 South St., is being revived as a music venue for all genres, with a sports bar upstairs. It could open in September.
Dolce Italian, a posh Italian restaurant from LDV Hospitality, is teed up for the new W Hotel on Chestnut Street near 15th in September.
LMNO: Stephen Starr’s Baja Mexican-themer at Front and Palmer Streets in Kensington is now targeting September.
Hook & Master: Jose Garces’ Chicago-style pizzeria at Second and Master Streets in Kensington is up for fall.
Lark: Chef Nicholas Elmi and business partner Fia Berisha’s complement to their Landing Kitchen is on track for fall at the Ironworks at Pencoyd Landing in Bala Cynwyd.
Michael Schulson and Jeff Michaud’s as-yet-unnamed Roman-style pizzeria at 13th and Sansom Streets, replacing Zavino, is up for fall.
Middle Child Clubhouse: The larger sibling of the Washington Square West sandwich shop is up for a fall opening at 1232 N. Front St. in Fishtown.
Victory Brewing Co.: The vast brewpub is on track for October where the TGI Friday’s was at 1776 Ben Franklin Parkway. A Federal Donuts will open behind it.
Zachary’s BBQ & Deli from chef Keith Taylor is taking shape at 9 W. Main St. in Norristown.
Primary Plant Based: Royal Tavern alum Mark McKinney is behind a brick-and-mortar BYOB version of his Primary Plant Based pandemic pop-up at 161 W. Girard Ave., targeting fall.
Misconduct Tavern: The popular Center City pub duo is crossing the Schuylkill into University City for a third location. It’s taking the former Fat Ham and Tipsy Bistro at 3131 Walnut St. in the Left Bank for a much smaller bar. Owner Chuck Ercole says its target is Oct. 1 and its name will include “Misconduct.”
Fat Jack’s BBQ: The barbecue joint closed its Williamstown location in June in favor of a new location, the former Pizza Hut in 3820 Route 42 North in Turnersville, in early fall.
Essie: First-time restaurateurs Mike and Cherie Gillespie are looking at fall for their bistro at 1 Garfield Ave. in Clementon, a sleek redo of J Walker’s.
El Chingon: Carlos Aparicio, chef at Wyndmoor’s Enza, is planning a Mexican restaurant at 1524 S. 10th St.
Juana Tamale: Jennifer Zavala, known through her Instagram handle @foxyladychef, is building out 1941 E. Passyunk Ave. for Juana, a permanent location for the birria tacos, tamales, and other Mexican food she had been selling out of Underground Arts. She hopes to open in September.
Honeygrow: The salad-stir-fry specialist, rated among the Philadelphia area’s most healthful takeout options, has two new locations on the way for late fall: 2423 Aramingo Ave., on a new pad at Fishtown Crossing Shopping Center, where it will join Nifty Fifty’s, and 250 E. Lancaster Ave. in Wynnewood Square Shopping Center, where it will join Target.
South Philly Barbacoa: Chef Cristina Martinez, owner of the popular South Philly Barbacoa and its newer offshoot, Casa Mexico, is planning to expand her holdings on her Ninth Street block. She has entered a management agreement with Connie’s Ric Rac (1132 S. Ninth St.), the longtime music venue next door to Casa Mexico that closed during the pandemic. Timeline has not been disclosed.
BurgerFi: The burger chain is signed to open a shop in the former Mattress Firm store in Cherry Hill’s Ellisburg Shopping Center this fall. Pizzeria Halt, a plant-based pizzeria, is on the way there, too.
Down the road
Tresini: The former Ristorante San Marco will be revived as a stylish Italian restaurant and bar from Vetri alumnus Brad Daniels and partners.
Little Susie’s: The Kensington pie, coffee, and soup shop, is fixing up the old passport photo shop at Second and Chestnut Streets in Old City.
Other Half Brewing Co.: The Brooklyn brewpub will take over the shuttered Goose Island Brewhouse in Fishtown. Opening is penciled in for later this year.
Redcrest Kitchen: Adam Volk and Chivonn Anderson are taking over Bainbridge Street Barrel House at Sixth and Bainbridge Streets in Queen Village for a pub version of Redcrest Chicken, his popular East Passyunk chicken outlet. Their plans have been delayed by a recent catastrophic flood.
Mulherin’s: Fishtown hit Wm. Mulherin’s Sons is adding a second location, a simpler version called Mulherin’s, on the ground floor of The Girard building at 1175 Ludlow St. in East Market, next to Iron Hill Brewery. It is expected to open in the first quarter of 2022.
Cafe Lift: The popular bruncherie is on the books for a location at 142-44 Kings Highway East, Haddonfield.