Oh, those optimists in the restaurant industry. I count 40 new restaurants opening in the Philadelphia region soon. Important stuff for you this week: the city of Philadelphia is relaxing its vaccine mandate, critic Craig LaBan tells us about a Vietnamese dining scene that’s never been more dynamic, and we’ve not only found the most expensive dinner in town but we’ll show you the largest restaurant, now on its way to Penn’s Landing.
❓ First, a quiz:
Two Robbers, the Philly company that makes hard seltzer, is opening a tasting room in Fishtown. What will its name be?
A. Burgers and Seltzers
B. Fizz and Sizzle
C. Bubbles and Troubles
D. Two Cents Not-So-Plain
❗ Click here for the answer.
Philly is looking at a restaurant boom. And here’s what’s coming.
The Philly area dining scene, finally shaking off the pandemic doldrums, is about to pop. Take the next 10 days, when three BYOBs are expected to debut. Then we’ll get two Brooklyn imports, Other Half Brewing and Paulie Gee’s. Dionicio Jimenez, a noted Mexican chef (El Rey, Xochitl), is opening Cantina La Martina, his own place in Kensington. Bluebird Distilling is opening a cool-sounding coffee bar-slash-cocktail bar on the Main Line. Conshohocken has not one but two bar-restaurants on the way. The Jim, that eagerly awaited corner bar from the Fergie’s crew, is looking ever closer. And how about that “Harry Potter bar” I told you about? That’s a sliver of the dining room at Mish Mish, above. Between now and spring, I’m counting 40 new restaurants.
A new guard of Vietnamese cuisine
What great, tasty times. You can get a cilantro-laced breakfast banh mi along with your pancakes at the Breakfast Den on South Street. You can sip a frothy bac xiu latte made with Vietnamese espresso roasted on-site at the charming new Càphê Roasters in Harrowgate. Or how about Philadelphia’s most coveted bowl of chicken pho, at Pho Ga Thanh Thanh? Critic Craig LaBan finds a Vietnamese dining scene that’s never been more dynamic as a new generation balances a respect for family traditions with creativity and the influences of their American upbringing. Craig shares with you seven restaurants worth checking out.
No more vaccine mandate in Philadelphia
Philadelphia has ended the vaccine mandate for indoor dining. New benchmarks have ended the need for either cards or a recent negative COVID-19 test to enter a business that serves food. Colleague Jason Laughlin spells out the new rules.
Restaurateurs like Saba Tedla of Booker’s and Aksum had opposed the vaccine mandates for several reasons.
The reaction from patrons, however, was decidedly mixed, as we found during a lunchtime visit to Reading Terminal Market, which under the rules had to cordon off seating and check for vaccination proof.
Philly’s most expensive restaurant
SkyHigh, all right. Jean-Georges, the atmospheric dining experience at the Four Seasons Hotel on the 59th floor of the Comcast Technology Center, is taking reservations for its reopening, starting March 10. The restaurant, overseen by chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, will move to a tasting-menu-only format: six courses for $198 a person, plus tax, tip, and beverages, Thursday to Saturday — by far the priciest menu in Philadelphia.
Liberty Point will go big on Penn’s Landing
There’s high and expensive at Jean-Georges. But consider Liberty Point, coming to the Independence Seaport Museum on Penn’s Landing. It will be big. Really big. Like outdoor seating for 1,400 people big. Restaurateur Avram Hornik is looking to open Liberty Point this spring at Walnut Street and the Delaware as an indoor-outdoor restaurant and a complement to his Morgan’s Pier, just north of there. It’s also one major piece of the long-awaited development of Penn’s Landing.
A guide to Philly’s Black-owned restaurants
Black-owned restaurants in the Philadelphia region reflect the sheer breadth of local chef and restaurateur talent. Service editor Jillian Wilson joined with Craig in curating a guide to Black-owned restaurants over the last few years, including his favorites.
Patrick Feury, popular chef-owner of Nectar, has died
The Philly area restaurant community is mourning the death last weekend of chef Patrick Feury of Nectar restaurant in Berwyn. The chef, who was 57, will be remembered in a memorial service set for 10 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 23 at St. Norbert’s Roman Catholic Church, 50 Leopard Rd., Paoli. His brother Terence, also a chef, said: “I’ll put it the simplest way I can: He just wanted to be loved and make people happy.”
Even in the dead of winter, when local produce is rooted mainly in roots, chefs Mike Griffiths and Kevin D’Egidio bring on the homespun comfort at Helm, their cozy BYOB in south Kensington. Their chalkboard $55 prix fixe, now offered Thursday to Saturday, changes when they need it to. You get a starter, entree, and dessert. You’re looking at cauliflower ricotta gnudi with roasted red beets and cauliflower in a brown butter sauce with oregano mustard and pickled red onions. Other options last week: roasted broccoli fra diavolo with poached octopus, tomato steamed mussels, and roasted radish; a Brussels sprouts pithivier, where shaved Brussels are cooked down in cream with alliums stuffed into puffed pastry, served on top of garlic sour cream, roasted oyster mushrooms, and pickled jalapeños; and Nordic cod lightly poached in sazon lemon butter, smoked eggplant, and Cajun spaetzle on top of a parsley soubise sauce. And old-school vinyl spins on the turntable.
Helm, 1303 N. Fifth St. Hours: 5-10 p.m. Thursday-Saturday.
Giorgio Giuliani is in the opening days of pizzeria Giorgio on Pine II next to his popular Giorgio on Pine (1328 Pine St.). It replaces Bocconcini, which chef Crystal Fox chef-owned under Giuliani’s direction for several years.
The Dutch will make its seven-block move into the former Fond space across from the Singing Fountain at 11th Street and East Passyunk Avenue, effective Feb. 23. Kevin Watters, the Dutch’s longtime chef and now partner, will oversee a similar bruncherie menu with founders Lee Styer and Jessie Prawlucki Styer, and they will take advantage of the leftover liquor license. (Lee Styer said they intend to turn the now-shuttered Dutch location at Fourth and Cross Streets in Pennsport into a sandwich-and-dessert spot.) Incidentally, Watters will host a sit-down version of his popular Mom Mom’s Soul Food pop-ups on Feb. 28 at the new spot (1537 S. 11th St.). It’s a $50 four-course meal including deviled eggs, cornbread mac and cheese with braised short rib, fried chicken, collard greens and candied yams, and strawberry shortcake beignets. They’ll do seatings at 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m; reserve via firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s in honor of Watters’ grandmother Lillian Lewis, and a cut of proceeds will go to Everybody Eats Philly.
Foodie Hall is a new ghost kitchen in Cherry Hill with 10 dining concepts aimed at South Jersey delivery. On Thursday, Feb. 17, they’ll roll out the first two brands: Simply Fowl (chicken sandwiches) and DaNick’s Burgers.
Catching up with closings: Old City’s Second Story Brewing (117 Chestnut St.) said on Instagram that Jan. 29 would be “the last night for a minute.” ... Mari BYO, the yearling that replaced Dmitri’s at Third and Catharine Streets in Queen Village, didn’t make it; owner Kevin Addis says he can prepare any Mari dish at his other restaurant, Entree BYOB (1608 South St.).
Truckers and late-nighters love the 5 a.m. openings at Johnny’s Hots, a stand on Delaware Avenue across from Penn Treaty Park in Fishtown. How better to face the day than with a combo of an old-fashioned fish cake with a grilled hot sausage. The potatoey richness of the fish cake helps tame the heat of the sausage on a Liscio’s roll (but does nothing — sigh — to mitigate the indulgence of it all).
Johnny’s Hots, 1234 N. Delaware Ave. Hours: 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday.
What you’ve been eating this week
When you dine at the homey Mediterranean BYOB Apricot Stone in Northern Liberties, don’t miss the manti and the kebabs, of course, but save room for dessert, especially the syrup-covered kataifi. Thanks for that shot, @yousifever. And hoagies are on our mind after Craig’s Delco sandwich round-up last week. Reader @therealjerseydan popped into Lennie’s Hoagies in Roxborough for a Soprano — a thing of beauty filled with Genoa salami, capicola, prosciutto, mortadella, pepperoni, and grated Locatelli and Provolone. (Want a splurge? Try the Olszweski, a grilled kielbasa loaf, fried onions, Cooper, and spicy mustard on rye.)