You really have to appreciate what's happening in Fishtown, whose star keeps rising. The days-old Cheu Fishtown — an Asian-inspired small-plater/bar from Shawn Darragh and chef Ben Puchowitz — is just the latest. Also this week, I found tasty, tender barbecue and interesting beers at a new Main Line brewpub (Tin Lizard Brewing Co.), a tip on where to find Georges Perrier's bouillabaisse near Rittenhouse Square (Baril), and word on a good-for-you restaurant in King of Prussia (True Food Kitchen). I'll also tell you about a smoky but smooth cocktail at Vedge, and drop in a few bits of restaurant news. In his Q&A contribution, critic Craig LaBan weighs in on the dicey topic of bringing a bad dish to management's attention. If you need a regular dose of food news, click here and follow me here and also here. Email me tips, suggestions, etc. here. As my fishermen friends say, I enjoy herring from you. If someone forwarded you this free newsletter and you like what you're reading, sign up here and you'll get it every week. Be sure to check your spam filter if you don't receive that all-important confirmation email.
Life has gone swimmingly for years in Fishtown, with such destinations as Johnny Brenda's, Wm. Mulherin's Sons, La Colombe's flagship coffee bar/restaurant, Frankford Hall, Fette Sau, and scads of fun drop-ins (Weckerly's, Sketch Burger, Stock, Lloyd, Sancho Pistola's). But wait. There's more! Last week brought word of Suraya, an ambitious Middle Eastern market/restaurant/garden coming to Frankford Avenue later this summer. Fishtown Brewpub will open Saturday, July 29, a block from the Fillmore. (It's also across from Elwood, the long-in-development restaurant from Johnny Brenda's chef Adam Diltz.) The newest guys in town are Shawn Darragh and chef Ben Puchowitz, whose 2.0 version of their Asian-inspired Cheu Noodle Bar is a colorful redo of a tile-walled, 19th-century police horse stable. Cheu Fishtown has a roomy bar and familiar Cheu chews, including brisket ramen and black garlic wings. The menu, overseen by Justin Bacharach, has fewer noodles than the original on 10th Street in Washington Square West. Shareable plates include Jewish-style brisket with moo shu pancakes. Bar includes eight beers (served in frosted mugs), one sake, and La Colombe cold-brew, plus cocktails. It's open daily from lunchtime through late-night.
Black Hole Sun, from Vedge
Kate Jacoby, who runs the bar at Vedge, the vegan restaurant she owns with chef/husband Rich Landau at 1221 Locust St., mixed up a Scotch with burnt miso and Maria al Monte amaro. Smoky and delicious. Then they added activated charcoal, that popular detox ingredient, turning the drink black and naming it after the Soundgarten tune — before, it must be noted, the death of Chris Cornell.
That combo of beer and BBQ — beer-B-Q? — is nailed at the new Tin Lizard Brewing Co., which took over for a hookah bar recently at 1000 W. Lancaster Ave. in Bryn Mawr. It's rocking industrial-chic with reclaimed wood and corrugated metal; there's second-floor outdoor seating, too. Conshohocken Brewing Co. alum Chris Young quickly rotates a wide selection on his seven beer taps (the eighth pours Kurant Cider), and chef Luke Loomis' slow-cooked wings, ribs, and brisket are tent poles of a terrific Southern-inspired menu. When I asked a friend what to order, he confidently replied: "Everything." The Trichotomy platter — which, alas, sounds more like a medical procedure than a way of describing how something is divided into three categories — gives you all three, plus a helping of rich mac and cheese, a tangle of pickles and pickled onions, and a corn muffin for $27. Fair deal. Parking next door is free after 6 p.m.
In his dotage, chef legend Georges Perrier (ex-Le Bec-Fin) putters around the kitchen at Baril, the French-ish bistro just south of Rittenhouse Square at 267 S. 19th St. The Lyon-bred Perrier recalls his days as an apprentice in southern France with his Provençal-style bouillabaisse, studded with clams, shrimp, mussels, red snapper, potatoes, and grilled bread, in a saffron-perfumed broth. Owner/LBF alum Michael Franco is offering it daily for dinner all summer ($25).
Creativity and solid nutrition inform the wide-ranging menu at True Food Kitchen, new on the perimeter of King of Prussia Mall. Take these blueberry Johnny cakes ($10) served at weekend brunch. Cornmeal? No, they're made of higher-protein quinoa and are topped with yogurt. TFK has indoor and outdoor seating, and a decent bar. It's a tasty KoP option for vegans, omnivores, gluten-avoiders, and combinations thereof.
This family-run Indonesian sit-downer is looking at a soft-opening on Monday, July 31 at 1540 W. Ritner St. in South Philly. It's the rebuilt former home of Sky Cafe, which relocated to Washington Avenue after a fire.
Noon Saturday, July 29, is the debut of this old-time brewpub, at 1100 Frankford Ave. in Fishtown, just up the block from the Fillmore and other destinations.
Yong Chi is saying "Aug. 1 or Aug. 2" for his relocated Korean kitchen, now next to SuGa and across from the Sofitel at 1722 Sansom St.
The Maine-themed lobster-roll specialist has a second Philly location, at 17 S. 11th St., next to a new Honeygrow.
Ardmore now has a sunny little Latin BYOB seafooder run by Venezuelan-born entrepreneurs (18 W. Lancaster Ave.). It's BYOB.
The mini-chain's sixth location is turning out flat-priced, customizable pizzas and salads at 6 E. First Ave. in Conshohocken.
The colorful Indian restaurant has ended a nearly two-year run in South Philly. It plans to reopen next summer inside the Bourse, across from Independence Mall, which is being converted into a food hall.
The sports bar on White Horse Pike in Magnolia, Camden County, which opened in fall 2013 as the splashy, $3.5 million Royal Cracovia, is buttoned up tight.
Chef Fred Ryan and Chick's, the recently two-belled newcomer on Washington Avenue, have parted company. Sous chef Lauren Whiteman runs the kitchen.
Townsend Wentz (Townsend, A Mano) has picked the name Oloroso for his Spanish tapas restaurant opening this fall at 1129 Walnut St.
LongHorn Steakhouse will be the new tenant at 555 City Ave. in Bala Cynwyd, filling the spot that most recently was Joe's Crab Shack and previously was a Houlihan's. No timeline is available yet. Hey there, old-timer: I'll buy lunch for the first reader who can tell me the name of one of the three previous restaurants on that site. Email me here.
Reader: I had a dish the other night that was truly disappointing. What's the correct way to handle that — both for the restaurant and guest?
Craig LaBan: Ideally, if something's wrong, diners should speak up (politely) early on so a restaurant has a chance to fix it without disrupting the flow of a meal too much. But rarely do things go smoothly. It can be awkward on a date or at a business meal to make a fuss without first getting a prompt from the staff: "How is everything?" But when that exchange happens, the restaurant should be prepared to offer a reasonable gesture of apology. And too many servers aren't prepared for an actual honest answer to their rote question. Several times recently, I've obliged frankly with legitimate complaints to encounter a range of unsatisfactory responses. One chef sent out a complimentary dessert we didn't want or ask for, hoping that would suffice, to the embarrassment of our poor waitress, who returned to the kitchen to insist, correctly, that our uneaten $28 seafood pescatore full of sandy clams and chewy mussels be removed from the bill. I happily tipped her on the full bill, not the discount. Another restaurateur apologized for an overcooked burger by personally delivering a properly re-cooked replacement with a swagger and a promise that it was "on the house" – appreciated, but not necessary, because it was replaced swiftly. But then he played bait-and-switch by conveniently forgetting to remove it from the bill, and then offering us instead a small discount coupon "for your next visit." Sorry, pal, there won't be a next visit. A third restaurant, meanwhile, got it right – first by comping us for a $29 plate of grass-fed beef so tough it was basically inedible, and then going the extra mile to remove from the bill desserts we had ordered and planned to pay for. It was a small gesture with a big payoff. For the tiny investment of a $9 dessert, on top of correcting the bigger mistake of a failed entree, this restaurant re-upped our trust, good, will and eventually our repeat business.