Kim and Edgar Alvarez recently shut down Avenida, their Mount Airy Latin restaurant, to lighten up the place.
It's back as Cantina Avenida (7402 Germantown Ave., 267-385-6857).
The menu and drink list show an almost startling dip in prices. The $12-and-under plates and $4 and $5 tacos are set up for a build-your-own meal that might be as affordable as some of the cantinas in South Philly.
"That's the way people want to eat today," said Kim Alvarez, who also ditched the white tablecloths.
Michele Leff's 12th Street Cantina, which started selling Mexican food and groceries 32 years ago at Reading Terminal Market, has dug deep for a renovation. The new look is far beyond the new wooden signs, kitchen equipment, floors, counters, and seating. It has a new chef, Raul Aguirre, a native of Puebla, Mexico, and a vet of Blackfish in Conshohocken. He's ramping up his menu, but for now there are a few daily specials in addition to tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos, and salads. Pibil is a specialty.
FringeArts, the edgy cultural powerhouse, is putting together La Peg, a brasserie, at its new home in a century-old former fire department pumping station on Columbus Boulevard at the foot of Race Street, across from the Race Street Pier next to the Ben Franklin Bridge. Chef Peter Woolsey, naming it after his wife, has stepped away from the kitchen at his Bistrot La Minette in Queen Village to work with FringeArts' Nick Stuccio on the project, which will be adjacent to FringeArts' state-of-the-art theater. They have great bones to work with: 45-foot ceilings, glazed brick, huge arched windows, and rough concrete floors. They are installing a mezzanine over part of the room (especially the kitchen), so every seat will have a view of at least the bridge. Outside, there will be a large tiered garden and seating in what is now a driveway parallel to Race Street. Woolsey says the food will be French, "but I'm not as hell-bent on the French experience as I am at Bistrot."
New York City's Nom Wah Tea Parlor - a nearly century-old bastion of dim sum on Doyers Street in Chinatown - is fixing to open a Philly location. Wilson Tang, Nom Wah's second-generation owner, says he will set up at 218 N. 13th St., a storefront on the northern edge of the Convention Center and just off the beaten path in Chinatown. It will most likely open in 2015.
McCormick & Schmick's seafood restaurant and its adjacent William Douglas Steakhouse at the Marketplace in Cherry Hill closed the other day. The duopoly - pairing the nationally known seafooder with a pricier, one-off steakhouse - opened six years ago. They shared a kitchen and one of those hugely expensive Cherry Hill Township liquor licenses.
More restaurant news at www.philly.com/mike.