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Craig LaBan’s best places to eat | Morning Newsletter

And, how a massive 1997 tax-lien sale continues to stymie development and imperil community gardens in poor areas.

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Good morning, good people. You’re reading The Inquirer Morning Newsletter, catching you up on all the news that’s fit to email. Today we look at restaurant critic Craig LaBan’s best places to eat and drink in the Philly area, explore the continuing fallout from a massive 1997 tax-lien sale, and dig into sports radio host Angelo Cataldi’s retirement plans.

We’d love to know what you think. Send a reply to this email, and let’s start a conversation.

— Tommy Rowan (@tommyrowan,

Restaurant critic Craig LaBan hasn’t eased back into eating out in recent months.

He plunged right back into restaurant dining with an excitement and enthusiasm for those culinary experiences that were mostly denied to us over the course of the pandemic.

And now that he’s made his way through dozens of eateries in the Philly region, he’s ready to report back.

So what’s the hot new spot? Who has the best cocktails?

What are his top spots in the Philly dining scene right now?

Let’s start with a spotlight on eight restaurants that are mastering Philly’s tasting-menu trend.

Read about the spots where bartenders go for the best drinks in Philly to cleanse the palate.

Followed by his list of 25 of the most memorable (mostly) new restaurants he can’t wait to return to.

And for the main course, his Top 10 restaurants in Philly right now.

Bon appetit.

As sheriff’s tax sales resume after a months-long pandemic hiatus, advocates are growing concerned.

They’re fearful of losing their community gardens or side lots, or hundreds of other properties eyed for affordable housing or other developmental strategies.

At the root of the problem is continuing fallout from a massive 1997 tax-lien sale, which proved a “worst-case scenario” when many liens proved uncollectable. That left thousands of lots under control of a bank that held the liens.

Now, advocates are calling for political will to preserve green space and protect the city’s poorest primarily Black neighborhoods from speculators and predatory developers.

Reporter Samantha Melamed has the story.

COVID-19 resources

  1. Here’s our latest list of restaurants, large performance venues, universities, and gyms in the Philly region where you need to show proof of vaccination.

  2. Here’s where to get a COVID-19 test in the Philadelphia region.

  3. Should you laminate your vaccination card? What if you lose it? Here are the dos and don’ts.

  4. It could be time to upgrade your face gear. Which masks work best?

What you need to know today

  1. Angelo Cataldi, the longtime 94.1 WIP-FM morning show host, plans to retire next year.

  2. On opening night at the Walnut Street Theatre, more than a year after the pandemic had shut down the nation’s oldest continuously operating theater, a group of protesters gathered outside and asked Beehive ticket holders to consider the lack of racial representation inside its walls.

  3. In the aftermath of a fatal shooting at its Center City campus, Jefferson University Hospital has increased security and offered resources to employees.

  4. On the third day of John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty’s federal bribery trial, prosecutors sought to show it was one man who often took care of those who crossed the labor leader: Dougherty’s codefendant, City Councilmember Bobby Henon.

  5. The Philadelphia School District’s selective admissions system is changing, with magnet schools moving away from a strong-principal system to a centralized lottery, among other changes.

  6. City officials unveiled designs Wednesday for a new welcome center at FDR Park, complete with an open-air courtyard and an adjoining playground — all part of a raft of upgrades eventually planned for the heavily used South Philadelphia park.

  7. Philadelphia is extending its deadline for health-care workers and higher-education students and employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

  8. As flights resume for Afghan evacuees, we answer questions about the city and region’s role in the largest evacuation and resettlement since the end of the Vietnam War.

Through your eyes | #OurPhilly

The light shines through, @phillyasart.

Tag your Instagram posts with #OurPhilly, and we’ll pick our favorite each day to feature here and give you a shout-out.

That's interesting

👻Halloween season is upon us, so check out our guide to a few (supposedly) haunted spots in the Philly region ... if you dare.

🏒With one preseason game remaining, the Flyers are nearly down to their opening night roster.

🎻Yo-Yo Ma helped kick off the Philadelphia Orchestra’s 2021-22 season. And, apparently, the orchestra’s newly relaxed dress code was a big hit.

👀Phillies president Dave Dombrowski says there hasn’t been any consideration to picking up manager Joe Girardi’s option for 2023.


“The condition of Philadelphia’s prisons is unsustainable, dangerous, and unacceptable. It is up to Mayor Kenney to take steps to solve this crisis before anyone else is harmed,” writes City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart, who takes exception to Philly’s shockingly inhumane prison conditions.

  1. While City Council’s recent decision to study ranked choice voting is commendable, writes assistant teaching professor Jack Santucci, there’s an alternative. And, he says, it’s easier on voters and election officials. And even better, it’s native to Philly.

  2. Sixers’ Seth Curry was a bright spot — heck, maybe the brightest spot — for the team in its ugly postseason, writes sports columnist Mike Sielski. And they’ll need him to maintain that production in Ben Simmons’ absence.

What we're reading

  1. In The Atlantic, a veteran who served in the Air Force from 2008 to 2013 explains how the military trained him to hunt humans. And he reflects on what he learned after putting the training to use.

  2. In The Ringer, an oral history of That Thing You Do! 25 years after the Tom Hanks-directed film tugged at heartstrings, and left everyone in the audience humming and tapping their toes.

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