It’s The Foobooz Fall Restaurant Round-Up
This summer (like all summers) was a pretty slow time for restaurant openings. We had a few big names come through on their promises to switch on the lights, but for the most part, we were eating at the same places in August that we were in June.
The autumn, though? That’s when the opening-and-closing cycle really gets going again, with some of the biggest restaurateurs in the city (Michael Schulson, Ben Puchowitz and Shawn Daragh, Jose Garces and more…) all working to get their new places open before the holidays hit.
So this, then, is the list of the restaurants (either recently opened or upcoming) that have us most excited–the dining rooms we can’t wait to sit in, and the menus we can’t wait to see. It’s going to be a big season in Philly. So here’s where you’ll all be eating in the upcoming months, starting with…
Philly’s Fall Restaurant Openings
500 South 20th Street, Graduate Hospital
Norris and Debbie Jordan (who already own the Happy Rooster) took over the former home of Meritage, gave it a complete overhaul, built a whole new kitchen for it (one of the things which ended up delaying the opening from spring), and then snagged one of the city’s best chefs–Natalie Maronski, fresh off her turn running the kitchen at Volver–to lead the crew. The menu is French-inflected New American, the space is airy and open, and it has a great bar program to go with it.
1535 South 11th Street, East Passyunk
I don’t think anyone was more excited than I was when Satay Kampar opened and brought a little international culture to a neighborhood that was shading far too Continental/New American for my tastes. And now I’m just as psyched about the opening of Perla–a modern Filipino BYO being done by Lou Boquilla. The seasonal menus are beautifully simple (just 7 items for September, like pork belly lechon or Spanish octopus escabeche with cane vinegar gastrique, plus two desserts) and change regularly.
1001 Spruce Street, Washington Square West
I’ve already started getting the late-night texts. U been here yet? Is gooood. For those of you who haven’t been keeping a close eye on chef Konstantinos Pitsillides, he closed his beloved, original Kanella restaurant last year and re-opened in Queen Village. But he didn’t let that first location go. Instead, he waited until things got settled at Kanella South, and then went back to Wash West to turn the original Kanella into Kanella Grill–a simple, stripped-down kebab and schwarma shop offering gyros, salads, meat-on-sticks and desserts.
2034 Chestnut Street, Rittenhouse Square
Right in the middle of the vegan utopia that is Rittenhouse Square, the Anni family (Varga Bar, Mercato, Valanni) have come to open Butcher Bar, an unapologetic ode to all things red and bloody. They’ve got a wood-fired grill here and put it to good use, knocking out smoked game hen, wild boar ribs, bone-in ribeye steaks and the “Royale With Cheese”–their version of the burger made famous by Vincent and Jules in Pulp Fiction. The menu is full of butcher boards and sausages, meatballs and snacks (like house-made beef jerky or sour cream and onion fried chicken wings), but if that’s not enough meat for you, how ’bout this? Bring a gang of friends, $250 and give the house 24-hours notice, and they’ll set you up with “The Trough,” a massive feats of rotisserie chicken, homemade sausages, ribs, kabobs, bacon, pita and more.
705 South 4th Street, Queen Village
New from the Southwark crew, this tiny, next-door bar and restaurant with just a few tables (16 at last count), a dark and sexy vibe, and a short, prix fixe Italian menu with optional cheese and wine pairings. The opening was originally scheduled for the end of August, and while it missed that date, Ambra is very close to opening now.
Harp & Crown
1525 Sansom Street, Center City
Michael Schulson has been talking about this place since before his last place, Double Knot, even got open. And seriously, when your last opening was a restaurant that scored a spot on the 50 Best Restaurants list and won Best New Restaurant in this year’s Best Of Philly, how good does the next one have to be? Schulson seemed excited, though, when I talked to him about it, and he’s now saying that Harp & Crown will be a chandelier-hung, high-ceilinged, bar and New American restaurant with a bowling alley in the basement. Yeah, a bowling alley (two lanes and reservation-only). He’ll also have Karen Nicolas in the galley overseeing the food, and the menu will be modern, approachable, American comfort food, with craft cocktails at the bar and pizza and charcuterie available in the bowling alley. Opening is looking like late fall.
2401 Walnut Street, Center City
There are two things happening here that have us interested in 24. First, it’s going to be a new Garces restaurant (always a big deal), on the first floor of his new Walnut Street offices, offering “health-conscious, wood-fired” food with a big bar and counter space. Second, the Garces team will also be using part of the space as an R&D kitchen, and that kind of thing can’t help but influence the regular cafe menu. There was also an early rumor that the Garces team would be doing some open-to-the-public testing in the experimental kitchen, and I think that would be awesome. There’s always been a highly personal side to the cooking that Garces does, and this would be an awesome way to pull back the curtain a little bit more. But I guess we’ll all know for sure how things are going to go when 24 opens late in the fall.
834 Chestnut Street, Washington Square West
Anthony Marini anticipates opening his restaurant, Rarest, in the Franklin by late October. Marini won season 2 of CNBC’s Restaurant Startup and will bring a casual, yet serious restaurant to the corner of 9th and Chestnut. The 85-seat restaurant (plus 20 at the bar) will not be a totally raw raw bar (as has been previously reported by some), but there will be raw cheeses on the menu. Marini will also be running the 28-seat lounge that the AKA group is opening in the lobby of the Franklin.
Royal Sushi And Izakaya
782 South 2nd Street, Queen Village
Yeah, at this point it’s pretty much ALWAYS a joke when we put Royal Izakaya on a list of impending openings. I mean, this place has been “opening soon” since before I started this gig in 2011. And most recently, we got word that it would absolutely going to be open by July of this year. And yet, here we are again, just waiting. So why include it now? Because there has been a recent pop-up where some menu items were tried. Because the instagram feed of Jesse Ito (who will be running the kitchen along with his dad, Masaharu Ito) has been lighting up with images of test plates and ingredients. And frankly, were just optimists over here. Whenever Royal Sushi and Izakaya gets the doors unlocked (they’re currently claiming September), we’ll be among the first inside–no matter how long it takes.
210 West Rittenhouse Square, Rittenhouse
Manhattan, Las Vegas, Miami and…Rittenhouse Square? Sure, why not? Or at least that’s what LDV Hospitality must’ve been thinking when they offered up this modern Italian concept to take over the old Smith & Wollensky steakhouse space in the Rittenhouse Hotel. So for those of you Rittenhouse lifers still wandering the streets and mourning the demise of Le Castagne, now there’s hope. Scarpetta will be two stories, have martinis and white wine at the bar, offer plenty of signature pastas and should be open in about two weeks.
8609 Germantown Avenue, Chestnut Hill
In case you hadn’t noticed, Mica has been closed for the past month or so. That’s because former owner Chip Roman recently sold it to Yianni Arhontoulis, his (now ex) chef de cuisine at Blackfish. And Yianni has been busy turning the place into a whole new restaurant–with a re-made dining room and a whole new approach to dinner. The two biggest changes? Yianni will now be running with two different menus–an a la carte board and a chef’s tasting menu that will change every week. Also, Mica will now be BYOB because Roman hung onto the liquor license when he sold the joint. Oh, and also? Mica is re-opening today, September 13, so if you’re curious (and you should be), you should go check it out. I’ve seen a draft of the opening menu, and it looks excellent.
132 South 17th Street, Rittenhouse Square
It’s a build-your-own-french-fry bar that’s opening within reasonable walking distance of Foobooz World HQ. How could we not be excited?