Philly’s dining-with-a-view scene will be expanding by two in coming weeks. I rode the elevators for the details. Also this week, I share word of a pan-Asian standout in Chinatown, return to a Rittenhouse favorite, and tip you to what might be Philly’s most decorated burger. Craig LaBan, meanwhile, shares his favorite croissants. If you need food news, click here and follow me on Twitter and Instagram. Email tips, suggestions, and questions here.
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Want a great view? I’ll give you altitude
Not too long ago, you could count the number of Center City restaurants and bars with rooftop views on one hand, and have a finger left over. The scene is growing, and complements our thriving alfresco contingent.
Later this year, Jean-Georges Vongerichten will open a restaurant-lounge at the Four Seasons Hotel coming to the top floors of the new Comcast Technology Center. (Vernick Fish will be on the ground floor.)
A year and a half from now, restaurateurs Greg Root and Nick Kennedy (of Fishtown’s Root and Suraya) will be doing a rooftop bar atop the 11-story Pod Philly hotel, due to begin arising soon at 19th and Ludlow Streets.
But more immediately, as in July, two more peak experiences will come our way.
July 3 is the target for Irwin’s, a cocktail bar/restaurant with a Mediterranean menu from chef Paul Garberson, coming to the Bok Building in South Philly. It’s on the other side of the roof from the enormously hot Bok Bar. Talk about kicking it old school: Rohe Creative converted the school’s former eighth-floor nursing classroom, adding bold art deco designs and found objects. From the bar, watch the city twinkle; know that the soapstone-topped bar itself comes from the old science room. Irwin was school architect Irwin Catherine.
Attico, a restaurant-lounge, is coming together on the roof of the new Cambria Hotel (219 S. Broad St., across from the Bellevue) for a mid-July official opening. Although buildings block the actual setting sun from burning your retinas, you get swell westward vistas from the 15th floor as well as looks north and south along Broad. (Guests at the DoubleTree: You may want to close your drapes.) The deck borders a glassed-in, conservatory-like bar/dining room.
Stay tuned for more info closer to the openings.
Where we’re enjoying happy hour
Porta, 1216 Chestnut St.
4-7 p.m. Monday-Friday (bar), 5-7 p.m. Monday-Friday (tables only)
The North Jersey-based Italian restaurant/bar, in its first summer in Center City, has a something-for-everyone approach: high-ceilinged dining room on one side, energetic bar on the other. Dig the housemade mozzarella, which you can find on the Many Thanks slider (including roasted red pepper and 18-year-aged balsamic vinegar), which is only $3 during happy hour, as are meatball sliders. Five bucks buys you fried polenta or fried mozzarella. Drafts are $4, tap wines $5, cocktails $6.
Where we’re eating: Bubblefish, Lucky’s Last Chance, Abe Fisher
Love the name (“bubble” for bubble tea, “fish” for sushi), love the restaurant (Bubblefish, 909 Arch St.). This sleek, industrial-looking bistro, which opened 2½ years ago in Chinatown, delivers not only creative rolls but Taiwanese dishes, bubble tea, and gorgeously presented hot teas. It’s BYOB, though a liquor license is on the way.
For all the vaunted burgers in Philly — Village Whiskey’s, Fountain Porter’s, Sketch’s, to name a few — there is only one that has won the annual Burger Brawl three times. It’s the PB & Bacon from Lucky’s Last Chance in Queen Village and Manayunk. The key ingredient is peanut butter, whose salty smoothness hits the American cheese, bacon, and beef with an extra bomb of umami. It’s $9.50 for a junior, $11.50 for the whole shebang. And yes, that’s a side of grape jelly.
Approaching its fourth anniversary, Rittenhouse’s Abe Fisher (1623 Sansom St.) shows no sign of growing stale with its modern-Ashkenazi theme. Chef Yehuda Sichel keeps it fresh with a changing collection of inspired plates, such as chicken liver mousse (served with house-made rye and pastrami-onion jam), gin-cured fluke, and cream cheese cavatelli. You can build a prix-fixe by choosing three plates for $39, or (if you order ahead) the Montreal-style pastrami-smoked short rib (a $72 feast for the table). Add in Eastern European-style cocktails, and no one leaves Hungary.
The first 450 customers to rock a Canadian tuxedo — denim jacket, denim jeans — to a Luke’s Lobster location on Friday, June 15, will get a free lobster roll. That’s claws for celebration.
Some Father’s Day freebies: The Harvest Seasonal Grill location in Radnor will give out a free buffet brunch to grandfathers; P’unk Burger gives out root beer floats; SliCE Pizza offers a slice during dine-in or a comp small pie with the purchase of a large; Puyero offers a comp arepa for dine-in; Revolution Taco is giving out tacos; Dim Sum House by Jane G’s offers soup dumplings; Jane G’s is down with orders of dandan noodles; Mama Maria’s Homemade Italian Ice is giving out water ice; Mad Rex offers beer and BBQ; and Cinder Copper & Lace offers beer flights during brunch.
Black Restaurant Week in Philadelphia runs through June 17. Details are here.
A look-ahead to the 2018 Pennsylvania Cider Fest, coming June 23 to the Gettysburg-area home of Jack’s Hard Cider in Biglerville. Details are here.
This week’s openings
The International | Kensington
The crew from Standard Tap and Johnny Brenda’s classed up the old Shenanigan’s Under the El (Front Street and Cecil B. Moore Ave.). Light menu from chef Paul Lyons, plenty of cocktails. Great counterpart to Evil Genius across the street.
Real Food Eatery | Center City
Thursday, June 14, is the projected opening of a second location for this nutrition-forward bowl specialist at 1700 Market St. It will be open from breakfast through dinner weekdays.
Two Persons | South Philadelphia
Coffee shop comes to the Bok Building from Adam Gery, a longtime manager and barista at Last Drop Coffeehouse, and architect Whitney Joslin. Its entrance is at 821 Dudley St.
T-Swirl Crepe | Haddonfield
The Japanese-style crepe shop serves its wares in a cone shape. It’s new at 115 Kings Highway East.
This week’s closing
Taqueria Feliz | Horsham
The Horsham branch of the taqueria favorite is buttoned up after less than three years.
Craig LaBan answers your dining questions
Reader: I just moved here from New York and I can’t seem to find a great croissant. Help!
Craig LaBan: You haven’t been to the right places yet, because Philly is having a croissant revolution right now! A couple of my current favorites, in fact, have New York connections.
My top pick is still Hungry Pigeon (743 S. Fourth St.) in Queen Village where Pat O’Malley, who used to run the pastry production for Balthazar, is making flaky wonders rich with Euro-style butter and a kiss of local honey subbed for sugar. His croissant variations with almond paste, dark ribbons of Valrhona chocolate, or ham and cheese layered with creamy béchamel are particularly great.
Melissa Weller at Walnut Street Café (2929 Walnut St.), who made her name in New York at Rebelle, uses a sourdough starter and Beurre d’Isigny for her elegant viennoiserie, including her the insanely delicious Kouign-Amann variation stuffed with chocolate-hazelnut cream. That once obscure Breton pastry, in which the laminated butter dough is heavily sugared and folded-in like a muffin for a caramelized crisp, is now de rigueur at any good croissant destination.
One of my new go-to KAs is the cardamom-sugared lovely at Suraya (1528 Frankford Ave.), the gorgeous Lebanese café-market, bakery, and restaurant in Fishtown, which right now is making some of the city’s most beautiful pastries — French, but with a Levantine twist.
ICI Macarons & Café (230 Arch St.) in Old City is a hidden gem — they do fine croissants, as well as some excellent KAs.
The Le Bec-Fin-trained duo of Katie Lynch and Emily Riddell at wholesale-oriented Machine Shop Boulangerie in the Bok Building in South Philly have helped upgrade the pastry cases at several coffee shops around town, including Menagerie, ReAnimator, Elixr, Rival Bros., and Res Ipsa. I’ve also loved the croissants laced with exotic za’atar at La Colombe (if a croissant could be flavorful but light, this is it).
The Kettle Black (631 N. Second St.) in Northern Liberties makes its standard croissants with Amish butter and has an airy vegan version that has seriously whirling layers inside. The French-owned J’Aime in the Gayborhood (212 S. 12th St.) is also legit.
For my old-school francs, though, the most authentic croissants in the area — the ones whose sweet butter flakes truly whisk me back to Paris — are to be found just outside the city limits in Centre Ville Narberth at Patrick Rurange’s Le Petit Mitron (207 Haverford Ave.) It’s not the only great suburban croissant, either. Try them at Ardmore’s Delice et Chocolat on your way to the train (9 E. Lancaster Ave.) or at the Buttery in Malvern (233 E King St.), where the pains aux chocolat was particularly memorable. The region’s croissant revolution, I suspect, is still on the rise.
Email Craig here.