The Yachtsman, Tommy Up’s tiki bar (one of two in the entire city — the other being Jason Evanchick’s Tiki) — suddenly closed a few days ago, but he says there’s nothing to fret about just yet.
Chinatown Square opened on Race Street with an ambitious collection of food vendors, some of which gave city diners easier access to things like Cambodian grilled meats and Japanese curries — food items which, so often before, necessitated some serious menu digging. But David Taing and Kenny Poon’s Chinatown Square brought those items to the forefront of our minds and bellies with a food hall so stacked with alternative fast-casual eateries. They even promised a Korean restaurant, Dae Bak, which would open on the second floor overlooking Race Street.
Ever-so-softly, Dae Bak opened last weekend.
As tragic as it is to be diagnosed with cancer, it’s good to know you have an entire industry in your corner ready to support you in any way that it can. Philly’s Theresa Lazzari — a back-of-house pro most recently turning out pastas at Southwark and Ambra — recently had that happen to her.
And while she’s out there kicking cancer’s butt, some Queen Village restaurants are stepping up to help her out.
It was all fun and games when the James Beard Foundation announced Philadelphia’s semifinalists back in February. In previous years, only our industry’s biggest names ever made the cut, but for whatever reason, this year, they took notice of our city’s BYOBs, tiny bakeries, taquerias, and the women who make our scene so great.
A month later, the finalists were announced. That list was less surprising but still exciting. Our biggest deal restaurant group (CookNSolo) got a lot of attention: Michael Solomonov was up for Outstanding Chef, Zahav for Outstanding Service, and pastry chef Camille Cogswell for Rising Star Chef Of The Year. The Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic category was a big one for Philly, too, with Vedge’s Rich Landau and Greg Vernick from Vernick Food & Drink still in the running. Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione was competing for Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Professional and Stephen Starr capped the list as the lone Philly finalist for Outstanding Restaurateur.
Last night, the James Beard Foundation announced the 2017 awards recipients (chef and restaurant categories), and Philly won big.
At this point, you’re probably well aware of the Fyre Festival disaster unfolding in the Bahamas. The short and sweet of it: rapper Ja Rule and tech tycoon Billy McFarland set out to host an ultra-high-end, VIPs-only music festival on the Islands of the Exumas. It came with its own video starring Kendall Jenner and Emily Ratajkowski. People who bought tickets to the festival were promised “first-class culinary experiences and a luxury atmosphere”, which meant everything from chartered yachts to morning yoga to food catering by Starr Events. But when guests arrived on Thursday, they were met with, as the New York Times put it, “soggy tents, bad food, and general disappointment verging on panic”. Obviously, the festival’s been postponed until further notice.
The “bad food”, by the way, was a styrofoam take-out box filled with sliced bread, cheese (not grilled cheese), and salad.
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Anastasi Seafood is a Philadelphia tradition, an Italian Market institution famous for its friendly service and quality seafood market, plus its lovely restaurant and bar with fun happy hour specials and outdoor seating. The family-run operation (over 80 years old) is currently helmed by fourth generation owners Janet Stechman and Salvator Anastasi, a brother and sister team who grew up on 9th Street vending crabs from their living room. Janet claims to know every crack on the 9th Street sidewalk.
The family had two stores — one at 1039 South 9th and the other at 905 South 9th — before they moved to their current corner location at 1101 South 9th Street in 1996. And after over twenty years selling crabs and shucking oysters from that very corner, Anastasi Seafood will close up shop to make way for an ambitious, five-story mixed-use building featuring 70 apartments, underground parking, and an estimated 18,000 square feet in retail space.
But as the saying goes, when one door closes, another opens, and Restaurant Neuf, Joncarl Lachman and Bob Moysan’s French-North African bistro, will close its doors for good this Sunday, April 30th, after brunch service.
Which means there’s a door left open for Janet and Salvator.
Back in 2002, before it strutted the Vientiane name, the Phanthavong family’s Laotian operation out of West Philly functioned more like an outdoor speakeasy than a cafe. It was known as the “Blue Tent” among locals — a tarp-covered wooden structure which served as an unofficial meeting place for the neighborhood’s blooming Southeast Asian community. The family-run setup was helmed by Phoxay Sidara and Daovy Phanthavong — Laotian refugees — and their two daughters Manorack and Sunny. Hordes of families, friends and neighbors would line up outside the Phanthavong household for a taste of Daovy’s cooking and a seat under the tent where they could spend the night drinking and gambling (before dinner, Sunny proudly mentioned, “Laotians know how to party.”). But, remember, this was an “underground” business with no licenses and permits, and those can only last so long. One night, L&I knocked on the Phanthavong’s front door — they were being raided. The Blue Tent was done.
A year later, the family opened their cafe at 4728 Baltimore Avenue. And that’s how Vientiane Café got its start as the city’s premier Laotian restaurant.
Now they’re serving bugs.
Center City’s darling new give-back diner, Rooster Soup Company, caught some national attention last week after GQ named it one of the ten best new restaurants in the country. The author, Brett Martin, waxes creative about Rooster’s chicken schnitzel sandwich, its Yemenite chicken pot pie and its smoked-matzo-ball soup; he even goes so far as to mention its hours (“[o]pen from breakfast through early-bird dinner”).
Now, just four days after the list was published, Rooster Soup Co. tweaked its menu and hours, so its entire blurb is effectively dated material — a perfect example of the fidgety, fast-moving, fickle nature of the restaurant business.
It’s been a while since we’ve heard Stephen Starr’s name being whispered in Philly.
He’s got the number one restaurant in all of New York City, he’s opening restaurants in France — at this point in his career, he’s outgrown whispers. But lately, his name keeps popping up, what with two new restaurants opening in Rittenhouse Square and another rumored to open in the old Cosi space at 15th and Locust. So Foobooz decided it was time to check in with our city’s celebrity restaurateur to see how his Philly empire’s shaping up in 2017.
First things first: Starr will not be opening at 15th and Locust Streets.