The burgeoning residential district around Washington Square needed a stylish, drop-in restaurant-lounge, said Ryan Margolis, and this week saw the opening of
- that's 707 Chestnut St. (215-922-7770), sharing a block with a United Nations of restaurants:
Kibitz in the City
Las Vegas Lounge
This is one of few restaurant projects that came in pretty much on time. Helps that Margolis is partnered with Renee and Don Freeman of Freeman Interiors. The look balances sharp and comfy.
Chef Dan Soley's menu has a collection of apps and small plates (reuben spring rolls, petite hot dog trio), omelets (all day), sandwiches, salads and entrees; priciest is a 12-ounce prime rib for $20.
It's open for dinner nightly. Lunch starts Monday and will run Mondays through Saturdays.
Two corners in Bella Vista sport new coffeeshops.
InFusion Coffee & Tea
just took over a long-vacant storefront at 10th and Carpenter (1001 S. 10th St., 215-413-0504). It's a branch of the popular hangout in Mount Airy; for now, it's open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, though hours will expand with the customer base.
One of the more handsome newcomers is Bean Exchange at Seventh and Bainbridge Streets (650 Bainbridge St., 215-592-1960). Bean Exchange has some history behind it; owner Matt Armstrong, a 15-year Bella Vistan, was a bond trader who used coffee (the commodity) as a hedge. Armstrong roasts his own in small batches. The old-time decor is a nod to Philly's history as a major colonial port. It's open at 6:30 a.m. and posts closing at 10 p.m., though last weekend's warmth kept it open later.
A half-block up Seventh Street from Bean Exchange is Chick's Cafe & Wine Bar (614 S. Seventh St., 215-625-3700), a cozy restoration of a sad-sack corner tap. Bridget Foy's alum Jim Piano and partner Nella Genovese put out an eclectic menu of mainly small-plates (nothing over $16); a meat/cheese assortment is set up to pair with wines. It's open Tuesdays through Sundays from late afternoon on.
Former NFL tackle Barrett Brooks, who played for the Eagles, Detroit Lions, New York Giants, and Pittsburgh Steelers (with whom he won a Super Bowl ring) is the Barrett in
(5920 Green St., 215-848-5096), a soul-food BYOB he opened recently with his wife, Sonji, in the grand Germantown mansion that once housed Ellen Rose. Decor is white with silver accents. Menu is simple and family- friendly (sandwiches and platters, nothing over $18.99). Brooks, who's about 6-foot-5 and well over 300 pounds, says he's known his way around the kitchen since he was a growing lad in St. Louis. Barrett Charles is open from noon to 6 p.m. Wednesdays, noon to 10 p.m. Thursdays, noon to 1 a.m. Fridays, and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays (there's brunch, too).
Restaurant vets Pat O'Donnell, Shamus Matera and Tom Grabe are also making a go of it in Germantown at Urban Cafe (5815 Wayne Ave., 215-844-0296), which has evolved from a quick-serve coffeeshop into a BYOB open from breakfast time through dinner. Nothing fancy: 10 seats downstairs, 14 upstairs. O'Donnell, who's worked at River Cafe, Catfish Cafe and Teresa's, specializes in catfish gumbo and keeps dinner entrees (Southern-influenced American cuisine) under $15.
The vibe is Sud Americano at Mochima Cafe, which replaced Stellar Coffee at 11th and Spruce Streets (1101 Spruce St., 215-923-2113). Owners Ricardo Urbina is Venezuelan and Betty Ortiz is Salvadoran, and manager Kathy Cordero is Puerto Rican. Latin coffee varieties fill the menu, and flan is the featured dessert. It's open weekdays from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., weekends from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
New life at the Venture Inn (255 S. Camac St., 215-545-8731). New owner is Bob Berkowitz, who plans interior renovations. Chef Harlan Russell and his sous chef, Rocco Galiano, both from the Inn Philadelphia, are cooking; specialties include crabcakes, cioppino, and duck breast (price range $10 to $25). It's open nightly, plus Sunday brunch.
, at Front and Federal Streets in Queen Village since the early 1990s, has closed.
Wilmington's City Restaurant Week offers two-course lunches for $15 and three-course dinners for $30 from April 30 through May 5. Info: www.downtownwilmington.com/restaurantweek.
Patrons of Alison at Blue Bell are obliged to order the grits, given what chef-owner Alison Barshak did to get her current supply. She flew to North Carolina on a recent Friday afternoon, drove 31/2 hours to get to the World's Grits Festival in St. George, S.C. Filled six duffel bags - a total of 300 pounds - and got back to Blue Bell in time for dinner Saturday.