Philly restaurants get national attention | Let's Eat – The Philadelphia Inquirer

Penn State-area dining, a cheesemaker gets creative, and the kosher knish makes a comeback.
We locals know about Philly’s thriving restaurant scene. The New York Times included two of our spots in a roundup of “50 places in America we’re most excited about right now.” Also this week: a guide to Penn State-area dining, a cheesemaker taking a warm and fuzzy approach to shipping, a local rebirth of the kosher knish, and a full slate of restaurant openings and closings.
❗ Some of you did not get “Let’s Eat” last week because of a technical issue. Click here to read about two ultraposh steak houses, a South Philly baker who won acclaim for intricate croissants, an exclusive on the reasons behind the closing of Voltaco’s in Ocean City, and more.
Do rising food costs have you wondering? My colleague Jenn Ladd wants to answer your questions about affordability, availability, and the like.
❓ But first, a quiz:
NBA players are getting into the wine business. Dwyane Wade has Wade Cellars and Carmelo Anthony has a Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Now a third baller has taken the plunge. Who?
A.) Giannis Antetokounmpo with “You Can’t Spell This”
B.) James Harden, with “J. Harden”
C.) Ben Simmons, with “Philly Fans’ Boooze”
D.) LeBron James with “Not Bartles & Jaymes”
Think you know? Check the story by my colleague Ximena Conde, who also put it to the test.
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Mike Klein
Philadelphians don’t need anyone’s approval, especially not from New Yorkers. But, as my colleague Jenn Ladd says, that does not mean that we don’t care when our hometown restaurants get recognition.
Two locals — Gabriella’s Vietnam in East Passyunk and Andiario in West Chester — are among the New York Timestop 50 restaurants of 2022. This should come as no surprise to Inquirer readers. Critic Craig LaBan found the food by Gabriella’s chef Thanh Nguyen (shown above with husband/GM Chris Nguyen) “thrilling” in a July 2021 review, a few months after it opened. Gabriella’s also was featured on Craig’s list of best new restaurants in 2021. Andiario, run by chef Anthony Andiario and Maria van Schaijik (below), has been among Craig’s faves since it opened in 2018, when he declared it ”the suburbs’ best new restaurant,” and it’s only gotten better since.
Awards are everywhere. Last week, Amanda Shulman’s Her Place in Rittenhouse, Michael Vincent Ferrari’s Irwin’s atop the Bok Building, and Philip Korshak’s Korshak Bagels in South Philadelphia were named to Bon Appetit’s list of best new restaurants in America.
Emily Riddell of Machine Shop, the bakery on the ground floor of the Bok Building in South Philadelphia, has been working in kitchens for 16 of her 36 years. She was named to Food & Wine’s class of 10 best new chefs for 2022. After sampling Riddell’s croissants, F&W restaurant editor Khushbu Shah called her a “lamination savant.”
The Penn State community has much more to enjoy these days than the pizzerias and diners of yore. Craig LaBan, juggling his hats as critic and Penn State dad, has found so much: Oaxacan tamales, Szechuan pork belly, Pakistani chicken charga, Korean kimchi and bulgogi over tater tots, and (above) the lava cake and matcha ice cream at Bistrozine. (There’s also a $25 turkey burger.) Follow him along Route 322 to read about 24 spots worth a stop.
Eco-minded cheesemaker Yoav Perry of Kensington’s Perrystead Dairy needed a better shipping material. During a visit to the U.K., he found wool, he told colleague Jenn Ladd. “It’s sustainable, it’s biodegradable, it’s actually friendly to the animals,” he said. Wouldn’t ewe know it.
Knish fans mourned the closing of Lipkin’s Bakery earlier this year, which supplied delis and synagogues from its base in Northeast Philadelphia. There’s reason to cheer: Lipkin’s owner Steven Nawalany (above, right) struck a deal with Paul Spangler (left) of Best Cake Kosher Bakery in Overbrook Park. Just in time for the High Holy Days, kosher knishes are now popping out of the oven at what is now called Lipkin’s Best.
Northern Liberties Night Market will gather 60 food trucks, mobile vendors, restaurants, bars, makers and merchants to North Second Street between Laurel Street and Fairmount Avenue from 5-10 p.m. Thursday. Those craving a boneless chicken-and-waffle bowl like the one below should track down Boomer’s Kitchen & Catering, run by V’Esther “Boomer” Goode. (“That’s been my nickname since birth,” she told me. “I don’t know why.”) Goode, 41, impressed friends with her cooking and, for her pro debut, catered a Christmas party with an eye toward helping son Raekwon with tuition at Delaware State. She bought her truck in 2018 and launched at 2019′s Roots Picnic, where she impressed with cheesesteak spring rolls. Her sales and marketing plan was “basically trial and error,” she said, until a free Small Business Digital Ready course and coaching offered by Verizon taught her finances and social media, and led to a $10,000 grant to help her grow the business. (As a newcomer, Boomer’s did not qualify for government pandemic relief, she said.) She does events and the occasional pop-up as business is booming.
Twenty-three restaurants are offering deals as part of Dine Latino, run by the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber, through Friday. Above is a pambazo from Taqueria Morales, one of the participants.
Center City District Restaurant Week, with 78 participants, runs through Saturday.
Atlantic City Restaurant Week will run from Oct. 2 to Oct. 7 with $20.22 lunches and $40.22 dinners.
The Philadelphia area is in the midst of a restaurant boomlet.
This week’s openings include two pizzerias (Enzo’s Pizzata in South Philadelphia and Pizza Wheel in Jenkintown), an ambitious Italian Market BYOB (Roxanne), a Georgian bakery/specialty shop (Saami Somi at Reading Terminal Market, soft-opening Thursday), and an Austin-style taco shop in South Philly (Taco Heart). Want the basics? Here’s the rundown.
The pizza shown above is from Enzo’s, a takeout at 19th and Wolf. It’s the burrata, which brings a mound of creamy cheese atop a white pie loaded with arugula, prosciutto, house-roasted peppers, and balsamic glaze. Enzo’s is a collab between Nicky Apadula, who started his 30 years in the pizza biz as a teenager washing dishes at Francoluigi’s at 13th and Tasker, and Dejvi Furxhi of the Burrata restaurants. (Enzo is the names of Apadula’s pop and son.) Menu is simple: thin-crust pizza (rounds and squares), stromboli, wings, fried stuff, and Philly sandwiches, including rib-eye cheesesteaks, built on Sarcone’s rolls. Gluten-free pizza is available. It’s takeout only; delivery through Uber Eats. Open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday.
Restaurant closings
The impact of the pandemic, meanwhile, is still being felt. Get your last meals before Sept. 30 at Gabi, the French bistro on North Broad Street, which was only four months old when the pandemic began. The crew will decamp for sibling restaurants La Peg in Old City and Bistrot La Minette in Queen Village.
This week’s closing list includes Bar Poulet in Rittenhouse, Las Vegas Lounge in Washington Square West, and the Miel Patisserie locations in Rittenhouse and Cherry Hill. All shuttered without much notice, as did Ventnor fave Water Dog’s offshoot inside Bally’s in Atlantic City, gone last week after less than a year.
Sugar Factory at 1214-16 Chestnut St. is said to be temporarily closed “due to a unforeseen plumbing issue” (opposed to a scheduled plumbing issue, perhaps). Reservations are next available online for Oct. 2.
Briefly noted
McGillin’s Olde Ale House (1310 Drury St.) is doing BOGO lunches for returning Comcast employees Tuesday through Friday until Oct. 21.
Sisterly Love Collective’s Food Fair takes over LOVE Park (JFK Boulevard at 15th Street) from 11 a.m.-4 pm. Saturday. Vendors supporting Philly’s women-owned businesses will include Milk Jawn, Hale + True Cider Co., High Street Philly, and Messin’ with Resin.
Trolley Car Diner’s move from its Mount Airy site to a storage facility in Wayne Junction was delayed once again Tuesday when SEPTA wires got in the way. Developer Ken Weinstein wants to refurbish the 1952 Mountain View diner, which closed for business in 2019.
The Italian salon Ambra (705 S. Fourth St.) returns from a two-year break on Oct. 6, and the Resy book just opened. Chef-owner Chris D’Ambro and his partner and wife, Marina de Oliveira, who own the adjacent Southwark, have reformatted. There’s the Kitchen Table for two to four people ($300, including menu, drinks, tax, and tip), and for groups of eight to 10 people, there’s the Dining Room ($2,500, including hors d’oeuvres, menu, beverages, tax, and tip). Both are cash only.
We bid farewell to the Queen with a look at the full English fry-up at Stargazy Cafe in South Philadelphia, where @maxdatner watched football on a Saturday morning. “This place had the strongest ‘community’ feel of any spot I’ve been to recently,” he said. Below is a plate of oysters enjoyed by @julianneweinman_ at Cafe Click, the scenic, seasonal Stephen Starr cafe outside the Comcast Center, 1701 JFK Blvd. (The year’s finale will be Oct. 31.)
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