Marianne Gere and Kim Strengari, from West Conshohocken's Stella Blu and Gypsy Saloon, have crossed the Schuylkill to open Southern Cross Kitchen, a restaurant-bar on the former site of 8 East at 8 E. First Ave. in Conshohocken (484-344-5668).

The cross does not refer to the Fayette Street bridge or to the constellation; rather, the cuisine is a cross between down-home Southern classics and modern comfort food (jambalaya, fried buttermilk chicken, smothered pork chop, etc.) with dinner entrees between $14 and $28. The dining room is done in pumpkin creams and moody blues. The first-floor dining room seats 40 plus 20 at the bar. The second floor seats 80 for dinner and will also be used for private parties.

Southern Cross Kitchen is the duo's fifth restaurant since the opening of Bryn Mawr's Bella Luna in 2000. West Conshohocken's Stella Blu opened in 2001, Gypsy Saloon in 2004, and Bella Luna Pizza Kitchen in 2008.

Lunch is served seven days a week from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday brunch is 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

What's new

Keven Parker of Ms. Tootsie's on South Street has opened Keven Parker Soul Food Cafe in Reading Terminal Market in the prime spot on the 12th Street side that formerly housed Delilah's, also a soul fooder. Parker has his signature fried chicken, fish, pork ribs, turkey wings, and the like.

Jack Chen and Ben Wang of Spice 28 have changed the name of their new chicken-focused quick-serve at 138 S. 11th St. What was Chick-a-Lic is now known as Chick-a-licious. Specialty is twice-fried chicken bathed in a wide choice of sauces.

Restaurant weeks

Sunday is the launch of Center City District Restaurant Week, which runs till Jan. 25 before picking up from Jan. 27 to Feb. 1.

In Haddon Heights, Anthony's Creative Italian Cuisine, Kunkel's Seafood & Steakhouse, and Elements Cafe will serve three- or four-course special menus for $25 from Jan. 22 to 25.

Ambler's week will run Jan. 20 to 27 and will feature specials from a dozen or so restos. Info:

Destination, Lower Merion

The migration of Center City restaurants to Lower Merion Township has picked up steam. Any day now, Honeygrow - the quick-serve salad/stir fry/smoothie shop now at 16th and Sansom Streets - will open its second location in Bala Cynwyd Shopping Center.

Nick Pashalis, who co-owns the luxe Estia and the casual Pietro's Coal-Oven Pizzeria downtown, said he would fill the barnlike space on Lancaster Avenue in Wynnewood that until very recently was a Buca di Beppo. It previously was a Vinny T's of Boston; old-timers will remember it as the very first Eric movie theater. This project, at least a year out, will divide the space into a Pietro's and a new, more casual Estia offshoot called Estia Taverna. More immediately, Pashalis said, in six months, the Pietro's in Marlton will become an Estia Taverna.

Last year, restaurateurs Michael Solomonov and Steve Cook opened the kosher Citron & Rose in Merion Station and Michael Schulson and Rob Wasserman opened The Saint James in Ardmore.

Awards, which toured 90 local restaurants for its 2013 Philadelphia Rising Stars Awards, will hand out prizes on Feb. 21. Chef winners are Nicholas Elmi of Rittenhouse Tavern, Yun Fuentes of JG Domestic, Chris Kearse of Will, Eli Kulp of Fork, Josh Lawler of the Farm and Fisherman, Greg Vernick of Vernick Food & Drink, and Will Zuchman of Alma de Cuba. Pastry chef winner is Peter Scarola of R2L. Chefs were named in other categories. Sustainability chef is Andrew Wood of Russet. Artisans are Joe Cicala of Le Virtù, Sara May of Franklin Fountain, Davina Soondrum of Shane Confectionery. Concept chef is Jeremy Nolen of Wursthaus Schmitz. Community chef is Kevin Sbraga of Sbraga. Hotel chef is Jonathan Cichon of Lacroix. Restaurateur is Michael Solomonov of Zahav. Sommelier is Brian Kane of Zahav. Mixologist is Al Sotack of Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co.

What's coming

Brendan Hartranft and Leigh Maida - who have worked the outskirts of town with West Philly's Local 44, Kensington's Memphis Taproom, and Grays Ferry's Resurrection Ale House - are heading into Center City. With Local 44 partner Brendan Kelly, they have inked the lease at 216 S. 11th St., which was Doc Watson's for many years and later briefly Blue Bear Tavern, The Boilermaker and The Butcher & The Brewer. Strangelove's is targeted for March.

Briefly noted

Ralic's Steakhouse in Haddonfield, which had a nearly two-year run, will close after dinner Feb. 16, says owner David Ralic. He said that the business was for sale and that any remaining gift cards would be honored at his Philadelphia location, Ralic's on South.

Sheri and Kip Waide have handed over the kitchen of Southwark, their restaurant at Fourth and Bainbridge Streets, to Nick Macri, who has been with the couple for three years. When you see Macri, don't say, "Break a leg." That's what Sheri Waide - the chef half of the locavore restaurant's partnership - did last spring. Macri stepped in and took over. This move just makes it more formal.

Photos, menus, and additional details about these restaurants, plus dining news, can be found at Contact Michael Klein at