Table Talk: One more brewer - of coffee - on Rittenhouse Square

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Wendy Born and James Barrett. at their new Metropolitan Cafe, ( MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer )

How much caffeine can Rittenhouse Square handle?

Already home of the flagship La Colombe on 19th Street north of the square, this spring the enclave will get the first Philadelphia branch of New York's Joe Coffee Bar, at 1845 Walnut St., and a branch of roaster/creperie Cafe L'Aube, at the 222 Rittenhouse condo building.

This week saw the premiere of Metropolitan Cafe (264 S. 19th St.) next door to the Metropolitan Bakery just south of the square, at 19th and Manning Streets.

Wendy Born and James Barrett have installed 20 seats in the mod, comfy setting. Menu includes pressed sandwiches made on Metropolitan sourdough bread, naturally leavened pizzas, warm fennel pretzels with Victory Brewing mustard, pot pies, house-cured meats and gravlax, house-made pickles and root chips, veggie options, Green Street Coffee Roasters coffee and Premium Steap teas, and Metropolitan sweets, including fig bars, cookies, and chocolate layer cake.

Born and Barrett - nearing 20 years in business, including a partnership with fellow White Dog Cafe alumnus Kevin Klause at Farmicia in Old City - also intend the cafe to become a neighborhood gathering spot after hours. It's open from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends.

 

Catching a trend

The grocery-store-as-restaurant has been popping up as a trend, particularly in New York (Court Street Market in Brooklyn and Jeffrey's Grocery in the West Village). Fairmount Grocery is coming to 19th Street and Fairmount Avenue this fall, taking the first floor of developer Daniel Greenberg's new four-story building now under construction on a lot on the northeast corner. Greenberg has signed chef Chad Williams - a former longtime Jose Garces right-hand man (Amada, Chifa, Garces' early Iron Chef appearances) - to handle the food. Greenberg says he's tapping into strong demand for a neighborhood shop. Fairmount Grocery will sell fresh, locally sourced foods as well as prepared foods. There will be a barista station, a demonstration kitchen, and 30 seats for dining, with a potential for 30 more outside.

 

What's coming

Dana Smith Farrell, a partner in the Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bars in Glen Mills and University City, is going solo this spring with Avenue Kitchen, a restaurant-bar at 789 Lancaster Ave. in Villanova. She is taking a portion of the space previously occupied by Maia and Mixx in the center behind the Villanova post office and just off the Blue Route. Avenue Kitchen will pair modern American cuisine with the classics. (Farrell has the classics in her past because she founded Classic Diner with her former husband.) The chef and partner is her brother, Greg Smith, a Culinary Institute of America grad who has worked for Georges Perrier, Jean-Marie Lacroix, and Chris Scarduzio. Industrial-chic interior from Sandvold Blanda Architecture + Interiors will include Emeco chairs made from recycled Coke bottles and reclaimed-wood tabletops from Provenance Architecturals.

Top Chef's Spike Mendelsohn has settled on 108 S. 18th St. - last a Japanese restaurant, Numa - as the location of the Philly branch of his Good Stuff Eatery, a Washington-based burger specialist.

Table 31/Mia's/Scarduzio's chef-owner Chris Scarduzio and partners Stephen and Tamar Olitsky have taken over 1646-1648 S. 12th St., the corner of 12th and Morris Streets, and hope to install a bistro. They gave Artisan Boulanger Patissier a 90-day window to relocate to its new spot at 1218 Mifflin St. Major work is ahead for the property before Scarduzio's bistro opens, and the concept is still being discussed.

 

Changes

After 130 days in business, Old City's Craft & Claw, the seafood successor to Mad River at 126 Chestnut St., is "closed indefinitely while we reassess the situation," said manager Max Tucker. He labeled as untrue the rumors that lawsuits surrounding Mad River were its undoing; state court records show nothing to support that theory.

The ambitious Odd Fellows Cafe opened a year ago in that big-windowed corner space at 1201 Spruce St. By October, it was gone and quickly rebranded YOLO, as in "you only live once." That lasted less than two months. It's now Toast. (No, seriously. That's its name.) Toast's cafe menu consists of breakfast/brunchy stuff plus eggs, says the consultant, Varnana Beuria, better known as "V," the owner of East Passyunk's Chhaya Cafe. Hours will be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends. Kitchen will close earlier.

Jalsa - a little-noticed Indian restaurant-slash-club that opened last spring at 246 Market St. in Old City (the former Prive and Bluezette) - has given way to Tantra Luxe Lounge. Jalsa front man Kayur Popat told me that he yielded control of the restaurant while he was recovering from an illness. In the meantime, his partners are emphasizing the lounge, which looks out over Market Street behind a fanciful metal grill, and have installed a bar-food menu. They are moving the ground-floor kitchen to the basement, which should address issues with the space's layout.

 


Photos, menus, and additional details about these restaurants, plus dining news, can be found at www.philly.com/mike. Contact Michael Klein at mklein@philly.com.