The crystal ball for the 2014 Philadelphia-area restaurant scene shows assorted bright spots:
Another Stephen Starr-Aimee Olexy partnership
A Jose Garces restaurant where he himself will cook
A Marc Vetri project at the Navy Yard
A Mexican restaurant from a high-profile, Chicago-based chain in Rittenhouse
A Nashville-rooted music/food hot spot in Rittenhouse
Top Chef candidate Spike Mendelsohn's Good Stuff Eatery in Rittenhouse
A handful of brew pubs. (Perhaps a sixth finger on that hand will even be necessary.)
A restaurant within a butcher shop in Fishtown
A brother-owned locavore-themed bar-restaurant for Washington Square West
A Garces alum's BYOB in the boonies, starring Pennsylvania-sourced ingredients
Not one but two vegan bars
Not one but two izakayas. (Or is that izaka-yay?)
I'm also hearing "late 2014" for a long-awaited second Pop Shop. The family friendly Collingswood retro diner is taking over an old bank on a corner in downtown Medford.
The rumor mill is churning with the potential of downtown restaurants from Jennifer Carroll and (wow!) Susanna Foo.
The hottest restaurant areas (besides Rittenhouse) for new openings seem to be:
> Fishtown, especially the western sliver along Frankford Avenue where it meets Kensington. La Colombe's new rum "distillery" and cafe is looking at mid-April for its opening at 1335 Frankford Ave. ... This spring at 1310 Frankford Ave., Michael Pasquarello (Bufad, Prohibition Taproom, Cafe Lift) and butcher Bryan Mayer are opening Kensington Quarters, a whole-animal butcher shop inside a bar-restaurant with a lofted educational/secondary dining space. (Project's name previously was B-Side Social Club.) ... PYT's Tommy Up is working on a 1950s-theme tiki bar at 1444 Frankford Ave. ... Another bar is coming to Front and Master Streets under the El, and yet another is aiming at 1400 N. Front. ... Stock, opening soon on Girard, will be a pho-focused BYOB.
> Brewerytown, that emerging area between Fairmount and the Philadelphia Zoo. A bar called Sarah's Place is being readied at 1216 N. 29th St. ... Crime & Punishment Brewing Co., a brew pub, is under construction at 2711 W. Girard Ave.
The calendar very well still may read "2014" when Cheesecake Factory opens at 15th and Walnut Streets. Though demolition of the existing buildings has not begun, I see that a zoning hearing is scheduled in February to seek approval for the restaurant's signs. So take it as a sign.
And speaking of zoning, the operators of The Trestle Inn, the whiskey/go-go bar at 11th and Callowhill Streets, are seeking a variance to construct a roof deck that will service a new restaurant - no go-go, no entertainment other than the odd poetry reading - to be built on the second and fourth floors. The Trestle itself is not going anywhere.
In more or less chronological order, here is what to expect to open in at least the first half of the year:
In Chestnut Hill, chef Al Paris and partners Robert and Benjamin Bynum are looking for a January opening of Paris Bistro, in the Chestnut Hill Hotel. A jazz club downstairs will open later.
In the burbs, chef Chip Roman and pastry chef Fred Ortega are going next door to Roman's Blackfish in Conshohocken to open Tradestone Confections, a luxe candy shop/cafe, at 117 Fayette St. in January.
Simply Shabu (1023 Cherry St.) will bring hot pot to Chinatown in January.
Quincy's Original Lobster Rolls is looking for a January rollout in Swedesford Plaza, off Route 202 in Berwyn.
Sabrina's Café expects to open a fourth bruncherie, in Wynnewood Shopping Center, in January.
Sancho Pistola's, the new spot from Jose Pistola's, is targeting late January at 19 W. Girard Ave. in Fishtown.
Jose Garces is going small-scale as he looks at a late-January opening of his culinary atelier, Volver, at the Kimmel Center. (His camp has also mentioned reopening the bar at Old Original Bookbinder's, which he took over recently to use as catering and office space.)
Zavino's second location, at Chestnut Square (3200 Chestnut St.) is up for late January.
Stock - the pho shop from Zahav sous chef Tyler Akin - is targeting late January/early February at 308 E. Girard in Fishtown.
Chefs-brothers Jonathan and Justin Petruce are saying "early 2014" for Petruce et al., their rustic 60-seater, with bar, at 1121 Walnut St.
Early February should see the debut of coZara, the izakaya from Zama Tanaka, at Chestnut Square (3200 Chestnut St.).
The new Federal Donuts shop at 3428 Sansom St. is due in February. Another FedNuts, at 701 Fairmount Ave., should follow a few weeks later.
Crow & the Pitcher - the collab of chef Alex Capasso and Michael Franco - is looking at January/February at 267 S. 19th St.
Ishkabibble's II at 517 South St. - a larger, sitdown offshoot of the South Street sandwich window - appears to be opening soon.
Junto - a Pennsylvania-centric BYOB in Chadds Ford from erstwhile Jose Garces lieutenant MacGregor Mann - is pegged to March.
March is the target for an still-unnamed vegetable-themed boîte from Vedge's Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby at 126 S. 19th St.
Estia Greek Taverna - midpriced Greek fare - in Marlton has an "early 2014" target.
Andy's Diner in Spring House, Montgomery County, maybe? It's had a "coming soon" sign since summer 2012.
Let's interrupt this report for word of new brew pubs (or at least breweries with tasting rooms and not just growler-fillers)...
Broken Goblet Brewery, whose brew house and tasting room are under construction on Grundy Street in Bristol Borough, is looking at February or March.
Conshohocken Brewing Co. on East Elm Street, off the bike path - which will have a tasting room - has a "winter 2014" target, e.g. March.
Guild Hall Brewing Company, a brew pub next to the Hiway theater in Jenkintown, hopes to roll out the barrel in May.
Looking at the second quarter of 2014 is Victory Brewing's brewery and brew pub at the new Magnolia Place in Kennett Square.
"Late 2014" is the current word on Iron Hill's Ardmore brew pub.
Kennett Brewing Company, whose brew house and brew pub are under construction at 109 S. Broad St. in Kennett Square, is TBA.
Back to restaurants and looking ahead to spring:
An unnamed Stephen Starr-Aimee Olexy project; that's all the info that Starr would divulge so far. (Starr and Olexy's Talula's Daily was one of three Starr projects that ended up in Zagat Survey's 2013 list of the top 25 newcomers nationwide, including Philly's Serpico and D.C.'s Le Diplomate.)
Chops at the Comcast Center (1701 JFK Blvd.), the former Table 31.
Bank & Bourbon on the ground floor of the Loews Hotel, 1200 Market St.
Royal Izakaya at 780 S. Second St. in Queen Village
Kensington Quarters - the butcher shop-sum-restaurant in Fishtown.
George and Jennifer Sabatino's Aldine, on the second floor of 1901 Chestnut St.
Good Stuff Eatery, from Top Chef alum Spike Mendelsohn, at 108 S. 18th St.
Jose Garces' Distrito in Moorestown Mall.
Brigantessa, the Le Virtu crew's spot at 1520 E. Passyunk Ave.
Charlie Was a Sinner, the vegan bar from HipCityVeg's Nicole Marquis at 131 S. 13th St.
Marc Vetri is saying late April/early May for his project at the Navy Yard. Name will be Lo Spiedo - which translates to a spit (as in rotisserie), which will be the cooking focus. The restaurant name initially was The Brig.
Pittsburgh-based cantina Mad Mex expects to open in April or May in part of the old Borders store at Wynnewood Shopping Center.
May is the target for a new Honey's Sit N Eat at 228 Vine St. in Old City.
We're looking at "late spring" for a Pietro's, Estia Greek Taverna, honeygrow, HubBub Coffee and Jimmy John's sandwiches - all at 200 Radnor-Chester Rd. in Villanova,
Late spring is the target for Nashville fun spot Tin Roof at 1521 Sansom St.
Summer is the line on Mercadito, a stylish, Chicago-based Mexican coming to 2116 Chestnut St.