This week, we bop around Philly — under the Ben Franklin Bridge to a stylish Japanese bar-restaurant, to Southwest Center City to check out a cleverly designed newcomer and to visit one of my favorite Mexican-style bars, and to Logan Square for hella-great Greek street food. We also head to the hottest restaurant in KoP for a drink. (If you’re venturing to a mall this weekend, you just may need one.) In the Q&A, I provide a consumer tip that may spare you grief and embarrassment. 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 every week.
Tuna Bar is tuning up under the Ben
You’re going to be hearing a lot about Tuna Bar in the next weeks. Ken Sze, who grew up in the family biz at Yokohama restaurant in Maple Shade, and his wife, Cortney Cohen-Sze, are in the soft-opening phase of this polished Japanese bistro in the new Bridge, at Second and Race Streets in Old City, whose well-stocked drinking bar segues into a sushi bar (with a soon-to-be-installed oyster counter). Menu is expanding beyond sushi and a few cooked dishes, namely Sze’s seafood specialties, to include robatayaki cooking and an omakase. Check my prelim photos. Boxwood Design opted for clean lines, reminiscent of Walnut Street Cafe at 29th and Walnut. It’s open for dinner only; get a preview today (Wednesday) from 3 to 6 p.m., when happy-hour pricing rolls back the total.
What we’re drinking
Cucumber Delight at Founding Farmers
Challenge: Landing a table at Founding Farmers. The new 300-seater at the King of Prussia Town Center seems to be booked solid for the all-American food, including house-made ice cream, bread, and pastries at fair prices. So snag a bar seat upstairs, and try this drink, with Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, lemon, cucumber, and cantaloupe. FF’s D.C. location supposedly sells 15,000 a year. KoP probably won’t be outdone.
Where we’re eating: Keen, Moustaki, Los Camaradas
You may have heard about the condom dispenser in the upstairs men’s room, the “sexy rainstorm” look of the main bar, and the Pac-Man machine up in the “living room.” That’s Keen, all right. At 1708 Lombard St., Caitlin and Chris Rorer have a solid bar thing going, with “fast-track” cocktails made from five ingredients or fewer, as well as a well-priced menu of American comfort food. Pig Candy is the ultimate bar snack: candied, cider-brined, thick-cut bacon with maple syrup, with an optional $5 shot of Old Grand-Dad.
The city’s Greek scene is exploding with fresh ideas (e.g. Yeeroh at Broad and South and Yiro-Yiro in Roxborough), courtesy of a millennial generation of Greek Americans tired of the pizzeria life they grew up in. Add Moustaki, a spare but homey newcomer behind the Franklin Institute at 21st and Race Streets. Owner Pete Kada, whose pappoús founded Pete’s Famous Pizza down the block 35 years ago, turns out a familiar menu including gyros and souvlaki. Must try: the avgolemono soup.
Every city neighborhood has a corner bar turning out a pub menu. Southwest Center City just above Washington Avenue is lucky to have the refined, comfortably low-lit Los Camaradas, a Mexican-themer at 22nd and Carpenter. You might say that this is nacho everyday fare — a pork belly avocado BLT at brunch, short-rib enchiladas at dinner — backed by a vast tequila/mezcal selection poured by friendly, generous bartenders. (On the other side of town, Joe and Theresa Scull also own the Queen Village BYOB Teresa’s Mesa.)
This week’s openings
Angry Deekin | West Poplar
Craig Martin smokes pork and beef at his days-old storefront joint at 1019 Spring Garden St., across from Union Transfer. (Note: Ambler ‘cue specialist The Lucky Well is fixing for a mid-2018 opening across the street at 990 Spring Garden.)
Buena Onda | King of Prussia
Jose Garces’ Baja-theme taco shop is due to open a stand in the Savor food court at King of Prussia Mall on Nov. 24.
Ferry Market | New Hope
Snazzy, new food hall at 32 S. Main St. boasts 13 vendors selling such items as chocolates, coffee, gluten-free, Peruvian food, noodle bowls, pork, and crepes.
Hatch & Coop | University City
The crew from Jake’s Sandwich Board is venturing across the street from its 40th Street location with this chicken specialist, opening Monday, Nov. 27, at 125 S. 40th St.
Ocean Harmony | Chinatown
Cantonese seafooder is just days old at 937 Race St., replacing Rising Tide.
Suraya | Fishtown
The market portion of this ambitious Levant-theme complex (including a restaurant and outdoor space) should be open in the next week or two at 1526 Frankford Ave. See a photo here. The rest is due to open in stages in 2018.
This week’s closing
Chi Ken | Chinatown
The Taiwanese-style popcorn chicken shop has closed after less than a year.
Your dining questions, answered
Reader: Any gift ideas for the restaurant enthusiast who has everything?
Mike Klein, sitting in for Craig LaBan: The logical answer is a gift card. But hold on there. Though restaurants are the backbone of our economy, they’re also businesses that come and go with startling frequency — especially the independent eateries that help define a city. You don’t want to get stuck with a $100 emergency ice scraper or lock pick. Safer options are to buy cards from a multi-unit operator (such as Starr Restaurants, which has 20 locations in Philly alone) or from OpenTable (which can be used at hundreds of restaurants — indies and chains). If you receive a card, use it right away. Do not stuff it into your drawer to wait for that “special occasion.” That “special occasion” will invariably arise after the eatery has closed. A free meal is a special occasion, anyway. Even better: Take the recipient out and pick up the tab.
Craig LaBan’s food chat returns at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 28 at Philly.com/food.
The best dining in the suburbs
After 4,000 miles and countless calories, Craig LaBan has come up with 150-plus excellent food destinations in the Pennsylvania and New Jersey suburbs.