The Great Recession lingers on, but restaurants are opening in Philly at a brisk clip, with restaurateurs announcing new projects every week. We checked in with notable chefs and operators to determine which upcoming restaurants should be on your radar. Last year’s new restaurants trended toward high-end pizza and the deification of the burger; this year, casual is still king. Lower price points, gastropubs and Germans (gardens, sausages and beers) are hot, as are shareable plates, restaurants on wheels, and a surprising new dining frontier: Fishtown.
Piazza at Schmidts, 1050 North Hancock Street, Northern Liberties, 215-925-9500, speckfoodandwine.com
The Player: Shola Olunloyo, private chef.
The Concept: A casual spot serving sharable plates of what Olunloyo calls “interesting, delicious food,” priced under $24, plus 15 wines by the glass and specialty cocktails.
The Food: Expect to see items like tomato-almond gazpacho with peekytoe crab and shiso in warm weather. When temperatures cool down, dishes like potato short rib terrine with poached egg, trumpet mushrooms and curry-leaf jus will take center stage.
The Space: Clean and modern, incorporating ebony paneling and gray fabrics, with a focus on the open kitchen. Floor-to-ceiling windows face outdoor seating on the Piazza.
Our Take: Expect extreme opinions from feverish foodies who follow the chef’s StudioKitchen blog. Shola inspires debate.
The ETA: Early August*
Left Bank, 3131 Walnut Street, University City, 215-222-2422, bibawinebar.com
The Players: Jon Myerow and Michael McCaulley, -owners of Tria.
The Concept: Myerow calls this 32-seat wine bar “an antidote to stressful civilization, where you hang out and drink wine”—and talk to your fellow humans. There’s no TV, wi-fi or other technological distraction.
The Food: Twelve cheeses; a rotating selection of chocolates from Éclat and Betty’s Speakeasy; a limited menu of snacks; 26 wines by the glass, priced at $10 and under; 10 beers (nine bottles and one cask ale).
The Space: The Brett Webber Architects-designed interior has walls, bars and tables made with redwood reclaimed from Philly water towers. A custom-built outdoor patio seats 12.
Our Take: Despite its no-man’s-land location, it’ll be crowded, and you’ll be miffed there isn’t one in your neighborhood.
The ETA: August
110 South 13th Street, Midtown Village, 215-546-9300, barbuzzo.com
The Players: Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran, owners of BYOs Lolita and Bindi, Grocery gourmet market, Marcie Blaine Artisanal Chocolates, and home stores Verde and Open House.
The Concept: A 68-seat restaurant with an open kitchen and a full-service bar—a first for the duo—serving shareable plates inspired by the cuisines of Italy, France, Spain and Portugal. Dishes will max out at $20.
The Food: Chef/owner Turney will make charcuterie and pastas in-house (like tagliatelle with braised pork, favas and pig cracklings). There’s a wood-burning oven for Neapolitan pizzas topped with house-made fior di latte (Turney attended the U.S.’s only training program sanctioned by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, the final word on Neapolitan pizza); it will also be used to roast meats and vegetables. Wines will be from small European producers, and the chef (who created Lolita’s killer margarita mixers) is whipping up specialty cocktails.
The Space: Designed by Safran and Turney, the rustic space (pictured, opposite page) is paneled with recycled Lancaster barn wood interspersed with whitewashed exposed brick. Tabletops are cut from wood reclaimed from the foundation of a Manayunk dam, and seating is a mix of repurposed church pews and bistro chairs. Wine-barrel light fixtures hang over the gray marble bar, while glass doors open out to the street.
Our Take: How they do it all—five businesses on the same block!—we have no idea, but we’re always impressed with the results. We predict a slam-dunk.
The ETA: End of August
Cira Centre, 2929 Arch Street, West Philly, 215-222-2363, serafinarestaurant.com
The Players: New York restaurateurs Vittorio Assaf and Fabio Granato.
The Concept: A Philly branch of this celeb-tastic New York Italian mini-chain. “We’re bringing something truly authentic and New York to Philly,” says Serafina development director Caroline McBride.
The Food: Italian, with wood-fired pizzas, plus a takeout breakfast bakery.
The Space: A 5,700-square-foot space in the heart of Rittenhouse, with an elevated bar on the first floor, room for 100 diners, private dining on the second floor, and plans for sidewalk seating.
Our Take: Look out, Rouge and Parc; these New Yorkers are aiming to swipe your see-and-be-seen status. Philly doesn’t generally cotton to anything “truly authentic” from up the Turnpike, but if the pizza is good, we’ll take it.
The ETA: October
— Il Pittore
627 South 3rd Street, Queen Village, starr-restaurant.com
The Players: Stephen Starr and chef Chris Painter.
The Concept: A “neighborhood Italian” restaurant cheffed by Painter, culinary director for Starr Restaurants.
The Food: Painter plans a small menu focusing on Italian cuisine “from Rome north.”
The Space: Starr, who is designing the place himself, says he doesn’t plan to do much to the former Ansill decor. Expect “understated and un-designed,” with exposed beams and brick and a new fireplace.
Our Take: If anyone can break the 3rd Street jinx (RIP, Ansill, Gayle), it’s Starr.
The ETA: October
Follow @garcesgroup on Twitter for the truck’s schedule. To book a special event, call 215-625-2920.
The Players: Jose Garces’s first business partnership with his go-to designer, Jun Aizaki.
The Concept: A “totally fun” roving food truck that will make late-night stops (and TBD daytime ones) at locations that have what Garces calls “critical mass.” Want Garces’s taco truck at your wedding? It can be hired out for special events.
The Food: An ode to Mexican street fare, serving tacos, including tongue and headcheese versions, and other, less exotic tasties, like tostadas and grilled corn.
The Space: Aizaki is creating an eye-popping mosaic using 40,000 bottle caps on the exterior of the 20-year-old truck. “It’s meant to be a head-turner,” says Garces.
Our Take: The only thing that could possibly slow down Jose-on-Wheels is the City of Philadelphia (or is it the PPA?) and its stringent parking regulations for food trucks.
The ETA: October
— Frohman’s Wursthaus
208 South 13th Street, Midtown Village, grg-mgmt.com
The Player: Jose Garces.
The Concept: “Beer and brats” spot with a wood-burning grill and a takeout window. The name is a tongue-in-cheek reference to Abe Froman, the mythical “sausage king of Chicago,” from the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
The Food: Sure, it’s cased meat and cans of brew, except it’s Jose Garces’s take on them, so the beer is crafty and local, and the sausages are house-made and international: Italian, Polish, German, Thai, Indian, Japanese and vegetarian versions will appear on the menu, plus a Chicago-style hot dog. And fries—Garces plans “a big frites section where you can load up on toppings.”
Our Take: A takeout window will help alleviate Village Whiskey-style waits/-rejection, but may end up becoming a long line of its own.
The ETA: Early November
— Unnamed pub
122 South 18th Street, -Rittenhouse, starr-restaurant.com
The Player: Stephen Starr.
The Concept: English pub fare, but this is a Stephen Starr production, so don’t expect greasy fish and chips. He’s inspired by (and is negotiating a partnership with the owners of) clubby New York resto-bar the Spotted Pig.
The Space: Designer Shawn Hausman will combine adjoining spaces into a 8,500-square-foot bi-level pub that will “feel like a home,” Starr says; the best seats are tucked into the second-floor bay window overlooking 18th Street.
Our Take: There are plenty of British Isles-inspired pubs in Philly, but none occupy such prime real estate. Despite the location, previous restaurants have had difficulty here, but again, when food-world feng shui needs realigning, Starr is the man.
The ETA: Early November
Waiting List: Tiffin’s Munish Narula plans a small-plates Indian restaurant with a custom-built tandoor oven and a liquor license, at 777 South Broad Street, for December—get in the car, there’s no delivery here. >> Stephen Starr has a German-Austrian beer garden at 1210 Frankford Avenue in Fishtown on deck for late October. >> Grey Lodge co-owner Mike “Scoats” Scotese is reopening Fox Chase’s Blue Ox as Hop Angel Brahaus, a German pub with “Alpine” fare, in October. >> Wash West dive Doc Watson’s is getting a head-to-toe reno and will reopen in mid-September as “culinary pub” the Blue Bear Tavern.