Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

POSTED: Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 2:26 AM

Other local restaurateurs have attempted the izakaya concept - it's basically a Japanese bar - while hedging their bets by offering sushi and rolls.

Not coZara, opening officially on Friday, April 25 at Chestnut Square (33d and Chestnut Streets), next to the new Zavino, Shake Shack and Joe Coffee on the Drexel U campus.

Owner Hiroyuki "Zama" Tanaka - who owns Zama near Rittenhouse Square - set up this bilevel 140-seater with a menu of Japanese small-plates. "No sushi," he explained gently. He's retained the services of Starr veteran Chris Paulikas as chef de cuisine; Tanaka himself worked Starr for nine years .

POSTED: Tuesday, April 22, 2014, 4:22 PM
Conception of Rôti at 248 S. 11th St.

Chef Olivier Desaintmartin is venturing next door to his Zinc Bistro (246 S. 11th St.) in Washington Square West with a neat project that will be très Euro, down to the circumflex.

Rôti, a market and rotisserie done up like a French butcher shop, is under construction in what was a branch of Gianfranco Pizza Rustica at 248 S. 11th St. It's expected to open in late June.

Desaintmartin - who also owns the nearby Caribou Cafe and is not only a champion of TV's Chopped but a member of the MaÎtres Cuisiniers de France - will source his chicken, beef and pork from farms that use no GMOs. He's bringing in two blue enamel rotisseries from France. 

POSTED: Tuesday, April 22, 2014, 3:36 PM
Eimer Design's rendition of the new Jake's on 40th Street. (EIMER DESIGN)

Four years into the business, Gary Dorfman and Sean Stein are fixing up a second location of Jake’s Sandwich Board, now at 12th and Sansom Streets.

They took space in a new retail development opening in the fall at 40th and Sansom Streets, which will put them smack in the middle of a cool quick-serve hub inhabited by vegan HipCityVeg and chicken specialist Wishbone. 

At the new University City location, the specialty will be carved-to-order brisket, pork and turkey.

POSTED: Monday, April 21, 2014, 3:34 PM

Ten years ago this month, Valerie Safran and Marcie Turney popped open the door of Lolita, a Mexican BYOB on 13th Street between Chestnut and Sansom.

The two women, who had a home-furnishings shop across the street called Open House, were sold by a sweetheart deal from their landlord, Tony Goldman (who died two years ago). The neighborhood, already home to Capogiro and El Vez on opposite corners of 13th and Sansom, was on the rise.

Ten years later, the neighborhood is the most restaurant-rich of anywhere east of Broad Street, with more recent arrivals such as Zavino, The Corner, Sampan, Green Eggs, Indeblue and Nomad Roman. Safran and Turney built an empire. In addition to Barbuzzo and Jamonera, a grocery store called Grocery and a gift shop called Verde (plus a candy company) on the same block, last year they opened Little Nonna's two blocks south. 

POSTED: Monday, April 21, 2014, 2:12 PM
Brian Bevilacqua pours one at Bank & Bourbon at the Loews Philadelphia. (MICHAEL KLEIN / Philly.com)

Every bar has a head bartender, perhaps a food and beverage director, and nowadays a "mixologist" or two.

How many employ a bourbon master?

When the Loews Philadelphia hotel redid its ground-floor restaurant recently at 12th and Market Streets, management decided to devote considerable space and energy to bourbon: not only to a solid list, but an ambitious barrel-aging program that would allow customers to rent a barrel, fill it with the spirit or spirits of their choice, and visit periodically to taste the beverage as it ages. It also created a tiny tasting room tucked behind a fake bookshelf.


Bank and Bourbon Kentucky Tour from Reid Olson on Vimeo.

POSTED: Monday, April 21, 2014, 12:26 PM
TV host Marc Summers at Buddakan, April 14, 2014. (STEPHANIE AARONSON / Philly.com)

The longest-running Food Network series is Unwrapped, in which host Marc Summers dissects the making of snack foods, including Twinkies, Tastykakes, Goldfish crackers, pretzel rods, potato chips and the like.

"We had all this footage from 15 years of Unwrapped," Summers said. "How could we, as they say in the industry, repurpose that?"

How about a competition?

POSTED: Friday, April 18, 2014, 10:34 AM
New Robeks store, run by Kimberly Berger of Penn Valley, will be at 1035 Chestnut St. (Photo: KYLE BORN (inset))

Robeks, the L.A.-rooted made-to-order smoothie/fresh juice giant, has inked its first lease in the Philly area - the first of what is billed as 37 locations in the greater metro area.

The shop is expected to open in July at 1035 Chestnut St., half of a former women's clothing shop near Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. (The Jeff community should be pumped about this news, given the recent arrival of a Sweetgreen salad shop at 924 Walnut.)

Robeks' regional director is Kimberly Berger of Penn Valley, a transplant from Fairfield, Conn., and corporate refugee. She became hooked on the company, which is growing quickly via franchising.

Robeks, founded in 1996, was among the first bigger outfits to use Greek yogurt, and offers dairy-free, soy and almond milk options.
POSTED: Thursday, April 17, 2014, 4:02 PM
Wahlburgers. (Getty Images photos)

The chain burger boom shows no sign of abating.

Following such recent arrivals as Shake Shack, Zinburger, Bobby's Burger Palace, Burger Monger, Elevation, and Smashburger (and the impending deals to import Bareburger and Good Stuff Eatery), the Philly area is in line to get as many as five locations of Wahlburgers.

That's the up-and-coming Boston-area burger bar fronted by brothers Mark, Donnie and Paul Wahlberg. It's also the subject of an A&E reality series, Wahlburgers. Filming on 18 additional episodes for its second season is due to begin this spring at the location, at Hingham Shipyard (that's "HING-em SHIP-yahd").

About this blog
Michael Klein, the editor/producer of philly.com/Food, writes about the local restaurant scene in his Inquirer column "Table Talk." Have a question? Email it! See his Inquirer work here. Reach Michael at mklein@philly.com.

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