Home Pub bar Our official guide to the best food in Philly

Our official guide to the best food in Philly


The best thing you can do to enjoy food might just be to read up on food, and you are in luck. We’re about to release a new Let’s Eat, Philly! Guide to Restoration, and I’ll share an overview. Also this week we have an update on the Philly bar scene, offer a round-up of places to put your pumpkin spice on, tell you about a movement to make Philly streetwear a permanent feature, share the first word of a rich and new King of Prussian sandwich, and end with restaurant news.

If you need food news, by the way, click here and follow me on Twitter and Instagram. Email tips, suggestions and questions here. If someone sent you this newsletter and you like what you read, sign up here to receive it for free every week.

– Mike Klein

Get ready for the unveiling of Let’s Eat 2021, Philly on Thursday! Dining Guide, featuring the best places to eat and drink in and around Philadelphia from The Inquirer’s Food team.

Critic Craig LaBan delves into his The 10 best restaurants, and presents the new restaurants not to be missed. Associate Food Editor Joseph Hernandez takes you to our favorite places to drink wine, journalist Jenn Ladd presents the bars that catering professionals like to visit, and I offer a landscape snapshot as well as an overview of the restaurant’s autumn / winter debut. (Read the page and I’ll tell you about Philly’s first kava bar, which just opened.)

The 44-page restoration guide will be included with the home-delivered copies on Thursday and will be available to digital subscribers. Do you want to get started? We offer a special subscription: sign up for a copy between October 7 and 18.

The fall brings a bumper crop of new restaurants, as you will see in the Restaurant Guide. Let me tell you about Lightbox Cafe, a hippie-chic new juice / smoothie store in Queen Village that bills itself as Philadelphia’s premier kava bar. Kava is the relaxing drink made from the crushed roots of a plant harvested in the South Pacific, and Lightbox’s Jennifer Hombach sources from a farmer in Vanuatu. Lightbox, whose all-vegan menu includes bowls of cereal and plant-based toast (as well as late-night Sri Lankan curries from Sri Company and Puerto Rican pastelillos from Amy’s Pastelillo Amy Rivera-Nassar), is also located next to the famous 4th Street Deli, creating a special culinary yin-yang.

It’s only in Philly, I guess, that you can get special corned beef just steps from a superfood smoothie.

Philadelphia bars have experienced a tumultuous pandemic, marked by closures and silver linings like take-out cocktails, elaborate outdoor dining structures and a flurry of new bottle shops at the bar. They also adapted to the (sometimes seemingly arbitrary) rules that came and went. Now that the plastic barriers have come down and the alcohol can flow freely again, has the Philly bar scene returned to normal? Editor Jenn Ladd took to the streets to check with the bar staff.

It’s pumpkin season, and editor Grace Dickinson had fun checking out food establishments featuring pumpkin spice and pumpkin puree. Here is his dessert shipment.

It’s also Oktoberfest, and we keep a list of beer festivals within a two hour drive of Philadelphia.

Philadelphia’s rules on expanded alfresco dining, including structures known as streeteries, are expected to expire at the end of the year. City council member Allan Domb introduced legislation to keep the streets in place permanently – a move applauded by restaurateurs and many patrons. He also has the backing of at least six board members, but not the board chairman who thinks it’s an overshoot.

Back in Queen Village, and in front of the Lightbox Cafe, Chris D’Ambro and Marina De Oliveira have revived the dining inside at the Southwark, their beautiful bistro, after a pandemic reboot that included a kitchen overhaul. Usually the kitchen work isn’t a big deal, but they’ve set up a nice four-seat chef’s table at the end of the line, bookable for $ 300 per person including tax and tip. It is billed as part of Amber, their chic Italian restaurant next door, which will soon reopen with a single table for 8 to 12 people; bookings will go live on Resy next week for bookings from November 18th.

Meanwhile: A water main rupture on July 25 flooded the intersection of Sixth and Bainbridge streets, flooding basements and making life miserable. Most restaurants, such as Emmy squared, reopened quickly, followed by Bistro La Minette. The rebuilding process was painfully slow for the sailor Little fish (who returned two weeks ago, now with a prix fixe menu) and the Turkish BYOB Isot (back only last week). D’Ambro and De Oliveira’s Olly and Gigi Pizza, side by side at Fifth and Bainbridge, are still down. The shutter previously closed Bainbridge Street Barrel House, in front of the cracked main pipe, was flooded; it is being renovated in Redcrest Kitchen for debut in 2022. And Beau Monde and Upstairs, the creperie and lounge across from Bainbridge Street Barrel House which closed in 2020, have been offered for sale.

Briefly noted

Sad to announce that Adan Trinidad, the chef-partner of Pistola’s restaurants in Center City, Fishtown and South Philadelphia, died Tuesday at age 39 from injuries related to an apparent fall.

Curiosity donuts will launch a pop-up on Friday morning at White Horse Coffee Roasters (700 West Ave., Jenkintown) at 8 a.m. on October 8. Currently, Curiosity has local stalls at the Whole Foods Markets in Spring House (Thursday-Sunday) and Princeton (weekends). City dwellers got a taste of Curiosity last winter through a pop-up at Laurel on East Passyunk Avenue.

“I’m going to Jim, my dear …” But why did only your elbow get stronger? This is my introduction to the news that bar owners Fergus Carey and Jim McNamara (Fergie’s Pub, The Goat) are joining a project this fall with restaurateur Tony Rim (1225 Raw, The Foodery) at Eighth and Morris Streets in the south of Philadelphia. They call it The Jim, and it will replace the long-standing JC Chinese restaurant. Carey and McNamara will run the bar, while Rim will operate two delivery / takeout restaurants – one serving a Chinese menu and the other serving sushi.

Khoran Horn and Matthew Gansert’s La Marzocco espresso machine pumps Guardhouse, which opened this week right at the entrance to the Arsenal Business Center in Bridesburg and a short walk from I-95. Horn, a graduate of Johnson & Wales University of Virginia and founder of Stripp’d juice, and Gansert, previously at Old City’s Forsythia, are starting with homemade baked goods * and La Colombe coffee (7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays) and plan to add breakfast and lunch in the weeks future. The cool setting is a complete overhaul of the old guardhouse at the old Frankford Dockyard.

* Sign of the times: Some local wholesale bakeries are so overwhelmed with staffing issues that they are begging for new business.

Barbecue breast instead of sirloin in a Philly cheesesteak? Damn, yes. This is one of the business cards of Mike’s barbecue at 11th and Morris Streets in South Philadelphia, where Mike Strauss pours his own Cooper Sharp “Whiz” over brisket and onions in a Carangi Roll ($ 13.75). How about a commuter competitor. The newcomer Morgan’s Brooklyn BBQ, which landed over the summer at the King of Prussia Mall, has just launched one, inspired by a successful charitable collaboration with Pat’s King of Steaks. Morgan chef Cenobio Canalizo slips his brisket, caramelized onions, and a Southwestern “Whiz” queso into a Morabito roll ($ 18). You will need several towels and a nap.

Hey, cheesesteak fans in the south of Jersey. The place of donkeys, the Camden bar that served Anthony Bourdain’s favorite cheesesteak, opened its location in Mount Holly, called Donkey’s Place Downtown. The grand opening will take place on October 11 at 37 Washington St., behind the municipal building. There is a third location, in Medford.

From the street

One of the best parts of my job is learning from the people I interview. Thu Pham at the new Càphê rotisseries was making me a cup of coffee to pour the other day. She added some ground coffee to the phin (the metal basket that fits over the cup) and poured about a tablespoon of boiling water in the center. After 30 seconds, she gradually added more water. I have seen this technique before and asked Pham about it. The introduction of this first bit of water makes the soil bloom and releases the carbon dioxide created by the roasting. I have tried this at home and have noticed that my coffee is now much sweeter. Keep an eye out for my post later this week where I will explain this magical coffee-free creation you see below. The lawyer is involved.


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