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Should Sansom Street be closed to traffic? | Let’s Eat

Also: A terrific new Turkish BYOB, a food hall that wants to be a mini-Reading Terminal, and a chat with a Philly hoagie master.

ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer

Spring eventually will arrive, but for now, it’s still a winter of discontent for many Philadelphia restaurateurs seeking clarity on outdoor dining rules. Exhibit A is Sansom Street, which recently was reopened to traffic, a generally unpopular decision. Also this week: a terrific new Turkish BYOB, a Montco food hall that wants to be a mini-Reading Terminal, and a chat with a Philly hoagie master.

❓ But first, a quiz. Last week brought the news that Boot & Saddle, the landmark dive bar in South Philly, will return under new management. Which of these celebs performed there before hitting the big time?

A) Rizzo

B) Lizzo

C) Roy Rogers

D) Totie Fields

Click here for the answer, and to read The Inquirer exclusive about the new operators.

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Mike Klein

Sansom Street has reopened to traffic. Is this good policy?

As the city considers more restrictive new outdoor dining rules, enraging restaurateurs, another issue has come up: Traffic on the 1500 block of Sansom Street has begun flowing again full time for the first time since August 2020, when the city created a pilot program to grant partial closures to allow restaurants to set up outdoor seating. Restaurateurs on this block, not surprisingly, want to keep Sansom closed. (My own nonscientific Instagram poll ran 4-1 in favor of closure.) One argument: Traffic on 1500 must turn onto 16th Street because the 1600 block has been closed for long-term construction. Revenue is a factor, as you might imagine. Fewer overall seats translates to smaller staffs, and Oyster House’s and Mission Taqueria’s owners have cut schedules. Even the owner of a shoe store on the block thinks city government needs to do better.

Merrily, we roll along in search of the best Philly hoagie

Dominic Rocconi — better known as Hoagie Dom — has inspired an Instagram following for his sandwich-obsessed musings and cheeky humor. He also makes a darned tasty sandwich, such as that Calabrian chicken cutlet hoagie. Deputy food editor Joseph Hernandez chatted him up to learn what drives his passion, why the hoagie is so important to him, and why he goes out of his way to bake his own bread.

And so we continue with our celebration of the hoagie:

For those who haven’t cast their votes in our Italian hoagie bracket, mark your calendars. The interactive voting to declare the best Italian hoagie in Philadelphia ends April 4, and while we tally the 8,000-plus votes, it feels like a fine opportunity to share how some Philly notables made their picks.

Just for fun, staffers Patricia Madej and Evan Weiss gathered brackets from Mayor Jim Kenney; Kae Lani Palmisano, host of WHYY’s Check, Please!; food artist and illustrator Hawk Krall; Inquirer food critic Craig LaBan; and Philadelphia Flyers mascot Gritty, who included Wawa(!).

Check their picks, and stop back next week for the results.

Let’s talk about Janine Bruno, whose life has done a full 180

Homemade by Bruno, a new storefront off 15th and Wharton in South Philadelphia, is not a gelateria or a pastificio. It’s a cooking classroom and lab that represents Janine Bruno’s reconnection to her Sicilian heritage after a series of misfortunes, including a cancer diagnosis six years ago at age 30, a sudden breakup, her grandmother’s death, a layoff, and of course the pandemic. Cooking gave her purpose, and she wants to share it.

Craig LaBan reviews Pera Turkish Cuisine

A random Uber ride ended up sending Craig to Northern Liberties, where he discovered what is now his favorite new Turkish BYOB in Philadelphia. In his review, he’ll tell you all about Pera Turkish Cuisine’s grilled royale dorado and other deliciousness.

When your barista has a union card

For years, cafe workers have led the charge in organizing the food-service industry in Philadelphia. Colleague Jenn Ladd tells the backstory of baristas at Good Karma Cafe, a four-unit chain of Philly coffee shops, who plan to vote Thursday on forming a union.

A ‘mini-Reading Terminal’

Creekside Market & Tap’s owners and tenants want the Elkins Park food hall to become a “mini-Reading Terminal,” and the idea may finally be gathering steam. Jenn finds that Creekside’s success may ultimately ride on whether they can read the sensibilities of a changing neighborhood.

(Creekside happens to be across the way from the Elkins Park regional-rail station and directly across from FoodChasers’ Kitchen, the restaurant owned by Maya and Kala Johnstone, identical twins and former school principals.)

Restaurant report

Dionicio Jiménez counts kitchen experience with Marc Vetri, Mike Solomonov, and Stephen Starr in his 24 years in the biz. At age 46, “Nicho” is now a solo act with Cantina La Martina, a cheery corner bar-restaurant beneath the Market-Frankford El in Kensington. Pay special attention to the cabrito (braised goat with agave leaves and pulque, pickled cactus, ayocotes, and salsa verde) on his menu, which mixes both homespun and fine dining. There’s a full bar. I run it all down here.

Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday. Brunch is served on weekends.

Briefly noted

Riverwards Produce, the Fishtown-rooted grocery store, cuts the ribbon on its Old City location at 6:15 p.m. Wednesday, March 30 at 146 Bread St., down an alley between Second and Third Streets, south of Race. It’s double the size of the original and will be open from 9 a.m.-8 p.m. daily.

The vegetable-forward DIG, which opened its first Philly location in January 2020 at 1616 Chestnut St., will open on the University of Pennsylvania campus at 140 S. 36th St. on Thursday, March 31. DIG will donate 100% of walk-in sales on opening day to the Eagles Autism Foundation.

Cozette Pizza started in March 2020 as a ghost kitchen operating out of the Spread Bagelry shops at 2401 Walnut St. (alongside Workhorse Brewing), as well as Fifth and South Streets. Cozette is now permanent, and the grand opening at 2401 Walnut is Friday, April 1 from 4-9 p.m. Fifty percent of sales that day will benefit Friends of Schuylkill River Park to fund new rims and backboards for the basketball hoops along the Schuylkill River Trail. Cozette will operate from 4-9 p.m. Thursday-Saturday.

Lacroix at the Rittenhouse, which curtailed service in 2020, will reopen for dinner on April 7 under chef Eric Leveille with a $145 carte blanche menu.

Charlie Brown’s Steakhouse at 111 N. Broad St. in Woodbury, which had closed early in the pandemic along with other New Jersey locations, is fixing to reopen “sometime in April,” says management. There’s another spot in Scotch Plains, N.J., that has reopened.

East Passyunk Avenue Business Improvement District will bring back Flavors on the Avenue on Sunday, April 24 from 11 a.m.–5 p.m.

Marc Vetri and Alex’s Lemonade Stand are reviving the Great Chefs Event, an eat-and-greet featuring restaurant folks from all over the country. This year’s will be Saturday, June 11 from 1-4 p.m. at Urban Outfitters HQ at the Navy Yard.

Lots of up and downs at Longshore Restaurant, which opened as a bruncherie in summer 2021 at Route 70 and Cropwell Road in Marlton but closed abruptly in January 2022. Chef Marianne Cuneo-Powell took it over in late February as a dinner spot known as both Longshore and Marianne’s Cafe, but it closed again earlier this week. Cuneo-Powell did not return messages.

What you’ve been eating this week

You readers are going bold. Crispy jalapeños and Thai chili sauce get a cooling balm from mango in Good Dog Bar’s bang bang shrimp, which @brycequayle enjoyed. (The Center City bar still has that Roquefort-stuffed burger, by the way.) And to return to our subject of hoagies: Take a close look at the tofu banh mi from West Philly’s Local 44 that @therealjerseydan is touting. That’s a slice of raw jalapeño just waiting to complement the fried smoked tofu, sriracha mayo, and crispy vegetables.

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