A Chinese-Mongolian hot pot restaurant in Chinatown, where the soup ingredients are delivered to the table via a refrigerated conveyor belt (or, a for hot foods, by way of a small mag-lev train). A plush seafood-steak house chain in King of Prussia. An all-day cafe in Center City owned by one of the region's largest bakeries. And a mammoth South Philadelphia-style Italian restaurant in Rittenhouse co-owned (coincidentally) by one of the region's best-known bakery families.
By my count, the region's restaurant scene will tack on at least 15 significant newcomers in the next 90 or so days, continuing a surge that has helped define the roaring economy. Recent closings have been few, as only the most dire circumstances create a failure in the traditionally busy fourth quarter.
In rough order of expected opening:
The Korean mainstay from Olney adds a downtown branch at Center City One (1326 Spruce St.), which starts a soft-opening period, with an abbreviated menu, on Oct. 25. Chris Cho, 33, son of the founder, is offering a roomy sushi bar and table service. There's no tabletop BBQ grilling here — Cho does it all in the back.
There's a liquor license, though Cho says the idea of a bar is not part of his plan. "When we talked about coming into the city, people were like, 'You should have cocktails,'" he said. "But there are so many [cocktail] options nearby. If they want a really great cocktail, they can go to Valanni or somewhere." Beer and soju will be the alcohol of choice at Seorabol.
Seorabol — also rendered as Seo Ra Bol and pronounced "sue rah boll" — opened in a strip mall at Second and Grange Streets in 2001 under Chris' father, Kye Cheol Cho, who from 1994 to 2000 owned Sam Won Garden at Castor Avenue and Magee Street in Northeast Philadelphia.
Initial hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
Oct. 31 is the public roll-out of Classic Cake Co., an all-day cafe and bake shop from the Cherry Hill bakery giant in a sprawling space at 1617 JFK Blvd., upstairs from Suburban Station. Owner Barry Kratchman and pastry chef Robert Bennett (who spent 14 years with Georges Perrier at Le Bec-Fin) will run a 40-seat restaurant open from breakfast time through dinner with a cafe menu and will offer takeout and a stand-up coffee bar, plus gelato, chocolate, and candymaking.
Nov. 1 should see the debut of this BYOB to open at 141 Kings Highway East, the former home of Little Tuna before its migration to Lindenwold. Vera Çorja Bodi and Afrim Bodi, who emigrated from Albania in 2012 with sons Erjon and Endrit (who will run the day to day), are working with chef Artur Haxhiu, who trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Athens. It will be open daily for lunch and dinner.
Nov. 2 is the expected debut of Keep, a gracious, upscale (but not white-tablecloth) American BYOB with a seasonal menu from chef Mike Jenkins (a Di Bruno's cheesemonger-turned-Garces executive chef) and Melody Lauletta (who, after managing with the Garces organization, helped Nick Elmi open ITV on East Passyunk). They've taken the longtime Mirna's Cafe at 417 Old York Rd. in Jenkintown.
Nov. 2 is the firm launch of Eddie V's Prime Seafood, a Darden-owned seafood/steak spot on Dekalb Pike aross from Bloomingdale's, on the outskirts of King of Prussia Mall. Its bar has a 300-bottle wine list and a lounge offers live jazz. Does KoP need another high-end destination? The region's growth has been explosive; a year ago, I counted 4,000 more restaurant seats added in the previous 18 months. That number has climbed.
More than a year in the works, this locally created, nationally syndicated Chinese-Mongolian hot pot specialist, owned by friends all under age 25, is coming to 146 N. 10th St. in Chinatown. It could open to the public as soon as Nov. 3, said one of the partners, David Zhao.
The restaurant is high-tech all the way. Ordering is done at the table via iPad. A refrigerated conveyor belt runs down the middle. Customers can pluck chilled ingredients for their soups, which they make on the tabletop. The conveyor belt is also topped by a rail upon which a mag-lev train runs to shuttle hot food from the kitchen to the table. There will be waiters.
This is where to get a fix of Wagyu beef imported from Japan. Not only will various cuts of the beef be available for the hot pot, it can be ordered as tataki, as the tartare-like yukke, and even as nigiri. A counter at the front of the restaurant will sell "gift boxes" of Wagyu to take home.
Chef Chatayee "Venus" Kapugthong is looking at early November for the soft opening of a plush Thai bar-restaurant at 1227 Walnut St. Most notably, the space had been Portofino. (She managed its last incarnation, Cibo, before deciding to take the stove.) Expect traditional art imported from Thailand and a menu of both familiar and hard-to-find dishes.
Longtime Fergie's bartender Niall Murphy is going industrial with his new bar-restaurant, Sutton's, due to open Nov. 9 at 1706 N. Fifth St. in Kensington, just a few steps from St. Benjamin Brewing Co.
At Giuseppe & Sons, the Termini family of South Philly pastry fame, in a partnership with Michael Schulson and Nina Tinari (Harp & Crown, Sampan, Double Knot, etc.), are looking at mid-November for their South Philly-style trattoria whose homespun food is reminiscent of patriarch Vince Termini's side project, Mr. Joe's Cafe.
Ground floor will be a daytime luncheonette where patrons can order chicken parm, veal parm, meatball sandwiches, roast pork, salads, and Termini desserts at the counter; there will be a full bar with drinks and coffee. Downstairs, accessed via a dramatic staircase, will be the dinner house — an old-school Italian restaurant with plaster walls, white carrera marble, black and white tiles, and touches of brass.
At Hops, the company that runs the Bernie's Pubs is remodeling the shuttered Brewerytown Taproom, at 31st and Master Streets in Brewerytown. Mid-November is the target.
I'm hearing sometime in November for Hikori, a specialist in Japanese omakase from chef Hikori Fujiyama, behind Wm. Mulherin's Sons in Fishtown.
Chef Bobby Saritsoglou and Christina Kallas-Saritsoglou go the brick-oven pizza/Mediterranean route at 1705 Snyder Ave.; due in late November-early December.
Dec. 15 is the new projected opening of aether, a seafooder with a serious wine list from the creative team behind Mistral (Princeton and King of Prussia) and Elements (Princeton), at 1832 Frankford Ave. in Fishtown.
Chad Rosenthal's Ambler BBQ restaurant is looking at a late-December opening at 990 Spring Garden St., next to Roy-Pitz.
Michael Schulson's steakhouse at 118 S. 13th St., next to his Double Knot, should open for booked events in December; a la carte service should begin in January.
Early 2019 is the target for Pelicana, a branch of a chain of Korean fried chicken shops. It's going into the basement at 4002-4004 Spruce St. in West Philadelphia.
Early 2019 could be realistic for Bryn & Dane's, the healthful fast-casual smoothie/bowl/chicken specialist, going into the Franklin on the 800 block of Chestnut Street.
Father-daughter combo John and Jennifer Choi, riding high with a seasonal Korean fast-casual shop called Crunchik'n in Ocean City specializing in Korean fried chicken, are headed to Washington Square West for their second location. Crunchik'n is taking 212 S. 11th St., most recently Ugly Duckling, will much of the same menu — but with one addition: oven-baked (not fried) Korean-style chicken to add a more healthful side to the menu.
They're hoping for a January opening, after a semipublic test sessions in December. Interesting backgrounds, which I'll tell you about in coming weeks: He's an inveterate cook and theology professor in Korea who shuttled between the university and the family home in central Jersey, while she is a grad (bachelor's and master's) of Johns Hopkins in public health.
January is looking realistic for Winkel, a bruncherie by Joncarl Lachman at 1119 Locust St., the former More Than Just Ice Cream.
At Crybaby Wine & Pasta Bar, restaurateurs Bridget Foy and husband Paul Rodriguez, awaiting the reconstruction of their fire-ravaged Bridget Foy's restaurant at Second and South Streets, are partnered with David Gilberg and Carla Gonçalves — the husband-and-wife team that ran Koo Zee Doo, the critically acclaimed but now shuttered Northern Liberties Portuguese BYOB — on this neighborhood-friendly restaurant at Third and Bainbridge Streets in Queen Village. The location is now Ela, which closes for good Nov. 3. They're saying January.