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A look at the 2016 Philadelphia-area restaurant scene

A rundown of the 100 or so new restaurants where you may be eating.

That giant popping of the bubble that is the Philadelphia-area restaurant scene?

Unlikely to happen in 2016. As the calendar turns, I see about 100 restaurant projects in various stages, from just-signed-lease to about-to-open.

Even if only half of them open - and, judging by previous years, about eight in 10 restaurants will make it to launch - they will far outnumber the inevitable closings.

To illustrate the region's restaurant growth, consider the price of restaurant liquor licenses in Philadelphia, which are traded on the open market, subject to state Liquor Control Board approval. In the early 1990s, a so-called R license could be had for $28,000; this month, according to William Morrin, a lawyer who handles many transactions, one fetched $175,000.

The crop of expected 2016 newcomers is spread all over, so there's not really a "hot" neighborhood. Interest has been solid in Logan Square/West Market, new home of The Logan (and its Urban Farmer, which will get a sweet roof deck this spring). Part of the crew from Mac's Tavern is developing James, a back-to-basics American restaurant, at 19th and Arch Streets (where Mission Grill was); we'll see a Naf Naf Grilla Midwest-based Middle Eastern quick-serve, in the new building at 1919 Market St.; and Marsha Brown will place a Ruth's Chris steakhouse in the Sonesta at 18th and Market Streets.

"Only" three restaurants have been talked up so far for East Passyunk, still arguably the city's "it" neighborhood: Angelina and John Branca's Saté Kampar (1837 E. Passyunk Ave.), specializing in Malaysian saté and opening "soon"; chef Lou Boquila's Perla (1535 S. 11th St., between Fond and Gennaro's), focused on Filipino cuisine and hoping for March; and - stretching EPX's boundaries a tad - The Tasty, a vegan diner replacing Atlantic Pizza at 12th and Reed Streets, perhaps as soon as February but most likely not.

So when will everything open? There's permitting and PECO and PGW and contractors and banks and the weather and the various phases of the moon. Who knows.

Recent changes are noted with >

  1. The more imminent openings include:

The Little Lion, a smart-looking American bistro with 16 taps (beer, cocktails, brewed latte) taking the northeast corner of Third and Chestnut Streets, is down for Jan. 7.

Jan. 8 is the opening of Revolution Taco (2015 Walnut St.), a counter-service shop in Rittenhouse. It is soft-open now.

> Jan. 9 is the soft opening of Philly Style Bagels - which had been working out of Pizzeria Beddia - in its storefront home, 1451 E. Columbia Ave. in Fishtown.

Samwich, a tiny sandwichery from Georgeann Leaming and Angelo Polito of Suppa in Northern Liberties, will open early the week of Jan. 11 at 600 Catharine St. (267-457-5977). Menu is here.

Mid-January is the target for Bar Hygge (1720 Fairmount Ave.), a handsome brewpub whose ownership includes Tom Baker and Peggy Zwerver from Earth Bread + Brewery and restaurateurs Stew and Julie Keener. (Say it "hYOO-guh"; it's a Danish idiom meaning "cozy camaraderie.") Expect 10 beers on tap - six house, four guests - and a menu made for sharing.

Hungry Pigeon is almost ready to roost at Fourth and Fitzwater Streets in Queen Village; it'll be a casual, neighborhood-friendly American by longtime friends chef Scott Schroeder (South Philadelphia Taproom, American Sardine Bar) and pastry chef/bread specialist Pat O'Malley (Balthazar Bakery).

Josh Kim suggests that he is getting mighty close with Spot Burgers, the brick-and-mortar incarnation of his Drexel U food cart, at 2821 Girard Ave. in Brewerytown.

The week of Jan. 18 is the projected opening of Maya.J, a cozy, international small-plater with a bar, at 4371 Main St. in Manayunk, where Chabaa Thai was. (For that matter, Chabaa Thai should relocate to its new home, 4255 Main St., in the spring.)

Fishtown Social, a chic wine bar at 1525 Frankford Ave. in Fishtown, is looking at mid-January, says owner Vanessa Wong.

A Mano, a casual but polished Italian BYOB from Townsend "Tod" Wentz of East Passyunk's white-hot Townsend, should open sometime in January on the southeast corner of 23d Street and Fairmount Avenue.

Plenty Cafe's Queen Village location is applying finishing touches at Fifth and Monroe Streets.

Late January is the target for the reopening of Southwark, at the southeast corner of Fourth and Bainbridge Streets, under new owners, chef Chris D'Ambro and fiancée Marina De Oliveira. (Kip and Sheri Waide have retired to the shore.) D'Ambro and De Oliveira also plan to open a stylish Italian boite called Ambra next door this summer; it will be a 16-seater, no bar, with a menu that will be a hybrid of a la carte and fixed-price.

Late January should see the opening of Hugo's Frog Bar & Chop House as part of the expansion of SugarHouse Casino in Fishtown.

> Late January or early February should mark the Center City return of Susanna Foo, as she is paired with her son Gabriel, in SUGA, a Chinese bistro, at 1720 Sansom St.

Double Knot, the Japanese bar-slash-coffeehouse at 120 S. 13th St. from Michael Schulson (Sampan, Independence Beer Garden, Izakaya in Atlantic City), is up for late January. (It's Elixr coffee upstairs, and sushi bar and robatayaki downstairs.) Schulson also plans an American bar-restaurant, Harp & Crown (1524 Sansom St.), opening this spring.

Panache Wood-Fired Grill, an American restaurant from the owner of the nearby Ristorante Castello, is being readied at Skippack and Penllyn-Blue Bell Pike in Blue Bell, where Marabella's was years ago.

El Purepecha, a Mexican takeout, is being readied at 10th and Buttonwood Streets, in the former Jose's Tacos.

  1. Casual dining seems to be the norm, as is syndication. (Who opens one restaurant anymore?)

Nicole Marquis says she will open a third HipCityVeg at 121 S. Broad St., just above Sansom Street, in the North American Building, owned by Allan Domb (the incoming city councilman is also her landlord at the original HCV and at her bar, Charlie was a sinner). The vegan quick-serve will have seating in the building lobby. In a delicious twist, it will be right next door to Capital Grill. Marquis says she won't even discuss the timeline till February. (Hard to believe that the first HCV, just off Rittenhouse Square, opened not even three years ago.)

Wishbone, the popular fried-chicken spot in University City, will open a second location, at 210 S. 13th St., serving beer and adding beer delivery and going deeper into pastry and sandwiches. Timeline is early March. (Speaking of which - the spot next door, which was Letto Deli: Chef Sylva Senat says he and partners are "ironing out logistics" on the completion of Maison 208, the under-construction French restaurant at 13th and Chancellor Streets that an arsonist torched in the fall.)

Snap Custom Pizza, a homegrown build-your-own pie chain now in Ardmore and Exton, is on an expansion binge; this winter, expect an opening at 1504 Sansom St., where 500 Degrees was. There's the unrelated Snap Kitchen, a Chipotle-style healthful-food takeout brand fresh out of Austin, Texas, which has five stores on the way, including 1901 Chestnut St. (where Burger.Org was) and Third and Market Streets in Old City (in that new development where Lucy's Hat Shop was, next to the CVS).

Garage, the South Philadelphia beer bar, will crack open a second location, at Frankford and Girard Avenues in Fishtown. This one will have a kitchen.

The 12th Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant is on tap for Huntingdon Valley Shopping Center.

Heather and Chris Fetfatzes - whose Hawthornes, The Cambridge, and newcomer Tio Flores have nothing in common except for sterling bar menus - are looking at midyear for Grace & Proper, a neighborhood tavern at Eighth and Carpenter Streets in Bella Vista.

Wahlburgers - the Philly branch of the Wahlberg brothers' burger shop - is looking at a March opening at the Piazza at Schmidt's.

Saige Cafe, a coffeehouse out of Toms River, N.J., with a branch on Temple's campus, fixes to set up this spring with a wine bar at 2116 Chestnut St.

CookNSolo restaurants and Broad Street Ministry expect to start construction any day on Rooster Soup (1526 Sansom St., lower level), a luncheonette whose net proceeds after expenses will go to the Broad Street Ministry Hospitality Collaborative. Opening is penciled in for spring.

Dave Magrogan is hitching his wagon to his Harvest Seasonal Grill; one is up for Radnor Financial Center in Villanova, where Susanna Foo was, and a second is up for the Villages at Newtown in Bucks County.

BBQ specialist Fat Jack's plans to add locations at 6391 Oxford Ave. in March, in Morrisville in late summer, and in Hamilton, N.J., next  winter.

Chef-driven restaurants don't seem to be evident, other than The Rarest, an upmarket spot at The Franklin (Ninth and Chestnut Streets) by chef Anthony Marini and Finley Catering, which will specialize in crudo, ceviche, tartare, and charcuterie. Perhaps Aqimero, a Latin from globetrotting chef Richard Sandoval at the Ritz-Carlton, would qualify as chef-driven; it's down for May.

Beefsteak - the veggie-focused restaurant from chef Jose Andres - is looking at February or March for its location at Penn's Houston Hall (3417 Spruce St.).

  1. Also of interest:

Cleavers is the name of the cheesesteak shop set to replace Good Stuff Eatery this winter at 108 S. 18th St. (Some of the owners, see, are in the meat biz.)

Construction is said to start soon on mac-and-cheese trucker Mac Mart's brick-and-mortar shop at an undisclosed Center City location, for a late-February opening.

Medusa, a cool-looking pizzeria, is up for this winter at York and Gaul Streets in Fishtown.

Masala Grill, an Indian restaurant, will replace Marabella Meatball Co. at 1211 Walnut St., perhaps in February.

Still to come is Toasted Walnut, the bar-lounge at 1316 Walnut St. from Denise Cohen, former manager of Sisters.

Wok Street, a build-your-own Asian bowl quick-serve from the Genji/Hai Street backers, says "early 2016" for its premiere at 1518 Chestnut St.

The Republic, a Euro-style cafe tucked away on a side street near the Kimmel Center, has been delayed by construction, but is still on track, says owner Ram Krishnan.

Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken never materialized at 20th Street and Washington Avenue in South Philadelphia. But: Baker Street Bread will take space in another part of the building - on the Alter Street side - in the first quarter of 2016. A rep for Gus's local franchisee told me that another location is being scouted and that there is no plan to change the possessive "Gus's" to conform to most stylebooks.

Chinatown, whose churn of openings and closings has been dizzying of late, should see the debut of a food court called Chinatown Square (1020 Race St.).

Pennsport will finally see Keystone, a long-stalled Pennsylvania-theme bar, where Ugly American was.

  1. Burbs blurbs

"Early 2016" is the call on Cooper House, the redo of the Lobster Trap in Cooper River Park in Pennsauken, under the direction of chef Tony Clark and restaurateur Kevin Meeker.

Dino's Backstage, a 1940s-style swank supper club in downtown Glenside, is now saying "March/April."

Lorenzo & Son's long-long-delayed pizzeria in West Chester is getting closer.

Exton will get the region's first World of Beer, a serious bar with scratch cooking and 50 beers on tap (plus hundreds in bottles and cans). It'll be at Main Street.

Blank Aschkenasy Properties' Bryn Mawr Village, which could open this summer at 909 Lancaster Ave. in Bryn Mawr, will see branches of La Colombe, the coffee behemoth, and Bryn & Dane's, the good-for-you quick-serve.

Tierra Caliente, a Mexican with a bar from the crew from the fast-growing El Limon, is setting up at 128 Fayette St, in Conshohocken.

This summer, King of Prussia Town Center will house branches of Davio'sFogo de ChaoHoneygrow and b.good.

Catelli Duo is looking at spring to replace Osteria at Moorestown Mall.

Summer is the guess on Vetri's Amis and Pizzeria Vetri in Devon.

In the fall, chef Michael Symon has an Italian restaurant going into Borgata, which will open a nightclub called Premiere, where Mixx was.

  1. Changes of note

Cisco's, the Flourtown tap known for its cheesesteak hoagies and $1.50 beers, will holler its last call on Friday, Jan. 1 as the family is retiring after 65 years. Circles Thai's original location on Tasker Street in South Philadelphia will give up its dining room New Year's Day as it focuses only on takeout and delivery. Sunday, Jan. 3 is the last day of the Coastline in Cherry Hill. Pizzeria Felici in Horsham's last day is Saturday, Jan. 2 as the owners convert it in late January to a branch of Taqueria Feliz. Last day of Tigers II Family Restaurant in Blue Bell is Sunday, Jan. 3; a developer has other plans for the intersection of Route 202 and Skippack Pike, and Tigers plans to relocate.

Anything else on the horizon? Most assuredly, there is. Follow me at "The Insider" blog or send tips to me here.