The calendar says “November,” so now it’s time to talk turkey. Also this week, Craig LaBan finds a gem in Delco, Philly honors a BBQ legend, and the situation in craft beer scene may not be all that dire. Read on for some restaurant scoop. Waiting for the Royal Tavern’s reopening, are you?
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Where to find a fresh turkey
If you want a fresh turkey for Thanksgiving, now is the time to start shopping. Hira Qureshi and Jenn Ladd offer advice for sourcing a butcher, including halal and kosher options.
Don’t count out the region’s beer scene just yet
There’s been a lot of churn in the local craft-beer world, as we reported last month in an article describing a rash of closings. But all is not bleak. Henry Savage counts nine new breweries, including the forthcoming Two Locals (the city’s first Black-owned brewery) and the new Schuylkill-side location of Human Robot. Since that article was published, Human Robot announced the opening of yet another location, on East Passyunk. Jenn explains how that deal went down.
Critic Craig LaBan finds a gem in Delco
All is fine and dandy in beautiful downtown Ridley Park, where critic Craig LaBan is impressed not only with chef Elijah Milligan’s food, but with owner Philip Breen’s thoughtful oversight — right down to the quarters he puts in the parking meters.
Cheesesteaks meet deepfakes: Here’s warning about AI
Steak-umm, the West Chester maker of frozen slab beef used for steak sandwiches, had its marketing department enlist a panel of vegans and had them eat regular cheesesteaks. Then they put words in their mouths, claiming they love beef. AI, as in artificial intelligence, is a hot topic and this is hot take.
That ‘Blade Runner’ ramen diner I told you about
Center City’s late-night dining scene is getting a boost with Thursday’s opening of Chika, a ramen bar with a “Blade Runner” theme and diner vibe. It’s underground at 1526 Sansom St., and you’ll cross the line of revelers lined up on the sidewalk for neighboring Ladder 15 to get there. Outstanding ramen and rolls, and drinks. Shown above is the big booth under the front window, the best seat in the house.
November is traditionally high season for restaurant openings as owners seek to snag the lucrative fourth-quarter business. A few projects are hurtling toward opening day. Keep eyes out for:
The Royal Tavern (937 E. Passyunk Ave.) should be soft-reopening in a week or so after its pandemic slumber. Grand reopening is tagged for Dec. 1.
SIN (as in SIN Steak Italian Nightlife), billed as “vibe dining.” It will open soon at The Beverly (1102 Germantown Ave.), across from the Piazza in Northern Liberties.
48 Record Bar, a listening room and bar, is taking shape on the second floor of the Old City landmark Sassafras (48 S. Second St.). Donal McCoy and creative director Joey Sweeney, with an ultra-high-fidelity vinyl sound system, are taking cues from Japan and London’s audiophile bars and record-collecting culture. They’ll do special-guest selectors, album/cocktail pairings, record release parties, a Hi-Fi Tea, and live performances, Sixteen signature cocktails, bottled beer, wines, and small plates from executive chef Max Stewart.
Monterey Prime American Grill, due to open Nov. 14 inside the Aloft Hotel at 558 Fellowship Rd. in Mount Laurel, will be the latest and poshest restaurant from Dave Magrogan, who has eight Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar locations.
Almyra (formerly billed as Anthos) will be the new modern Greek seafood restaurant from the Estia Group, opening this fall at 17th and Chancellor Streets. (It’s the former site of Little Pete’s, subsumed to create the Hyatt Centric Hotel.) The Pashalis family is aiming for a light and breezy open-concept dining room, 45-seat marble-top bar, a 200-seat dining room, open kitchen, and 30-seat semi-private dining space, and late-night bar scene. I also hear there will be a chandelier in the center of the bar featuring 177 handmade glass flowers.
Essen Bakery’s Kensington branch (110 W. Berks St.) is getting closer. Meanwhile, its flagship at 1437 E. Passyunk Ave., which stopped serving customers inside in March 2020 and has been operating only as a pickup window, has reopened its indoor dining. Major reno means two tables and a four-seat counter. The pickup window is no longer active.
Liberty Kitchen’s second location will operate out of the kitchen of the forthcoming Two Locals Brewing Co. at 37th and Market Streets. The project is targeting late 2023.
Looking further ahead, I’ll share first word of a few projects: Satay Bistro, an Indonesian BYOB, will come to the former Bufad space at 13th and Spring Garden Streets perhaps in December. More Than Q, the popular Lambertville, N.J., pit stop, aims to open in mid-2024 on the outskirts of New Hope. There will be a fourth Pennsylvania location for MaGerk’s, as it’s applying for a liquor license in Summit Square Shopping Center in Newtown, Bucks County.
The luxe 9 Prime is now looking at a January debut at 9 N. High St. in West Chester.
Dan and Chelsea Katz of Jenkintown’s West Avenue Grill and Pizza Wheel have taken over the former Bernie’s in Glenside with The Highland Restaurant & Bar, featuring live music, cocktail list, hopping bar (separated cleanly from the dining room with an indoor fireplace), outdoor seating with firepits, and a something-for-everything menu. Want proof that this part of Eastern Montgomery County craves casual dining? Lines have been long in its first two weeks. Chef Joe Ianuzzi, an alum of the Willian Penn Inn, hits the basics and adds a few more upmarket plates, such as airline chicken ($27, with haricots verts and cauliflower mash) and bone-in pork chop ($32, with apple chutney, fingerling potatoes, and broccolini). It’s open for brunch, lunch, dinner, and late night.
Highland Restaurant & Bar, 391 Highland Ave., Glenside. Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
The Central Montgomery County landmark Mainland Inn in Harleysville has been revived after six years under new owners and with a new name, The Mallard at the Mainland Inn. Owners are Manuel and Cindy Jiménez, who own the similarly polished La Provence in Ambler, and their daughter Jessica Jiménez Ahmed and her husband, Ahmed Ahmed. The 19th-century stone inn, just off the Lansdale interchange of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, looks elegant in its Dutch Colonial white-tablecloth setting, with a cool downstairs bar and cocktails on the patio. Chef Greg Vassos, formerly of Brick Farm Tavern in Hopewell, N.J., offers a globally inspired menu including duck breast, roasted rack of lamb, and Quarry Hill beef tenderloin, augmented by an extensive wine cellar.
Mallard Restaurant at the Mainland Inn, 17 Mainland Rd., Harleysville. Hours: 5-10 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday and Sunday, 5 p.m. till late Friday and Saturday. La Bodega, the downstairs bar, opens at 4 p.m.
Ron Washington, the late founder of South Street landmark Ron’s Ribs, will be remembered at 11 a.m. Friday with the ceremonial street renaming of the 1600 block of South Street as Ronald K. Washington Way. Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson will host at 16th and South Streets. In 1984, Washington bought the building at 1627 South St., which was Bea Bea’s Lawnside BBQ. After being denied a loan to turn it into apartments, he decided to keep the business alive and opened Ron’s Ribs in 1984. He died in 2002, and a brother ran it till its closing in 2010. During the pandemic, his son Brandon revived the sauce recipe back to life and began marketing it on social media.
Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham will visit Hope’s Cookies (1125 E. Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr) from 7-9 p.m. Friday to scoop ice cream, sell cookies, sign special T-shirts, and pose for photos. Proceeds from the evening will benefit Philabundance.
Catch vegan chef Christina Pirello this Sunday at the American Vegan Center (17 N. Second St.) for a 2 p.m. cooking class, “Celebrating Winter and the Holi-daze.” Demos will include winter squash risotto, shaved Brussels sprouts salad, and maple pistachio Bundt cake. Tickets are $25 in-person, $20 for Zoom) at the AVC’s website. Note that in-person attendees will get samples. You’re on your own if viewing remotely.
Two closings of note are coming up: Lil Pop Shop and Weckerly’s, shutting down in December after 11 years.
Chicken chain PDQ has shuttered its Sicklerville and Cherry Hill locations. Marlton remains, suggesting it was higher in the pecking order.
The Chef Conference, which has drawn high-profile chefs and food journalists to Philadelphia for an annual meeting for 10 years, has split from its host, Drexel University. Jenn reports that founder Mike Troud has enlisted Visit Philadelphia and Resy as sponsors, and it will come back in 2024 with new programming.
In a Halloween tribute, Mish Mish restaurant was transformed into a club based on a TV show. What was it?
A) SUR, the lounge at the epicenter of Vanderpump Rules
B) The Regal Beagle, the fern bar from Three’s Company
C) Arnold’s, the drive-in from Happy Days
D) The Max, the eatery from Saved by the Bell
Think you know? Here’s the answer, with lots of photos.
Ask Mike anything
What do you do with leftover Halloween candy? — A reader
Leftover candy?? You must be joking — unless you’re talking about candy corn, circus peanuts, or licorice, three of nastiest uses of sugar ever devised.
If you’re serious about leftovers, I’ll refer you to an informative article from 2018 that includes ideas for recipes (Candy Crunch Bars!) as well as info about charities that would happily take it off your hands.
Tomb it may concern: If you spotted this funereal Halloween tableau along the 2000 block of Lombard Street, here’s the explanation. Rather than use the names of unalive people on decorative gravestones (made out of cereal boxes), Dave and Sarah Torok decided to memorialize six shuttered restaurants — Lou Bird’s, Bankroll, Diner on the Square, Tangier, L2, and Chaucer’s. The duck special at L2, which stood at 22nd and South Streets (now a Starbucks) from 1998 till 2014, made it one of their favorite haunts.
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Thanks for reading. And if you came out Monday to the Fitler Club for our event celebrating the publication of the 2023 Inquirer Dining Guide, it was a pleasure to meet you in person.