Talk about high drachma! Philly has seen the openings of not one but two fast-casual Greek eateries. I also have word on shrimp shumai, piquant peppers, and the mystical combination of doughnuts and Mexican food. In his Q&A, critic Craig LaBan offers nine recommendations for lamb chops as he is now baaaack from a major assignment. If you need food news, click here and follow me on Twitter and Instagram. Email tips, suggestions, and questions here. If someone forwarded you this free newsletter and you like what you’re reading, sign up here to get it free every week.
Gyro worship: Let’s meet Yiro-Yiro and Yeeroh
Philly has enjoyed gyros, souvlaki, spanakopita, and other Greek yummies for decades. Two new restaurant groups — coincidentally, sons of pizzeria owners — just opened to help turn the cuisine into a fast-casual, dine-in/take-away experience. The bonus: The masses may finally begin to pronounce gyro correctly — as in, yiro or yeeroh. Leads us to Broad and South Streets, where Yiannys Degermentzidis last week rolled out Yeeroh (1412 South St., 215-545-8000), and to Ridge and Lyceum Avenues in Roxborough, where Chris and Constantine Avgiris and Teddy and Sav Bouikidis debuted Yiro-Yiro (6024 Ridge Ave., 267-331-9476). Their customizable core menus are similar — pork, beef, and chicken roasted on vertical rotisseries and served on a plate or a pita, plus grilled skewers, salads, and sides. Both offer baklava and a yogurt bar for dessert. While Yeeroh on South Street dishes a mean rice pudding, Yiro-Yiro simply crushes your diet with fried-to-order loukoumades, which are doughnut holes dredged in honey and then slathered with Nutella. Yasou? Yes, sir.
What we’re drinking
The James Cocktail
Look beneath the scaffolding shrouding the Lofts at 1835 Arch. It’s James, a Center City sleeper with sharp looks, killer happy hours (4:30-6:30 p.m. weekdays, 10 p.m.-midnight Fridays and Saturdays), and lobster mac and cheese so rich, it has “Millionaire” in the name. James’ namesake cocktail ($10) is as simple as it is tasty: Maker’s Mark, turbinado, and raspberries.
Where we’re eating: Cafe Soho, The Sweet Taco, Urban Village
It’s been a decade since Sue Park introduced Philly to the extreme crunch of Korean fried chicken at Cafe Soho (468 W. Cheltenham Ave., 215-224-6800). While the various wings at the black-and-bold East Oak Lane bar are tops (they inspired Federal Donuts’ chicken), try the shrimp shumai, the juicy, nugget-like dumplings, for sweet contrast.
It’s a doughnut shop! It’s a taqueria! It’s both! The Sweet Taco — with locations in Willow Grove and Springfield, Delco — greets customers with a case of tempting plain and fancies (such as the overfilled Boston cream here). They’re on the small side, all the better to justify ordering tacos (such as the brisket here), tostados, and burritos to make it a meal (as I did here). Willow Grove, which is BYO, offers comp margs on Mondays, $2 tacos on Tuesdays, and free Coronas on Thursdays.
Northern Liberties’ Urban Village, part of the city’s crop of new brew pubs, rocks a menu focused on thin, Neapolitan-ish pizzas designed to go with owner Dave Goldman’s beers. Don’t count out the apps, such as ricotta gnocchi or these addictive blistered shishito peppers, which give you a peppery punch tempered by mint and sweet, end-of-season peaches. Wash it down with a Tropic Thunder, a porter brewed with habaneros and coconut(!). Tip: Deep discounts abound at happy hour, 5-7 p.m. weekdays.
Coffee pioneer Horn & Hardart will mark National Coffee Day on Friday, Sept. 29, by giving away cups of Liberty Roast blend in Rittenhouse Square from noon-2 p.m. and 500 bags and K-cups online beginning at 9 a.m.; use code CoffeeDay.
You could do wurst: Saturday, Sept. 30, is the third annual South Philly SausageFest on West Passyunk Avenue. Rain date is Oct. 7.
Saturday, Sept. 30, is the first CiderFest at the historic houses of Fairmount Park: Lemon Hill, Mount Pleasant, Laurel Hill, Strawberry Mansion, Woodford Mansion, Cedar Grove. Tickets ($40, including transportation) and info are here.
Friday, Sept. 29-Sunday, Oct. 1 is the final weekend of the season at Kennett Creamery, the Chester County pop-up beer garden.
This week’s openings
Gin & Pop | Francisville
Amid a huge residential boom comes this cozy corner gastropub run by two brothers at 1839 Poplar St. Should be open by week’s end.
Jezabel Careaga of Fitler Square’s Jezabel’s Cafe has branched out with a small tea house, cooking demonstration studio, and a boutique for the kitchen and home, all rolled into one, at 208 S. 45th St.
A Northern Liberties couple — he’s a former pharma consultant from France who took up baking, she’s a longtime barista — turns out serious baked goods and coffee at their boulangerie at 631 N. Second St. Go early; sellouts are inevitable. The charcoal sourdough, doe.
This week’s closings
The vegan salon, which lost its chef, is being reconfigured, says owner Jose Vargas.
Smokin’ John’s Barbeque | Manayunk
The ‘cue restaurant next to Winnie’s Manayunk has closed, pending a change in management.
Your dining questions, answered
Reader: Since Nais Cuisine shuttered its doors in Havertown, I have been mourning the evaporation of their delightful lamb. Can you give me any advice?
Craig LaBan: I was sorry to hear Nais closed down after such a long run, even though Havertowners should be excited to get a new branch there soon of the fast-growing Conshohocken Brewing Co. But lamb chops… mmm. They are among my favorite cute things to eat. And thankfully, this region has plenty of excellent, diverse examples. If you’re looking specifically for a more classic French approach, check out Jansen in Mount Airy, where they were served with an accompaniment that recalled a Niçoise salad. At Birchrunville Store Café in Chester County, chef Francis Pascal winks at the old mint jelly crowd by serving his lamb with minted risotto. Bar Volvér serves its little chops in a classed-up poutine, with gravy and feta cheese over excellent frites. For a simple Italian take, try Caffé Aldo Lamberti in Cherry Hill. What I love about lamb chops is that they are truly an international infatuation. Try the sweet and savory Asian rendition called “lambs on fire” at the Vietnamese-themed BYOB Lemongrass in Cherry Hill. Or grilled over the open flames of the Japanese robatayaki downstairs at Double Knot. Or how about Uzbek-style on a skewer, roasted over the charcoal grill at Uzbekistan in Northeast Philly? Chabaa Thai in Manayunk serves an elegant rendition over rich, spicy massaman curry. At IndeBlue on 13th Street, the sublimely tender lollipop chops come with an Indian accent, singed in the tandoor and aromatic with smoky garlic and mace.
Email Craig here.