Here is an excerpt from Craig LaBan's online chat:
I've seen a lot of boom times in the last few years on the local restaurant scene. But rarely have I seen as many promising new openings as this last month. Just following Michael Klein's "Insider" column has made me very hungry, looking forward to some review meals a couple months down the road. The Love, Royal Boucherie, Suraya, and now Oloroso, Townsend Wentz's new Spanish place in the former Petruce space, are all very promising. And the new Yards Brewery on Spring Garden with chef Jim Burke in the kitchen.
One of the most interesting things I ate all week was not from a new restaurant but an old favorite: falafel infused with beet. Yup. This was on the meze feast that my extended family dug into during a Friday night meal at Kanella Grill.
There's a lot of good falafel in town these days, and certainly a lot of good hummus, which a lot of chefs are trying to play with by adding flavors and crazy garnishes. This is the first time I've had my falafel tinted crimson, though, and the beet's added sweetness really sat well with the earthiness of the fritter.
We've done a lot of big family events at Kanella Grill because 1) it's always delicious, and 2) that $35 per person meze meal is really such a great value. Hard to beat for the quality in Center City. I'm due for a return to its more upscale sibling on Front Street, Kanella South.
Reader: Old Kanella was a fave, haven't yet made it to new location.
C.L.: Well, it can get confusing. The "old" Kanella space (at 10th and Spruce) is actually the newest project, revived late last year as a simple Cypriot kebab house called Kanella Grill. Chef Konstantinos invested in a big wood-fired upgrade for his original concept to Front Street for Kanella South in 2015. I quite loved this restaurant, as it won a restaurant of the year award from me in 2015. But I fear that its off-center location keeps it a bit too much out of mind and off the radar of many diners to let it thrive as much as it should. Deserves a revisit, for sure.
Reader: Thoughts on 333 Belrose? Only good experience and love the Java pork.
C.L.: Well, I'm glad to hear a good word on 333 Belrose - it's a real survivor on the Main Line. Unfortunately, it's been way too long since I've revisited. Hoped to do that during my big suburban roundup but ran out of time. I always thought of it, though, as a very good option for stylish New American cooking. Will have to get back and try the Java pork. Sounds great.
And speaking of the suburbs, I've discovered one more worthy entry for my suburban food guide. We were in Broomall not long ago for a sporting event and came across a really excellent, genuine bagel shop called the Original Bagel. Turns out these bagels taste like those from Manhattan because the owner, Mike Liebowitz, is a fifth-generation bagel maker whose dad founded the NY Bagel shop on City Avenue before selling it many years ago.
Apparently, a sixth-generation Liebowitz is boiling and baking these properly chewy bagels already, so that's a pretty inspiring family story to see this kind of artisan food tradition carried on with such a commitment to quality. Suffice it to say we were the most popular family at the ultimate Frisbee tournament.