After a short lull, the BYO scene seems to be popping again.
In Northern Liberties, Restaurant School grad Mark Tropea, who spent the last seven years as executive sous chef at the Desmond Hotel in Malvern, is tuning up Sonata, a simply decorated, 40-seat BYOB that replaced Swallow in Liberties Walk (1030 N. American St., 215-238-1240). Food is contemporary American "with a little flash, but not enough to scare people away," as Tropea puts it. (Samples: braised short rib with celery root puree and braised carrot; olive oil-poached salmon with watercress puree, walnut pesto, and grilled fennel). Entrees are priced from $19 to $27, and it's open for dinner Tuesdays through Saturdays. Tropea is backed by Krystal Weaver, a Brasserie Perrier alumna, as his sous and pastry chef.
In Washington Square West, there's Paul (1120 Pine St., 215-238- 0210), a tiny contemporary American from sisters Effie Bouikidis-Schweich and Christina Jimenez. It's named after their late father, Paul Bouikidis, who owned the nearby Pine Street Pizza and was instrumental in the family-run Effie's, a Greek BYOB across the street from Paul. Entrees from chefs Adam Merlin (Effie's, Georges') and Joshua Noh (Pumpkin, Chifa) are priced from $22 to $29. Samples: wild Atlantic halibut (with Brussels sprouts, purple potato confit, lardons, and Bordelaise reduction) and bouillabaisse. The former antiques shop's high-ceilinged interior is a riot of white. It's open Tuesdays through Sundays.
Also on the way:
Avril, a French BYOB, opening Wednesday at 134 Bala Ave. in Bala Cynwyd.
Cross Culture, a Northern Indian BYO featuring organic meats and produce, is coming to 208 Kings Highway in Haddonfield, the former Javier space. Owner Monty Keinth, aiming for late August or early September, has another location in Doylestown.
Augusto Jalon, chef-owner of Augusto's in Warminster, is going into the former Stefano's on Huntingdon Pike in Huntingdon Valley with his second restaurant later this summer. Cuisine will be Italian; he has not decided on a name.
Starr's expansionStephen Starr has taken over management at the très posh Rat's Restaurant, the contemporary French destination in Hamilton Township, N.J. Chef is Kevin Sbraga, who won multiple bells at the Ritz-Carlton a few years back, was culinary director of Jose Garces' empire until earlier this year, and represented the United States in the Bocuse d'Or culinary competition last year. He spent five minutes consulting at Union Trust a few months ago. The 10-year-old Rat's, named after a character in Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows and not the health hazard, is on J. Seward Johnson's Grounds for Sculpture, a lovely retreat near I-295 between Trenton and Princeton.
Briefly notedJose Garces has added Saturday lunch at Amada (217-219 Chestnut St.; $7 to $15) and Chifa (707 Chestnut St.; $7 to $15, plus an $18 two-course meal).
Day by Day (2101 Sansom St.) added Saturday brunch and subtracted Monday lunch; it's now open Tuesdays through Fridays for lunch and Saturdays and Sundays for brunch.
Blackfish (119 Fayette St., Conshohocken) has restarted lunch Tuesdays through Fridays. Entrees: $10 to $15.
After 10 years, Pietro "Pete" D'Abbraccio is moving his South Philly favorite Ristorante Mezza Luna about a block away to the southeast corner of Eighth and Christian Streets, formerly Paxia and before that Molcajete Mixto. He'll get more space. Saturday will be his last night at 763 S. Eighth St., and he hopes to open Aug. 11 with a similar menu.
Max Brenner, Chocolate by the Bald Man, the new carbo-lover's dream at 1500 Walnut St., has scaled back breakfast; it's now offered weekends.
The Joseph Ambler Inn (1005 Horsham Rd., North Wales) has opened a garden terrace for lunch, dinner, and parties.
Bella Luna (116 Ford St., West Conshohocken) is now open daily for takeout and delivery; dine-in still awaits completion of construction.
Although Restaurant Taquet is gone from the Wayne Hotel, Jean-Francois Taquet says that he and fellow chef Francis Layrle are scouting locations in the region for what he calls a "casual restaurant serving good-quality food."
Contact columnist Michael Klein at 215-854-5514 or email@example.com. See real-time restaurant info at http://go.philly.com/insider.