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More than just coffee from Vernick | Let’s Eat

Chef Greg Vernick joins the Four Seasons in a cafe at the new Comcast Technology Center.

Vernick Coffee Bar, viewed toward Arch Street Presbyterian Church on the Comcast Technology Center's 18th Street side.
Vernick Coffee Bar, viewed toward Arch Street Presbyterian Church on the Comcast Technology Center's 18th Street side.Read moreMICHAEL KLEIN / Staff

Six years after opening his hit restaurant on Walnut Street, chef Greg Vernick has a more casual breakfast-and-lunch spot teed up to go at the new Comcast Technology Center. Also this week, I check out Amis' sultry new branch on the Main Line, head to the Italian Market for Mexican comida, and find a superb happy-hour deal in Center City. If you need food news, click here and follow me on Twitter and Instagram. Email your tips, suggestions, and questions here. If someone forwarded you this newsletter and you like what you're reading, sign up here to get it free every week.

— Michael Klein

If you can't snag a dinner reservation at Vernick Food & Drink — it and Zahav are the toughest tables in the city — you may have a chance at Vernick Coffee Bar, opening to the public Thursday, Oct. 18 in the spanking new Comcast Technology Center. (On the 18th Street side, just south of Arch, take the escalator up to 2.)

"Coffee bar" is only part of the story. You can grab coffee, pastry, or a sandwich at breakfast and lunch weekdays at the spaceshiplike counter, and hang at a communal table. Next door, though, is a cozy-though-dramatic dining room for full-service dining in a winter-garden setting.

Greg Vernick and his team from Vernick oversee the operation with the Four Seasons Hotel, opening next year on the 19th Street side. Vernick himself has Vernick Fish, another restaurant, under construction on the ground floor,  while chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten has a Jean-Georges restaurant destined for the 59th floor and a lounge called Sky High for the 60th floor, both part of the Four Seasons.

Want to see some beautiful food? I also run down the details here.

This week’s openings

Real Food Eatery | Wynnefield/City Ave.

The third location of this health-conscious fast-casual eatery is next to the City Line Target at 4040 City Ave.

Sergeant York | Kensington

Father-son David and Jacob Cohen, who owned Jake & Oliver's House of Brews in Old City eons ago, have surfaced in Kensington with a Brooklyn-inspired bar at 2327 E. York St. It's open now; grand opening is Friday, Oct. 19.

South Philly Smokhaus | South Philadelphia

BBQ comes to the Bok Building (821 Dudley St.), next to the new Passio Prime butcher counter.

Stickman Brews | Chester Springs

The western suburbs brewery has set up a satellite at 861 Kimberton Rd.

Thanal Indian Tavern | Logan Square

Stylish Indian bar/restaurant soft-opens this weekend at 20th and Arch Streets.

Thirsty Dice | Spring Garden/Fairmount

Philly's first board-game cafe opens Friday, Oct. 19 (tentative) at 17th Street and Fairmount Avenue.

Two Eagles Cafe | Point Breeze

An Albanian-born couple offers American breakfasts and lunches with a taste of their homeland at 20th and Reed Streets.

Vernick Coffee Bar | Logan Square

See above.

This week’s closings

Pure Fare | Rittenhouse

The healthful-food eatery on 21st Street near Sansom has a sign reading "closed for maintenance."

Tinto (temporary) | Rittenhouse

The Spanish destination on 20th Street near Sansom is closed through Oct. 30 as it's been rented out for a movie production that may or may not include Chadwick Boseman and Sienna Miller in the cast.

Where we’re enjoying happy hour

Cooperage, 123 S. Seventh St., 4-7 p.m. weekdays

Ask anyone who's been to a wedding at such places as the Downtown Club, Vie, Tendenza, or Cescaphe and you know caterer Joe Volpe's food is That Good. His crew runs the cozy Cooperage on the Seventh Street side of the Curtis Center, across from Jewelers Row, and the happy hour deals pack 'em in. You're looking for teeny-tiny bites? Look elsewhere. The $5 snack menu includes fries generously topped with steak and Whiz, plus fish tacos accompanied by salad. Add the $4 beer specials, $5 wines, and $6 well-drinks, and it's a gem.

Where we’re eating

Amis138 W. Lancaster Ave., Devon.

Tucked off Lancaster Avenue and bordered by lush landscaping, the new Main Line branch of the Center City Italian trattoria Amis fits snugly into Urban Outfitters' Devon Yard complex (which includes Terrain Gardens, Terrain Cafe, and Anthropologie) next door to Devon Horse Show.

You can order lavishly or choose a few small plates to share. Chefs Brad Spence and Kristina Wisneski imported much of 13th Street's tastiness, including house-made pastas and Sal Vetri's signature meatballs, and added 12-inch pizzettes that are topped after they're baked. Bar has it all. The industrial look of 13th Street carries through, though this incarnation is bright and energetic.

Especially on weekends, that energy is acoustically apparent: No matter if you're in the dining room or the detached barroom, the high ceilings, concrete floors, and copious amounts of metal and glass put the din in dinner; it's best to sit outside or try for the chef's counter and put it all behind you, as it were.

Open Friday-Sunday for brunch, nightly for dinner.

Taquitos de Puebla III, 1201 S. Ninth St.

You're in South Philadelphia and some friend insists upon a cheesesteak from Pat's or Geno's, while all your Philly native self wants to do is eat something else, anything else: The Italian Market area brims with solid Mexican taquerias, as you can see in critic Craig LaBan's guide. There's also the nationally known South Philly Barbacoa, which moved to Ninth and Ellsworth two months ago.

But around Cheesesteakville, my go-to is Taquitos de Puebla, a tidy window-lined storefront at the corner of Ninth and Federal. It's not only the real deal, it's less than 200 feet from Geno's window. You can't go wrong with the cemitas (Puebla-style tortas), tacos, or burritos, with a massive $5 cup of horchata made from scratch. Spanish comes in handy, though kindly staff will work you through any communications snags.

Another plus: You may run into karaoke. Hours are 9 a.m. to midnight.

Dining Notes

Are Buddakan and Parc still good? Craig LaBan looks at Stephen Starr's legacy through his two biggest hits. (Read closely — lots of bells change in this review.)

Fair Food, a nonprofit that had a stand at Reading Terminal Market, closed in April. Farmers say they're still owed thousands.

Pumpkin beers, porters, strong pale ales, and other robust options are taking over taps around the city. Here are 10 to try.

Craig LaBan is on assignment. His Q&A will resume upon his return. Meanwhile, another edition of his Ultimate Dining guide will be released Thursday, Oct. 18. The theme is Philadelphia's classic restaurants. A copy will be included with every home-delivered paper. If you're a single-copy buyer, pick up your own copy by ordering it online.