National statistics may suggest a flattening of the restaurant growth curve, but the Philadelphia dining scene in 2016 is an entirely different story.
Homegrown independent restaurants, especially those run by well-funded groups, are expanding.
National chains, especially in the fast-casual sector, are pouring into Center City and King of Prussia, shrugging off rising rents that stymie the mom-and-pops that started it all. Openings significantly outnumber closings, the case for two decades.
The lineup of significant restaurant openings might not be diverse in terms of cuisine and concept, but it's robust.
Here is the summary. I've broken down the list, in order of anticipated opening, below. Unless a specific date is shown, the estimate was provided by the owner.
Jose Garces will open 24, his wood-fire grill, at 2401 Walnut St. Rittenhouse newcomers include Harp & Crown, Michael Schulson and Nina Tinari-Schulson's stylish bar-restaurant (with two bowling lanes in the basement); Veda, a modern Indian bistro; Scarpetta, a high-end Italian in the Rittenhouse Hotel; the Stephen Starr-chef Peter Serpico Korean restaurant (as yet unnamed) at 2025 Sansom St.; and a subterranean french-fry shop called Shoo Fry. The simply named James will bring hearty, back-to-basics fare to Logan Square, in the shadow of the new Comcast tower. Point Breeze gets On Point, a cozy bruncherie/BYOB, and Burg's, a new bistro. Mica in Chestnut Hill is back as an elegant BYOB, and Savona in Gulph Mills returns with a new look. In Queen Village, two new destinations will be Ambra, a sexy Italian bistro, and Royal Izakaya, a Japanese bar-restaurant. New bars will abound in Washington Square West: Destination Dogs, specializing in upmarket hot dogs; Rarest, an American restaurant with a raw bar; the subterranean taproom Six Feet Under; Toasted Walnuts, from the former manager of the shuttered lesbian bar Sisters; and Blue Duck, an offshoot of the hit Northeast Philadelphia bistro. City Diner's name tells the story at Broad and South Streets. Chef-driven, seafood-forward BYOBs are coming: Wister in Old City and Two Fish in Haddonfield. Cinder, a bar in Center City, will specialize in sour beers and ciders. La Cabra will be a brewpub in Berwyn. Firepoint Grill is a multimillion-dollar wood-fired grill being built from the ground up in Newtown Square. Sushi specialists Jason's Toridasu and Bluefin (under the name B2 Sushi) are setting up on either side of City Avenue. King of Prussia Town Center is awaiting the openings of Davio's, Honeygrow, City Works, and Paladar Latin Kitchen & Rum Bar. In King of Prussia Mall, look for a Sept. 19 opening of The Fat Ham. Two restaurants with nonprofit aims - EAT Cafe, backed by the Vetri family, and Rooster Soup Co., from Steve Cook and Michael Solomonov - are on the way.
Highlights for the remainder of the year include:
On Point (1200 Point Breeze Ave., opened Sept. 13): Longtime Jose Garces chef Juan Lopez is behind this cozy Point Breeze brunch/dinner spot.
Mica (8609 Germantown Ave., opened Sept. 13): New chef/owner Yianni Arhontoulis, who was chef de cuisine at Blackfish in Conshohocken (the flagship restaurant of previous owner Chip Roman), has gone the BYOB route with an ambitious $69 tasting menu, as well as a five-entree à la carte dinner menu, in cozy environs.
Savona (100 Old Gulph Rd. Gulph Mills, reopens Sept. 19): The luxe Euro restaurant expanded its bar area, offering a view into chef Andrew Masciangelo's new, glass-enclosed kitchen featuring a charcoal grill. Sommelier Michele Gargiulo's wine list now exceeds 1,000 global selections.
James (1835 Arch St., opening Sept. 21): The operators of Mac's Tavern are planning American cuisine with global influences in a refined, contemporary space (the former Mission Grill at 19th and Arch Streets).
Two Fish (26 S. Haddon Ave., Haddonfield, Sept. 21): Little Fish alum Mike Stollenwerk heads to Camden County with a seafood-centric BYOB.
Ambra (705 S. Fourth St., "by the end of September"): Chris D'Ambro and Marina de Oliveira of Southwark head next door with a sexy, low-lit Italian, whose $65 fixed-price menu will be served Thursday to Sunday.
Scarpetta (Rittenhouse Hotel, late September): The New York Italian takes over Smith & Wollensky with a minimalist, monochromatic, modern design using reclaimed white oak, honed calacatta gold marble, and distressed leathers.
Shoo Fry (132 S 17th St., late September/early October): A build-your-own french fry quick-serve - basically, a meal in a bowl. A Fishtown outpost is on the horizon.
Destination Dogs (1111 Walnut St., by the end of September): Arcade games, internationally themed sausages, multiple bars - frankly, sounds like fun.
Royal Izakaya (780-782 S. Second St., "by October"): Sushi masters Matt and Jesse Ito are front and center at Stephen Simons and David Frank's modern Japanese bar in Queen Village. The sushi bar will follow the izakaya by two weeks.
The Halal Guys (Valley Forge Shopping Center, 150 W. Dekalb Pike, Oct. 1): The fast-casual Middle Eastern phenomenon, which grew out of a New York food cart, opens its first regional location. A second location is scheduled to occupy the long-delayed Chinatown Square food hall that is being built at 1016 Race St.
Burg's (1200 S. 21st St., October): Developer Ori Feibush revives the name of the longtime Point Breeze tap that was supplanted by the now-shuttered Buckminsters. Chef Marcus Boudreaux of Feibush's OCF Cafe will be at the stove.
EAT Cafe (3820 Lancaster Ave., October): The EAT (Everyone at the Table) Cafe, a collaboration of Drexel University and the Vetri family, will offer pay-what-you-can-afford meals for the West Philadelphia community.
Wister (26 N. Third St., early October): Former Lacroix and Le Bec-Fin sous chef Benjamin Moore makes the leap from the line to the bottom line at this BYOB.
Harp & Crown (1525 Sansom St., mid-October): Michael Schulson and Nina Tinari-Schulson, following on their hit Double Knot at 13th and Sansom Streets, head to Rittenhouse with a luxurious bar-restaurant brimming with modern and Old World touches and food by chef Karen Nicolas, one of Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chefs for 2012 and who had worked locally at Tria. A cool bar in the basement features two bowling lanes.
Veda (1920 Chestnut St., early October): Modern Indian cuisine at the former Le Castagne.
Cinder (1500 Locust St., October): Teddy Sourias (BRU Craft & Wurst, U-Bahn, Finn McCool's, Uptown Beer Garden) is behind a sophisticated, artisanal beer/cider bar and pizza kitchen.
SLICE Pizza (431 E. Girard Ave.), October): The minichain goes organic in Fishtown.
City Diner (Broad and South Streets, mid-October): What will it be, hon? Peter Mooradian (Chima, Serafina, Four Seasons) and Dimitrios Kolovos, whose family owns the Penrose and Oregon Diners, are going for hip.
Philadelphia Distilling (33 E. Allen St., late October/early November): The pioneering distillery behind Bluecoat and other brands opens a tasting room and offers tours next to the Fillmore in Fishtown. A restaurant will follow.
Rarest (Ninth and Chestnut Streets, late October/early November): Chef Anthony Marini's New American at the landmark Franklin will include a raw bar focusing on crudo, ceviches, and the like. Alexandra Cherniavsky, a veteran of Amada, Avance, and Le Bec-Fin, is general manager and wine director, and Jamonera/Bud & Marilyn's alum Marietta Correño is executive sous chef. Marini, a Culinary Institute of America grad and veteran of such destinations as Culinary Institute of America, started at the former Dilullo Centro and Philadelphia Fish and Company, won a season of CNBC’s Restaurant Startup.
La Cabra Brewing (642 Lancaster Ave., Berwyn, late October/early November): Vern Burling, Andy Iott, and head brewer Dan Popernack do a Latin-style brewpub across from the Berwyn train station.
Firepoint Grill (3739 West Chester Pike, Newtown Square, early November): Lehigh Valley restaurateur George Paxos sets up a huge American concept - 250 seats inside, 150 outside on a patio - boasting an open kitchen with wood-fired grill. Starr Restaurant alum Hugh Moran is chef.
Jason's Toridasu (40 Rittenhouse Place, Ardmore, early October): The Ardmore Japanese takeout expands next door with a dining room. Coming in January: a spot at Presidential City on City Avenue.
Rooster Soup Co. (1526 Sansom St., fall): Federal Donuts and Broad Street Ministry set up a subterranean soup and sandwich eatery whose net proceeds after expenses will go to the Broad Street Ministry Hospitality Collaborative, which fights hunger.
Blue Duck (212 S. 11th St., early December): The Northeast Philadelphia strip-mall bistro opens a second spot near Jefferson University Hospital with a small bar and chef's counter.
24 Wood-Fired Fare (2401 Walnut St., December): Jose Garces' next bistro specializes in roasted, more health-conscious food, with a large bar. (Garces has restaurants due in 2017 at the Tropicana in Atlantic City.)
B2 Sushi (401 City Ave., Bala Cynwyd, December): Yong Kim of Bluefin in East Norriton opens a modern Japanese restaurant in the former Chops.
Peter Serpico's Korean-inspired restaurant (2025 Sansom St., December): The chef from Serpico, backed again by Stephen Starr, goes into the former Il Pittore with a small-plater that will hew "70 percent" to the foods of his Korean roots. Starr, by the way, will take possession of Serafina at 18th and Sansom Streets this fall. He said he is hunting for a concept.
Tredici (Bryn Mawr Village, December): A Main Line outpost for the Center City Italian hit.