With the recent debut of Seorabol on Spruce Street off Broad, Center City's Korean dining scene is making a long-overdue expansion. I look at several restaurants making their mark. Also this week, I tip you to one of Philly's true happy-hour bargains, a South Indian newcomer, and a sweet Argentinean cafe.
And keep in mind that Center City District Restaurant Week starts Jan. 13 and runs to Jan. 25.
Korean dining — traditionally found in the Korean strongholds of Olney as well as in communities in Cheltenham, Upper Darby, the Route 309 corridor through Montgomery County, and Cherry Hill — is slowly making its way into Center City.
The latest entrant is Seorabol, which debuted in late October at 1326 Spruce St. It joined SouthGate, which opened in 2015 at 18th and Lombard Streets in Center City, and Dae Bak, which opened in 2016 in the Chinatown Square food hall in Chinatown, as full-service bar-restaurants.
That’s not to say there had been a particular shortage in town of bibimbap, the rice dish usually served sizzling in stone bowls, and the fried dumplings known as mandu or mandoo.
Korean food is easy to find in smaller cafes (the new Buk Chon, Koreana, BAP), fast-casual eateries (Rice & Mix, Giwa), Japanese Korean hybrids (Tampopo), Korean fried chicken specialists (Bonchon, bbq Chicken).
Joining the downtown crowd later this month, on 11th Street near Locust, will be Crunchik’n, which also will sell oven-baked KFC to add a more healthful side to the menu.
I run down the Center City Korean scene in this feature.
Amma's South Indian Cuisine | Center City
Fiore | Queen Village
This Italian, replacing Kanella South at 757 S. Front St., begins offering cafe service from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, effective Jan. 10. Full dinner will begin in February.
Jezabel's Cafe | West Philadelphia
Johnny Manana's | Poplar
Tim Bonnie revives his East Falls Mexican institution at 315 N. 12th St., in the Goldtex building north of Vine Street. Its opening is penciled in for this weekend.
Bait & Switch | Port Richmond
Jan. 20 will be the finale for the seafood-focused corner bar, as owner Joe Beckham says the economics didn't work. The space will be redone this spring.
Cerise Craft Steakhouse | Bryn Mawr
Common Wealth | Old City
Shut down by the city New Year's Eve, this Market Street bar-restaurant is working through a legal morass.
Landmark Americana | West Chester
The sports bar's location at Gay and Darlington Streets was underperforming, its owner says. Other locations remain.
Ram's Head Inn | Absecon
The Shore-area landmark is closed because of what owners call “serious and extensive issues" with the building’s sprinkler system.
Also note that Keen (1708 Lombard St.) says it’s closed until Jan. 14 for “R&R.”
Double Knot, 120 S. 13th St., 4-7 p.m. daily
Many happy-hour food menus seem like afterthoughts, perhaps a few appetizers to pair with the drinks. Not so at Michael Schulson's all-day cafe-slash-izakaya in Washington Square West.
Since it's next to his Sampan and above DK's dinner-only izakaya, the menu at the bar is studded with all kinds of Asian bites: $4 rolls, $3 robatayaki, $5 wraps and buns, $4 fried stuff (crab rangoon, rabbit egg roll, kung pao chicken wing), $4 dumplings, and $5 sides. It's like a full restaurant menu.
Every day there's a house red, white, and rose special, plus a beer, sake, and cocktail — all for $4.
Tip: Arrive early. This one gets packed.
Amma’s South Indian Cuisine, 1518 Chestnut St.
Sathish Varadhan and Bala Krishnan, who opened the homey Amma’s South Indian Cuisine in Eagle Plaza in Voorhees two years ago, have moved up and out.
They recently moved the original location to larger quarters in the same shopping center, they just rolled out a Center City location.
The Center City branch, also BYO, is at 1518 Chestnut St., filling the storefront last occupied by Wok Street. It’s a pleasantly rustic setting with wooden floors, brick and plaster walls, and round, basketlike lighting fixtures.
Extensive menu is the same as that in Voorhees. Keep in mind that it's southern Indian cuisine, so expect lots of rice, lentils, and vegetables. Traditional highlights include chicken 65 (made vegetarian with cauliflower), dosas, idli, dum biryani, and house-made ice cream.
Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays, 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.
Jezabel's Cafe, 206-208 S. 45th St. After closing her popular Fitler Square Argentinean cafe over New Year's, Jezabel Careaga has regrouped at her cozy revamped space in West Philadelphia.
It's a cafe serving assorted empanadas, baked goods (such as the lusciously buttery sandwich cookies known as alfajores), breakfast, and coffee, with shelves full of housewares, and, next door, a new open work room that accommodates cooking classes and private events.
Sit down, and know that Careaga also built the furniture herself. She plans to break through next door for a further expansion that will yield an atelier and furniture showroom.
Hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
After the federal government shut down on Dec. 22, the process by which labels are approved for the sale of new beer, wine, and distilled spirits came to a halt. Local brewers and distillers, including Manatawny Still Works, have been impacted.
We’ve got a menu of Philly- and New Orleans-inspired recipes for Sunday. Because there’s no rule that says you can’t enjoy some Big Easy eats while watching the Saints lose.