Headhouse Square’s New French Restaurant Has an Opening Date

Plus: Fishtown's Cafe Lift will have a liquor license, everything you need to know about East Passyunk's La Passeggiata and Chinatown's Michelin-approved dumpling shop.

An assortment of dishes by Nicholas Bazik. / Photographs by Star Chefs

Howdy, buckaroos! I’ve got some interesting news for you this week about dumplings, dim sum, updates from two big restaurant projects in Fishtown and Society Hill, and more. So let’s kick things off this week with…

An Opening Date for Provenance

August 7th. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. Chef Nicholas Bazik’s new French restaurant will be opening on Headhouse Square in just a little under a month. Reservations for the month of August are live on Tock, and there are still tables available, so go check it out right now.

Two reasons I wanted to get that out there, right up top. First, those reservations are probably going to go fast. Provenance has a lot of buzz building, and a lot of people who really know food are very interested in seeing what Bazik is going to do here. I’m one of those people, but I’m not the only one, if you get my meaning. And second, as interesting as that opening date might be in a headline, what Bazik has been doing to get ready for that opening has been a lot more fascinating.

Like, how about cooking for two nights in Paris during Fashion Week? He did that at Mokoloco for a two-night collab dinner with chef Joshua An, where he also crossed paths with another local, Fred Bond, who used to work at Mulherin’s but is now running the floor (and pouring the wine) in Paris. He and An served pigeon with shellfish, beef tripe with kimchi sauce, tartare with hazelnut and Thai honey cookies with hazelnut butter — multiple nights, multiple courses, and all of it going into the hopper as inspiration for Provenance.

Scallop “Au Poivre”, bloomsdale spinach, buratta, sauces poivrade and albufera. / Photograph by Star Chefs

Following that, he did another collab here in Philly with Evan Snyder of Emmet — another restaurant that anyone who knows anything is looking forward to. Those two got up to some serious hijinks with bone marrow poached cod with foraged morels, leek vinaigrette with golden osetra caviar and candied pumpkin seeds, wild fennel and blood orange shave ice with creme fraiche sorbet. It looked epic.

And now, he’s basically rolling right into the final weeks before opening night with a head full of crazy ideas and no idea whether or not he’ll be able to pull them off during service — which is exactly the way opening a restaurant is supposed to work. And okay, yes, we don’t know anything about the menu yet. I’m sure Bazik doesn’t have it totally locked either. And maybe my projections of how it will all play out says more about me and my expectations (and how deep I am into watching season three of The Bear), but in terms of restaurant evolution, this is kinda my favorite part. Right now, Provenance is just a fantasy of a restaurant. Nothing has gone wrong yet. No one has spilled the soup or burned the sauce or gotten super weird with the pomegranates and molasses. Right now, my excitement has no downside. There’s no pesky reality messing it all up. And that will come, sure, but it isn’t here yet.

Still, Bazik (who we talked about a few weeks back) has been working on this place for two years now, so he’s had the time to get everything just the way he wants it. And from what I understand, he’s going with a ticketed, four-course straight prix fixe menu with 20 to 25 individual plates based on classical French cuisine but elevated with modernist and Korean influences. It’s reservation only, with no a la carte menu, and there are three dining room spaces available: the “Kitchen View” (11 seats in what I’m guessing is the main dining room), the “Wine Cellar” (private dining for four to six) and the “Sunkoo Yuh Room,” which is semi-private, meant for small groups, and features artwork by Korean-American artist Sunkoo Yuh. A reservation will run you from $195-$225 (per person), and dinner is expected to take about two and a half hours. So make of that what you will.

Me? I’m making reservations.

Details on the New Cafe Lift in Fishtown

The Jersey Madame / Photo courtesy of Cafe Lift

Philly’s restaurant industry sometimes feels like the smallest of small towns.

Like the thing I mentioned above, with Bazik going all the way to Paris to cook a collaboration dinner and finding a former Philly restaurant guy working the dining room, I can’t get through a column these days without it turning into a history lesson or an alumni newsletter.

For example, we just talked about his new joint, Provenance, but guess where he was immediately before his two-year jaunt into the wilds of restaurant renovation? He was at Kensington Quarters as exec during its time as a seafood restaurant. And what’s one of the other big restaurant re-opening stories we’ve been chasing recently in these columns? The tale of Michael and Jeniphur Pasquarello’s attempt at turning the now-former KQ space into a super-sized third location of their Cafe Lift brunch concept.

It’s weird is all I’m saying. The way the scene here grows and mutates over time.

Anyway, I just got some new details from the 13th Street Kitchens crew on what they’re planning for the former AAA Welding/Kensington Quarters/Cafe Lift space.

For starters, they’ve tapped Frank Klemowitz as exec chef, making him the man in charge of the food at all three Lift locations. Which makes sense because the new Fishtown spot will be serving a menu that’s identical to the one that’s worked so well in Haddonfield and Spring Garden. One rather substantial change, though? The Fishtown location will have a liquor license, so there’ll be a full spread of brunch cocktails to pair with those lemon-ricotta pancakes.

The two-story space will be getting a full remodel, turning it into a “bright, airy and open space [paying] homage to the original Cafe Lift,” with the addition of KQ’s back patio, which is perfect for outdoor dining when the weather isn’t as oppressively unpleasant as it has been for the past couple weeks. They’re promising service seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., with space for “large group private events at night.”

Finally, they’re anticipating a Fall 2024 opening, which, by today’s restaurant arithmetic, taking into account construction delays, permitting, supply chain complications and everything else, means probably Winter 2025 at the earliest.

But who knows. The Pasquarellos have been in this game for a long time. Maybe they’ll be able to do the impossible and get the place open before the snow starts falling.

If they do, you’ll read about it here first.

Walking on Sunshine, Passyunk Avenue Version

The Singing Fountain / Photograph courtesy of the East Passyunk Business Improvement District

Here’s something cool.

In Italy, they have something called the “passeggiata” — essentially a small-town evening stroll that everyone takes after work just to see and be seen. It’s charming in its old-fashionedness, like an irony-free Sunday on La Grande Jatte LARP.

And on East Passyunk, they’re turning it into a weekly happy hour.

No, for real. Somehow, they managed to get some of the best restaurants on the Avenue, plus a lot of the little shops and boutiques, to all come together to do a weekly Philly version of La Passeggiata every Thursday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., starting July 11th and running through August 31st.

Laurel, Le Virtu, River Twice, Juana Tamale, Townsend, and The POPE — they’ve got 40 restaurants offering deals like $5 beers, $6 wines, $7 cocktails and a variety of small plates. There’ll be live music, seasonal menus, outdoor dining and extended shopping hours at 20 different boutiques. Honestly, it sounds adorable.

Want more info on the restaurants, vendors and specifics? Just check out all the details right here.

Now who has room for some leftovers?

The Leftovers

Wawa order screens. / Photograph by Claire Sasko

Folks in Port Richmond are going to have to find somewhere else to pick up their morning coffees and afternoon hoagies because Wawa is closing the store at Richmond and Allegheny today. I mean, it’s no big deal. It’s not like the store has been there for 45 years or anything.

Oh, wait. It actually has been there for 45 years. Since 1979. And the Port Richmond Wawa is just one of several closures in the city over the past couple years. Sure, the company is expanding into Sheetz territory. It’s planning on opening 40 new stores in central PA over the next five years and more than 200 scattered across the south as well as Ohio and Indiana. But right now, even though the company still claims Philly as its hometown, it looks like its interest in our fair city is cooling.

Maybe that’s just optics. But if I’m not mistaken, the last Wawa that opened in the city was the shelf-less, anti-human Wawa described in “A Wawa for the Coming Dystopia,” and since that one? Only closures are in the news. Which is just depressing because everyone needs a Wawa in their neighborhood.

Meanwhile, in less depressing news, Chinatown just got a new, Michelin-approved dumpling shop with the opening of Luscious Dumplings, a local franchise expansion of the L.A.-based mini-chain. The menu looks kind of incredible, with a dozen different dumplings (including boiled pork, egg and shrimp, pan-fried pork, fish dumplings with sole, pork and napa cabbage, and soup dumplings), custard buns made up to look like cute little pigs, pickled lotus root, scallion pancakes, seaweed salad and soup noodles in a variety of flavors.

The new shop opened on July 1st at 929 Race Street. It’s currently operating seven days a week, from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on weekdays and until 10:30 p.m. on weekends. Want to get hungry? Check out their Instagram here.

Speaking of dumplings, those of you looking for dim sum in West Chester will be happy to know that Dim Sum Taste is coming soon, opening in a former tux shop at 127 West Gay Street. No opening date yet, but there’s a “Coming Soon” sign up in the front window, so let’s all just keep our fingers crossed.