Here is an excerpt from Craig LaBan's online chat of Dec. 10, 2013:
Craig LaBan: Today we also have a special guest in the chat room, Mr. Insider himself, Michael Klein. I've worked with Michael for more than 15 years now and rare is the occasion when I've come across a new restaurant he didn't already know about. Few are as well placed to comment on local restaurant trends and the backstories behind the comings and goings of Philly chefs. So, ask away.
Reader: What's the latest at 400 S. Second Street?
Michael Klein: I spoke to the building owner, who insists that they're fixing up the place hoping to get a new occupant. I keep hearing that a Philly chef with an interesting track record is part of a group teed up to run it.
C.L.: A lot of people don't have a clue how you do your job. But you're incredibly prolific. How many times a week do post on philly.com?
M.K.: I try to post 15 items a week - mostly news. I stay away from the promotions on my blog.
C.L.: How big is that contact list of yours now? And what are some of the most unusual sources you turn to for insider info?
M.K.: Well, I used to have an Inquirer column called INQlings that really boosted my contact list. Right now, I have 6,563 of 'em. I save every number. Unusual sources? I think none are truly odd, unless you count real estate brokers odd.
Reader: Michael-How much of a hurdle is the PA LCB for restaurants if they want a liquor license? In one sense, Philly should be grateful for the abundance of BYOB options that we have. Is it ever that a restaurateur would prefer a BYOB establishment for their customers? Does the cost ever become too much for a license? Timing to get a license? Should we just be glad for what the LCB has done for the BYOB culture?
M.K.: As long as the neighbors don't present a strong case, licenses typically get approved. I frankly think that BYOBs are not as popular to open as they were a few years ago. The BYOB route may be great for the customer but they are not as profitable.
Reader: Michael, have you heard anything about the Scarduzio place supposedly taking the place of Artisan Boulanger at 12th and Morris? Been a long time of no progress.
M.K.: Chris Scarduzio has put the East Passyunk bistro project on the back burner while he gets Avance open (1523 Walnut, opening Friday), but he told me the other day that it is still on for spring/summer. Remember, the building needs major repairs.
Reader: Michael - there was an article a while ago that talked about the political/ cutthroat/ nature of the crowded food-reporter scene in Philadelphia. What is your relationship with the folks from foobooz, Eater, etc.?
C.L.: Great question! I also imagine that with the 24/7 news cycle, the pressure must be tremendous to be first to post.
M.K.: I think the relationship among the food journos is professional and courteous enough. There's room for everyone, though there is an awful lot of duplication of info. I of course confirm info. Whether the restaurants opens . . . Well, no one can control that.
Reader: Are the Eataly rumors real?
M.K.: Eataly in Philly is very real. I suspect that Joe Bastianich spoke out of turn when he said Philly was the next town. Quite possibly, they are holding out for a better offer for the 8th and Market St. location before pulling the trigger.