In a steamy July only a few years ago, I could count a few dozen restaurant projects on the books. Economists told us we were in the throes of a recession.
As we veer into the second half of 2014, I now count 85 in various stages - from "imminent" (Independence Beer Garden, across from Independence Mall) to "targeted to open in 2015" (the Cheesecake Factory at 15th and Walnut Streets, now a hole in the ground).
And there are more than 85 cooking at the moment. Many restaurateurs are not eager to share their plans or their progress. Even with a signed lease, there are unions to duck, permits to pull, community groups to coddle and financing to obtain. Better to do it under the radar.
Restaurateurs are optimists by nature. When you ask about anticipated opening dates, you can actually hear the asterisks in their voices. Anything can hold up an opening. Sometimes, it's even a window of time to train staff.
Among the city spots I'm most looking forward to in the remainder of 2014 - in no particular order - are Aldine (George and Jennifer Sabatino's solo act at 19th and Chestnut Streets); Abe Fisher and Dizengoff (the Hebraic twins at 1605-27 Sansom St. from Michael Solomonov and Steve Cook); La Peg (Peter Woolsey's brasserie at the FringeArts' home on Columbus Boulevard); Lo Spiedo (Marc Vetri's Italian rotisserie, in the Navy Yard); Juniper Commons (Kevin Sbraga's rotisserie in the SouthStar at Broad and South Streets); Brigantessa (the Southern Italian at 1520 E. Passyunk Ave. from Le Virtu); Palladino's (Luke Palladino's spot at 1934 E. Passyunk Ave.); Whetstone (regional American from the Brauhaus Schmitz-ers at Fifth and Bainbridge Streets); Kensington Quarters (a butcher shop-cum-restaurant from Loft District pioneer Michael Pasquarello and butcher Bryan Mayer at 1310 Frankford Ave. in Fishtown); Capofitto (Capogiro's sitdowner at 233 Chestnut St.); Bing Bing Dim Sum (the guys from Cheu Noodle Bar opening at 1648 E. Passyunk Ave.); and La Colombe's new HQ at 1335 Frankford in Fishtown.
Jose Garces also has mentioned a cafe at his new HQ at 2401 Walnut St. as well as a bar at the former Old Original Bookbinder's in Old City, to open in the fall.
For good, clean fun, I'll add Tin Roof (a music club but at 1525 Sansom St.); The Yachtsman (Tommy Up's tiki bar at 1444 Frankford Ave. in Fishtown); and Bareburger (a jazzed-up version of the NYC beef joint at 1109 Walnut St.).
Here is what's what at the moment.
In coming days, as more info surfaces, I'll add details (look for changes in itals).
July 14 is the opening of a second location of Carmel, the wine bar/casual Mediterranean in Warrington.
July 15 is the opening of what should be a game-changer in Center City: Independence Beer Garden, outside of 100 S. Independence Mall West. Basically, go stand in front of the entrance to the Liberty Bell pavilion, face the bell and look right. That's it, across Sixth Street: a thickly landscaped oasis with plenty of bench seating and Adirondack chairs. And 20 beers on tap at two bars. And indoor-outdoor games. Michael Schulson deserves some kind of medal for seeing green (more than one kind) where others have long seen a mid-20th-century office building.
July 18 is the target for Union Taco's Manayunk location at 4229 Main St.
July 26 should see the opening of Gyu-Kaku, the Philly branch of the Japanese BBQ house, at 1901 Callowhill St. in the Granary (just down the row from Pizzeria Vetri and Le Pain Quotidien and across the street from the venerable Rose Tattoo Cafe).
Late July is the target for Chops at the Comcast Center, a redo of Table 31; the plaza has been open since spring
Beyond this, the lineup is loose and undefined. None of this info is written in stone; in fact, it's written in Clickability, our content-management system.
For instance, I'm hearing that Rubb - the long-stalled BBQ-er at 4311 Main St. - will open soon. As in soon-soon. But who knows.
La Colombe's flagship, which will include a cafe, roaster and rum production facility, at 1335 Frankford Ave. in Fishtown.
La Peg, the French-ish production from Bistrot La Minette's Peter Woolsey at Columbus Boulevard and Race Street.
Beast & Ale, a retro bar from the Cantina/La Calaca/Taqueria Feliz boyz, at 4161 Main St. in Manayunk.
Estia Taverna in Radnor; the more casual offshoot of Center City's Estia
Blue Duck Sandwich Co., a shop from a winner of 2014 Burger Brawl, at 2859 Holme Ave. in Northeast Philly.
Arde and Vecchia - two Neapolitan pizzerias - across the street from each other in downtown Wayne.
2nd Story, the successor to Triumph Brewing Co., at Second and Chestnut Streets.
The Yachtsman, the tiki bar from Tommy Up and Sarah Brown, at 1444 Frankford Ave. in Fishtown.
Capofitto, the pizza/Italian/gelato spot from Capogiro, at 233 Chestnut St. in Old City.
First Street Steaks & Hoagies, doing sammies under the El at Girard Avenue (1204 N. Front St.).
Little Spoon Cafe, a coffee shop, at 1500 South St.
Bareburger, the NYC chain comes to 1109 Walnut St.
I'll also add Aldine - the chef-droven George Sabatino restaurant/bar upstairs at 1901 Chestnut St. - here.
LABOR DAY or LATE SUMMER
Calexico, the California/Mexican hybrid at 1600 South St. (A Fishtown location is up for 2015.)
Whetstone, the regional American from the Brauhaus Schmitz-ers at the former Tapesty at Fifth and Bainbridge Streets.
Leziz, a new home for the Turkish restaurant, at 216-18 South St.
Serrano, in a new concept for the Old City mainstay
Andy's Diner, whose fading "opening soon" sign on Bethlehem Pike in Spring House has become a running gag among Ambler-area drivers.
SEPTEMBER or EARLY FALL
City Tap House, taking over for the Public House at Two Logan Square on 18th Street
Kensington Quarters, the butcher shop/restaurant from Mike Pasquarello and Bryan Mayer at 1310 Frankford Ave.
U-Bahn, the subterranean bar from Teddy Sourias (Bru) at 1318-20 Chestnut St.
An Italian restaurant with liquor license 214 South St. from the Frusones, who owned Bella Cena Primadonna near the Kimmel Center
Jake's Sandwich Board's University City outpost
BonChon, the Korean fried chicken specialist, to 1020 Cherry St. in Chinatown.
Girard, the no-tipping brasserie, at 300 E. Girard Ave. in Fishtown.
Wahoo's Fish Taco, a chain takes over Mikey's in The Left Bank, 3180 Chestnut St.
Bing Bing Dim Sum , which has Shawn Darragh and Ben Puchowitz adding Chinese to South Philly (1648 E. Passyunk Ave.).
Keen, a bar-restaurant at the former Astral Plane (1706-08 Lombard St.), backed by veteran Randy Hoppmann.
Honeygrow in Cherry Hill
Mainland Inn in central Montgomery County, under seasoned chef Ezra Duker (ex-French Laundry).
Big Gay Ice Cream, the New York thing comes to Broad and South Streets
OCTOBER/NOVEMBER or LATE FALL
Lo Spiedo, the rotisserie specialist from Marc Vetri and company at Navy Yard.
Boxers, the gay sports bar at 1330 Walnut St.
Brick & Mortar, a bar-restaurant in the Goldtex at 314 N. 12th St. from Franklin Mortgage alum Mike Welsh.
Palladino's will have the Jersey shore's Luke Palladino cooking miles inland at 1934 E. Passyunk Ave.
Not Your Average Joe's, the growing chain at Suburban Square in Ardmore
Harvest in Moorestown Mall
V Street, the bar from Vedge's Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby, at 126 S. 19th St.
Red Star Craft House is Dave Magrogan's variation of his Stella Rossa, in Exton Square Mall.
Guild Hall Brewing Co., a brewpub next to the Hiway movies in Jenkintown
Juniper Commons, Kevin Sbraga's rotisserie in the SouthStar at Broad and South Streets
Mercadito, the stylish Mexican out of Chicago, is looking at December at 2116 Chestnut St.
Iron HIll's Ardmore location
Port Richmond bruncherie Mercer Cafe at the Navy Yard
The jazz club from Time/Vintage/Bar's Jason Evenchik at 914 N. Second St. in Northern Liberties.
The Pop Shop's branch in Medford.
Royal Izakaya, the long-delayed bar at 782 S. Second St. in Queen Village.