Saturday, January 31, 2015

POSTED: Wednesday, January 21, 2015, 3:19 PM

Is a positive restaurant review really worth $1 million?

Times of London critic Giles Coren chuckled over the phone. He does not seem sure.

"I've written something and I'd get a call saying, 'Your review cost me 250,000 in lost bookings.' "

POSTED: Wednesday, January 21, 2015, 10:55 AM
Rob Wasserman at Parlor Pizza Bar, the successor to The Saint James at Suburban Square in Ardmore. (MICHAEL KLEIN / Philly.com)

Might Philadelphia's long-standing restaurant expansion be coming to an end? I have 70 reasons that will not happen anytime soon.

That is the number of projects targeted to open in the first half of 2015.

Admittedly, not all are white-tablecloth or even fine-dining. A steak shop, a bowling alley, and an ice cream parlor are in the mix, as well as a few chains - no doubt to annoy purists who choose to ignore the fact that out-of-towners' investment in a city is a key barometer of a local economy. So, hello, there, Cheesecake Factory.

POSTED: Tuesday, January 20, 2015, 10:00 AM
Philadelphians say they are generous tippers, says Zagat Survey. (MICHAEL KLEIN / Philly.com)

Philadelphians dine out less frequently than the national average but when they do, they tip well. They also love bacon, tend not to send a dish back to the kitchen, are unlikely to stiff a bad server, and don't mind pilfering forks and salt shakers.

Zagat Survey, the restaurant pollsters, has again sliced and diced data gathered from the dining public.

It is served up in chart form in the 2015 Dining Trends Survey, released Jan. 20.

POSTED: Monday, January 19, 2015, 10:06 PM
Antonia Lofaso, Tim Love (center) and Joe Bastianich of CNBC's "Restaurant Startup." (Jesse Grant/CNBC)

CNBC has fired up Season 2 of Restaurant Startup, and two teams from Philadelphia are in the hunt for a green light from investors/hosts Tim Love and Joe Bastianich.

One each episode, two teams go before the men to pitch their food ideas. The chosen team gets the keys to a restaurant in Los Angeles. They are given 36 hours and $7,500 to create a business plan, come up with a branding campaign, and present a pop-up restaurant.

Up at 10 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 20 is chef Anthony Marini, who is partnered with his lifelong buddy Chris Gaskill with an idea for a small restaurant called The Rarest, which specializes in minimally cooked food (e.g. crudo and ceviche).

POSTED: Saturday, January 17, 2015, 12:16 AM

Keith Garabedian says he has pulled the plug on Hot Diggity, the hot dog shop he opened 3 1/2 years ago at 630 South St.

Citing financial and personal issues, Garabedian called the closing of Hot Diggity "the most painful decision we have ever had to make."

"I loved working at Hot Diggity," he said. "I loved bringing hot dogs to Philadelphia in a new and different way. Most of all I will miss our staff and our amazing customers. One of our regular customers, now a married couple, met over hot dogs years ago, but then became vegan. Once we opened they celebrated their anniversary every year over vegan hot dogs to commemorate their first date. There are dozens of stories like this we have heard over the years. During our time open, we have forged new food memories with our community and for that I could not be more proud."

POSTED: Friday, January 16, 2015, 11:33 AM
Lucio Palazzo (left) and Rob Marzinsky are taking breathers. (RON TARVER (Palazzo), DAVID M WARREN (Marzinsky))

Two chefs have stepped away from their stoves, as both seek a breather with no stated new jobs.

Rob Marzinsky of Fitler Dining Room in Center City - which picked up three bells in 2013 - says he's figuring out his next step, which most likely will involve international travel. A rep for the restaurant says owners are staffing within the company (whose holdings include Pub & Kitchen and The Diveing Horse)  until a replacement is named.

Lucio Palazzo of Taqueria Feliz in Manayunk - a two-beller - says he is taking a short break before sussing out a location for his solo project - a Mexican with an emphasis on seafood and street food made from maize ground in-house. He hopes to open in 2016. Sous chef Jordan Korn, who started at sibling restaurants Cantina Feliz and La Calaca Feliz, has been promoted.

POSTED: Thursday, January 15, 2015, 4:17 PM
R2L's dining room on the 37th floor of Two Liberty Place.

Center City District Restaurant Week is Jan. 18 to 23 before skipping the Saturday night and resuming from Jan. 25 to 30.

About 130 downtown restaurants will offer $35 fixed-price dinners; some will also offer $20 three-course lunches.

I offer 7 pieces of advice:

POSTED: Thursday, January 15, 2015, 11:46 AM
The Rum and Cardamom Hot Cocoa with peppermint topping at Aldine Restaurant. ( Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer )

Restaurant weeks - in which a town or group gets together to market discounted meals - abound.

Here is a rundown of what we see for the next six months. Know of others? Email me.

Center City District Restaurant Week (Jan. 18-23 and Jan. 25-30): The granddaddy of the restaurant weeks amasses 125 Center City restaurants for two weeks (minus a Saturday night). Info is here.

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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