Culinary Institute of America grad Gregory Vernick, who spent most of his career in the Jean-Georges Vongerichten orbit opening his restaurants around the world, has come home to do the same for himself. With his wife, Julie, the Cherry Hill native opened Vernick Food & Drink (2031 Walnut St., 267-639-6644), in a bi-level brownstone.
Food is simple and easy to understand. "If there are three ingredients listed on the menu, that's what's in it," he says. It's dinner only for now; see menu at www.philly.com/vernick.
The atmosphere is one of unfussy comfort, as it is modeled on Euro cafes. Large windows open out onto Walnut Street. A 10-seat bar made of slate with stained concrete top and high-top cocktail tables gives way to an intimate back dining room with partially exposed brick walls and a seven-seat chef's counter. Up a new staircase — where a huge print from the long-ago Spruce Street restaurant the Garden hangs — is the main dining room, which has floor-to-ceiling windows and photos from the couple's travels.
He has imported his friends: college buddy Ryan Mulholland, last at Eastern Standard in Boston, is general manager. David Feola, whom Vernick hired at Toqueville, is his sous chef. Vincent Stipo, last at Deauxave in Boston, is running the bar.
Bistro St. Tropez chef/owner Patrice Rames has just opened the weekday-only Le Petit Cafe on the first floor of the Marketplace Design Center (2400 Market St.) to sell quick breakfast and lunch options including salads, soups, croissants, and sandwiches. It's open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Nina's Waffles is dispensing hot Belgian waffles and Bucks County's Owowcow ice cream from a storefront at 31 W. Mechanic St. (215-862-1660) in New Hope. Owner Louis Zanias was born in Greece and grew up in Belgium.
As the Latham Hotel reopens at 17th and Walnut Streets, it was the setting for the Colin Farrell-Terrence Howard mob thriller Dead Man Down. The hotel's restaurant, an Italian wine bar Urban Enoteca, will open Thursday. Chef Dan Orvis' dinner menu is mainly small plates (top-priced entrée is a pappardelle with braised short rib ragu for $25) See breakfast and dinner menus at www.philly.com/urbanenoteca.
The Hotel Monaco, which Kimpton is putting up at Fifth and Chestnut Streets across from Independence Mall, will have a ground-floor spot called Red Owl Tavern (plus chef's table, mezzanine seating, and outdoor seating on Fifth Street, as well as a 300-seat rooftop deck. Opening is targeted for September.
In Riva — Art Cavaliere's Italian under the Twin Bridges in East Falls — starts Tuesday-to-Friday lunch service on May 15.
If you have a one-track mind: The Station House (600 Station Ave. in Haddon Heights) will celebrate National Train Day on Saturday with breakfast and lunch specials taken from the Original Pennsylvania Railroad Dining Car Recipe Book.
More details, menus, and photos can be found on "The Insider," my dining blog at philly.com/Food. See the openings on my interactive map at philly.com/mikesmap.