NYC Hangout Cellar Dog Quickly Snaps Up Howl at the Moon

Plus: Stove & Co. Restaurant Group and Jasper’s Backyard team up to open Rooster's in Glenside, Cafe Lift is taking over the old Kensington Quarters, and "Summer Steams" is coming back to Oyster House.

Exterior of the now-closed Howl at the Moon located at 258 South 15th Street. / Photograph by Laura Swartz

Howdy, buckaroos! And welcome back to the Foobooz food news round-up. With the Fourth of July fast approaching and some making an extra-super-long weekend of the midweek holiday, there’s not a ton of restaurant news for us to get through this week. Still, I’ve got some news from the Stove & Tap team, the return of a highly anticipated summer seafood deal and a couple of very cool upcoming events you’ll want to clear your calendars for. So let’s just run this down really quick, get you up to speed for the week, and then we can all bail out for the Shore. With that in mind, let’s get things started with …

Howl at the Moon Goes Dark

For me, the biggest surprise in that headline is that Howl at the Moon — the Philadelphia outpost of a national chain of dueling-piano bars — was still open.

But it was. And so was Down Nightclub, which lived right next door at 15th and Spruce. But as of … well, yesterday, both places are dark. According to Philadelphia Business Journal, they both closed unceremoniously and with no warning on July 1st. Howl made the announcement on Instagram, offering the customary thanks to regulars and fans without mentioning any specifics, even though as of last night the company’s website was still listing events through August 9th, including the “Red, White and Brew” party scheduled for this Friday. The Philadelphia page on Howl at the Moon’s site has since been taken down.

In the window of the now-closed Howl at the Moon: an advertisement for the Red, White & Brew event scheduled for July 5th and a notice of Cellar Dog’s liquor license application. / Photograph by Laura Swartz

Within hours of closing, an orange PLCB sign appeared in the window indicating that a New York City-based entertainment venue called Cellar Dog HS, LLC has applied to have Howl at the Moon’s liquor license transferred into its name. Located in Greenwich Village in New York City, Cellar Dog has a little bit of everything. It’s a music and gaming venue where you can play pool, shuffleboard, and ping-pong. The application is still pending, but according to the Inquirer, they’re planning on opening up as early as this fall.

Whatever happened to Howl at the Moon, I’m sure there are people out there who are going to miss the joint. I don’t know any of them personally, but I’m sure they’re out there. So let’s all take a moment, raise a White Claw, hum a verse of “Piano Man,” and offer a moment of respect for a place (two places, really) that were probably someone‘s favorite place(s). Howl at the Moon, I barely knew you, didn’t understand you, and can’t imagine the interior lives of those who loved you. But every bar deserves better than some rushed, surprise closure announced on Instagram. Here’s to you.

Now what else is happening this week …

Two Restaurant Groups Are Partnering to Open Rooster’s in Glenside

The team behind Rooster’s. / Photograph by Kory Aversa

Stove & Co. Restaurant Group has been on an absolute tear lately, killing it in the neighborhood-bar-that’s-better-than-you-expected-it-to-be and steakhouse-that-also-knows-how-to-cook-other-things categories (see Stove & Tap and Joey Chops as two excellent examples).

In Conshy, Jasper’s Backyard offers shishito peppers, corn dip, cheese fries and crab-and-shrimp bucatini to the neighbors under Edison bulb chandeliers.

And now, the two teams are coming together at 294 North Keswick Avenue in Glenside to open Rooster’s, a classic American pub named after Stove & Co. partner (and Glenside native) Matt Moyer’s dad, who recently passed away. Basically, they’ve pulling a mini restaurant Voltron, combining the powers of two restaurant teams to make one even more powerful local bar, restaurant and community space in the former home of the Keswick Tavern.

The 3,000-square-foot space will bring 175 seats to the neighborhood — 90 in the dining room, 40 more at the bar and an additional 44 outside. It’ll be open seven days a week, offering brunch, lunch, dinner, happy hour and late-night hours. There’ll be a raw bar, wings, burgers, fried chicken, seasonal plates and an “elevated pub fare” vibe that will include chef Joe Monnich’s braised beef sandwich with smoked gouda and homemade pastas. At the bar, they’re promising “draft beers, eclectic wines and house-made cocktails.”

And if this all sounds maddeningly non-specific, that’s because construction on the place is literally starting this week. To quote the gang directly, they’re looking at “a top-to-bottom design makeover, renovation of the bar to close the rectangle and add more seating, the addition of more communal tables and banquettes, a full rehab of the kitchen, and new bathrooms. Renovations also include a big investment in upgrades to the televisions and sound system … tables with umbrellas to be added, as well as work to flatten the sidewalk and add landscaping and flower boxes.”

So yeah, it’s a lot. Even still, they’re projecting a fall 2024 opening. And even though this is the first week of actual work on the place, the team is already hyping a beer garden pop-up for their new neighbors on July 4th, before, during and after the Greater Glenside Parade. So if you’re curious, stop by and see what they’re up to.

New Life at Kensington Quarters

Of all the restaurants that’ve made a mark on Philly’s scene over the past decade or so, no one has walked a path quite so jagged as Kensington Quarters. I mean, name me another place that has, over the course of a single lifespan, been both a butcher’s shop and a seafood restaurant, a place that was beloved for its burger and for its unapologetically vegetable-forward menu.

And yes, while I get that a lot of these twists and turns in the course that KQ charted (particularly during the pandemic) were really the desperate maneuvers of a restaurant frantically trying to scratch together enough business to keep the lights on, I actually kinda loved the spot for its willingness to constantly reinvent itself. Maybe it’s just because I’ve got a short attention span. Or maybe it’s because consistency has a tendency to bore the reporter in me. But whatever the reason, I always liked the place. Right up until it closed in March.

I wrote an elegy for the place back then, lamenting the end of its run and the era in Philly’s dining history that it helped define. But I did note that owners Mike and Jeniphur Pasquarello had something else in mind for the space. At the time, we didn’t have any idea what that might be. Now, we do.

It’s being turned into another location of the Pasquarellos’ everyday brunch spot, Cafe Lift. Which, as far as second (third? fourth?) acts go, is a pretty obvious play. Cafe Lift is one of those concepts that seems like it must absolutely print money. I mean, who doesn’t want huevos rancheros and breakfast poutine at 2 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon? Who wouldn’t want to spend a bleary Sunday in Fishtown hunkered down behind a plate of cannoli French toast?

The former KQ space basically gives them a double-decker dining room with 100-odd seats and a patio in the back, right at Frankford and Thompson, in the beating heart of Fishtown. And if you can’t make a buck selling $16 lemon-ricotta pancakes and Cuban sandwiches to the Fishtown brunch crowd, maybe it’s time to get out of showbiz.

Anyway, I’m sure they’re going to do just fine. The new Cafe Lift is a couple months off yet, but I’ll let you know as soon as an opening date is announced.

Now who’s in the mood for some leftovers?

The Leftovers

“Summer Steamers” is coming back to Oyster House. / Photograph by Mike Prince

To begin, here are two Philly Mag stories to put on your radar in case you missed them.

Late last week, we posted an early, sneak peek look at Picnic, the gigantic new project from Defined Hospitality (Suraya, Kalaya, etc.) that is opening tomorrow in the old Weisbrod & Hess brewery on Martha Street in Kensington. It’s bringing 225 new seats to the neighborhood, plus a wine shop, private dining, live music, oysters, rotisserie meats and more. And it’s going (more or less) reservation-free. If you’re interested (and you should be), you can read all about it here.

Second, did you ever wonder why Twisted Tea is such a thing in Philly? Well, Bradford Pearson did. And then he went looking to try to figure it out. The search took him from Torresdale sports bars to Kenzo dives, from beach bars down the Shore to a Two Street beer distributor that sells 27 different varieties of the malt-based hard tea that Philly — more than anywhere else on earth — is just obsessed with. It is a rollicking, weird, funny and very, very Philly kind of story. And you should absolutely read it. Honestly, there’s a part of me that believes that every single story Philly mag covers from here on out should start with — and be based on — some random dude’s deeply considered leg tattoo. Bradford’s does. And everything that comes after is gold. So let’s call it the start of a new editorial direction for the magazine.

Meanwhile, Liz Grothe is teaming up with the High Street crew for another chain restaurant homage. Back in January, she did a night there inspired by her fond memories of Western Sizzlin’ steakhouse. Now she’s coming back to recreate the joys of a family-style dinner at Olive Garden.

She’ll be in the kitchen with the High Street crew on Wednesday, July 24th, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., doing Olive Garden salad and breadsticks, fettuccine alfredo, chicken parm — the classics. They’re calling it “The Scampi Garden.” (Because Grothe’s new restaurant will be called Scampi, get it?). Tickets for the dinner will run you $75 a head, and reservations can be made right here.

If Olive Garden isn’t quite your speed, how about a Bastille Day celebration at Lacroix featuring founding chef (and namesake) Jean-Marie Lacroix, Pierre Calmels of Bibou, and Lacroix exec chef Eric Leveillee all sharing the kitchen and putting together a Sunday night dinner celebrating the masters of French cuisine? We’re talking nine courses by three different chefs inspired by all the greats — Paul Bocuse, Michael Bras, Pierre Gagniere, Alain Passard, Guy Savoy, Anne-Sophie Pic, Alain Ducasse, and maybe some others, too. It’ll basically be the Frenchiest French dinner that ever Frenched. And with that kind of culinary firepower in the galley, it looks like it’s going to be epic.

The Bastille Day dinner will be on Sunday, July 14th. Tickets will run you $145 plus tax and tip. And since the dinner is being limited to two seatings (5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.) with just 20 seats each, reservations are a must. Make yours here.

And finally this week, Oyster House is bringing back its super-popular “Summer Steams” lobster special. Every Wednesday night until August 28th, they’re offering a steamed Maine lobster, a side of peel-and-eat shrimp, potatoes, corn on the cob and Old Bay butter for $42.

That’s a killer deal. Like Hoagiefest, people look forward to it all year long. And seeing as Oyster House has been running this promotion for the past 12 years, regulars know when it’s coming. All of which means that you’re going to want to score reservations for Wednesday’s dinner service while you can. Get ’em here. And good luck.