Townsend Triumphantly Returns to East Passyunk Avenue

Plus, a new ice cream shop for East Passyunk, a jazz club in New Jersey, and igloo brunches.

Tod Wentz outside Townsend | Photo courtesy of Punch Media

Know what’s crazy? Announcing an ice cream shop opening in December. But that didn’t stop a couple of locals from doing exactly that just last week.

Or how ’bout a $2 million combination restaurant/live music venue/recording studio in Hi-Nella, New Jersey? Or Tod Wentz returning to East Passyunk? Or dining in an igloo in NoLibs? Or snails and duck hearts for Sunday dinner on Chestnut Street?

I’ve got all this and more for you on this cozy Monday afternoon. So sit back, relax, add a little eye-opener to that hot cocoa, and let me tell you what’s happening this week.

Turns Out You Can Go Home Again

Guess who’s back on East Passyunk?

After two years dark, Townsend Wentz is re-opening his eponymous restaurant in its original home on East Passyunk. Re-branded as Townsend EPX (after originally being called just Townsend, then Townsend Wine Bar), Wentz debuted his new/old joint at 1623 East Passyunk on Friday with a $100, six-course French prix fixe full of beef tartare, scallops with matsutake mushrooms and sunchoke miso, pheasant stuffed with foie gras, pommes aligot and Valrhona chocolate soufflé. There’s a nice bar, craft cocktails, an impressive selection of wines, and dinner service running Wednesday through Saturday, 5 to 9 p.m., with the bar staying open until 2 a.m. On Sundays, things cool out a little with a limited a la carte menu and bar snacks from 5 p.m. till midnight.

As for that name change? That’s just tactical. Townsend still has his Rittenhouse space, but it is remaining closed for the time being. He and his team wanted to get Townsend EPX up and running first, but be able to distinguish it from Townsend PHL when that space also re-opens at some point in the future.

As always, watch this space …


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Yo, Isn’t Ice Cream Kind of a Warm-Weather Jawn?

So it isn’t like partners Amy Wilson, Ryan Miller and Catheryn Sanderson are planning on opening the new brick-and-mortar location of their beloved delivery/pop-up ice cream operation, Milk Jawn, in the middle of winter. But they did announce it to the world late last week.

The new permanent, physical space (a first for Milk Jawn) will be a 500-square-foot storefront at 1439 East Passyunk Avenue — right at Passyunk and Dickinson. There, they’ll be selling their small-batch, premium, local-milk ice cream in cups, pints, cones and (with any luck) as ice cream cakes starting in the spring of 2022. Which is nothing but good.

But the REAL news here? The Milk Jawn crew also picked up the space at 1303 East Passyunk, and that one is a little bit … bigger. It’s 2,600 square feet, and it will become home to Milk Jawn’s new production facility — something of a step up from Amy Wilson’s kitchen, where this all started back in 2012.

Seriously, for the longest time, the biggest problem for Milk Jawn has been the fact that they sell out everywhere. Every time they show up somewhere with some ice cream to sell? Gone immediately. Every time they come up with some new flavor and talk about it on Instagram? Gone. They’ve been doing their best to keep up with demand, working out of MaKen Studios in Kensington, but now that they’ll have their own space for churning out their lemon curd with blueberry-basil swirl, malted-milk toffee crunch and mango sticky rice-flavored ice cream?

Well, they’ll still probably sell out every day. But at least we all might have a better chance at getting a taste come spring.

Where the F#@& Is Hi-Nella?

That was my first question, too, when I heard about Wilson’s — the new restaurant, live music venue and recording studio just opened by Mame and Mark Wilson.

Turns out, Hi-Nella, New Jersey, is a tiny little borough in Camden County, just off the White Horse Pike and not far from the Wawa across from the Starview Diner. I don’t know what else might be going on there, but one thing I can tell you for sure? It’s now got a brand-new spot to hear a couple songs, have a drink and eat some lobster gumbo if that’s your thing.

The full name of the new joint is Wilson’s Restaurant & Live Music Lounge, and it took over the space that formerly housed the Hi-Nella Bar & Grill, the Hi-Nella Inn (and Richeez before that). It’d been vacant for a while, but after a cool $2 million in renovations, the Wilsons now have a gleaming new 7,800-square-foot supper club with seating for 250 inside, another 100 on two outdoor patios, hardwood floors, a state-of-the-art sound and lighting system for the stage, a well-stocked bar — and one of the only three licenses in the state that allows them to serve drinks ’til 5 a.m.

Oh, and you know what else they have? They’ve got chef Elijah Milligan in the kitchen, knocking out a menu of New Orleans-influenced Southern cuisine. That means oysters and shrimp cocktails, oxtail mac and cheese, fried chicken, crabcake egg rolls, and the aforementioned lobster gumbo.

Last time we talked about Milligan, he was back from a stint cooking on the West Coast, running a series of pop-up dinners hoping to bring attention to creating equal opportunity in the food service industry, working at The Bercy and Stove & Tap (which I loved), AND developing a restaurant concept of his own called Greenwood — a two-restaurant supper club made by, and for, people of color. Originally planned for a 2021 debut, the actual brick-and-mortar part of Greenwood has been delayed, but it currently exists as a pop-up concept.

In the meantime, Milligan has the kitchen at Wilson’s to keep him occupied. The restaurant rolled out over the weekend and is currently running on a dinner and late-night schedule, Wednesday through Sunday, with hours running from 6 p.m. until 2 a.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays, 6 p.m. ’til 3:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 11 a.m. ’til 2 a.m. on Sundays with a jazz brunch and dancing at night. You can find all the details (including the live music lineup) right here. So if you happen to find yourself in Hi-Nella and looking for some jazz and Southern hospitality, be sure to check them out.

The Leftovers

Updates on ongoing projects have been just pouring into the mailroom at Foobooz World HQ lately, so let’s clear a few of these off the desk.


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Remember a couple weeks back when we all had a good laugh remembering the brief, surreal life of Mad Rex? Back then I told you about a bunch of madcaps who’d taken on the Herculean task of scrubbing all the weird out of that massive space at 1000 Frankford Avenue and turning it into a proper restaurant — you know, one without VR headsets or assault rifles on the walls.

I didn’t have a lot of details then, but I do have a few more now. For starters, the place is going to be opening this week — on Thursday, December 9th, to be exact. They’re running with a fish-house concept (a nice touch for Fishtown — and needed in a completely un-ironic way), have chef Valentin Bay in the galley (ex of Brauhaus Schmitz) and a whole crew of fish freaks who’ll be sourcing and prepping a surf-and-turf menu focused on easy, approachable (and occasionally surprising) grub. Think shrimp and grits, a surf-and-turf charcuterie board featuring smoked and dried meats and seafood, bison tartare with Ossetra caviar, crab bisque, swordfish steaks, rockfish stuffed with mint, crabcake sandwiches and filet mignon.

The space is huge (200-plus seats once they hauled away the helicopter and dismantled the VR lounge), the bar is impressive, there’s a full-on ice bar for serving crab legs and oysters, and the biggest TV that any Philly restaurant has ever seen. Seriously, the thing is 25 feet long. The team is looking to make this place not just a destination restaurant for seafood (in a city that really needs some more places like that), but also for wine and cocktails. They’re shooting for the moon here, and I’m really hoping for the best.

Over at Forsythia, Chris Kearse is doing Sunday night prix-fixe dinners for the neighbors. $55 gets you five courses of French-inspired cuisine from one of the best chefs in the city. We’re talking andouille and garlic beignets, escargot, mahi mahi with white-bean cassoulet, caramel pot du crème, and an optional, add-on course of pumpkin campanelle with duck-heart ragu for an additional $20.

It’s a great deal and looks like a killer menu. Plus, Forsythia is just one of those restaurants that’s so good at what it does, and so consistent, that people kinda … forget about it. So don’t let that happen, OK? Don’t let yourself get distracted by everything shiny and new.

Reservations are available here. Get ’em while they’re hot.

A while back, I told y’all about a real Australian bakery called True Blue. They made a name for themselves out in West Chester doing pies, pasties and sausage rolls, but were packing up their mixers and bowls and heading to a new home in Royersford.

I’ve been keeping an eye on the place (mostly because I like to know the location of all the closest sausage rolls and meat pies no matter where I am in the world), and am pleased to announce that they officially opened for business on Saturday, December 4th at 324 Main Street in Royersford.

I am somewhat less pleased to announce that they were closed again by around 3:30 p.m. that very same day. Not for any tragic or terrible reason, but just because demand was so great that they sold out of literally everything they had stocked for the weekend within the first few hours. And because everything in the shop is made from scratch, they needed to shut down for a couple days just to, you know, make more food.

Right now, they’re hoping to re-open again on Tuesday with some fresh stock. If you’re looking to get your hands on some Aussie meat pies, mustard dogs or pasties, I’d think about grabbing a sleeping bag and camping out.

Speaking of camping out, how’d you like to eat dinner in an igloo?

Up in NoLibs, Figo Ristorante has four clear-dome igloo enclosures with built-in fire pits available for outdoor dining under the stars. They each seat up to eight people, keep you safe from the winter cold, and offer excellent views of the 16-foot Christmas tree right outside the restaurant.

Granted, I can’t really imagine any situation that would involve me trapped in a plastic bubble with seven people for several hours that wouldn’t ultimately end in lawsuits or arson, but that’s just me. I’m prickly.

But for those of you just slightly more social, you can contact the restaurant to make your reservations. There are four igloos available now and more being added in the coming weeks.


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And to finish things off this week, there’s this: I just got off the phone with Lé from Hop Sing Laundromat, who called to talk about pandemic idiots, the number of times people try to bribe their way into HSL (at least twice a week), how much money they offer (in some cases, a LOT), how often it works (never), and how he’s shutting the place down again for the holidays.

Yeah, you read that right. December 18th is going to be Hop Sing’s last night of service for the year. He wants his staff to be able to spend time with their families over the holidays, so he’s closing up shop (again).

As for a re-opening date? Lé was … cagey. He said they’ve been turning away more people than they serve every night, doing good business, and doing their very best to keep everyone — staff and guests — safe by limiting seating and requiring vax cards at the door (no exceptions). But he still wasn’t entirely sure what was going to be happening in 2022, except to say that if he DID decide to re-open, he would be doing things the same way in terms of distancing, proof of vax, etc. And he’ll continue that way until the pandemic is done.

So, anyway, for those of you looking for a last, pre-Christmas shot at Hop Sing’s cocktails and hospitality, the 18th is your last chance. Show up early, be polite, and don’t forget that proof-of-vaccination card. And as soon as I hear what Lé’s plans are for 2022, I’ll let you know.

You know where to find me.