Take a summer road trip to one of these restaurants within two hours of Philly
Whether it’s a lack of AC or a surplus of dripping cups of wooder ice, summertime in Philly is a decidedly sticky affair. But that makes it the ideal season to hop in the car, roll down the windows, and hit the road in search of destination dining experiences. This lineup of road trip–worthy spots will lead to slurping oysters and sipping martinis against a backdrop of river views, knocking back some of the region’s best beers, and digging into a buffet of mind-blowing proportions, all within two hours of city limits.
The Rittenhouse shop will stop selling its signature hazelnut cake in August but has plans to reopen
Kosher bakery Swiss Haus, a staple in Philly for close to 100 years despite multiple ownership changes, is closing for at least a month. But it doesn’t sound like a simple renovation during the slow summer months is the cause.
According to social media posts by the bakery, which is located in Rittenhouse at 35 S. 19th Street, the owner is looking to “revitalize and revamp our brand, culture and overall client experience for the better” in a “significant undertaking.”
Swiss Haus will stay open, selling items like its signature hazelnut and vanilla butter cream cake, until August 1. The plan is to reopen on September 3, and in the meantime form a focus group of sorts: a “customer council of our most faithful and loyal clients, to provide us with constant feedback.”
When asked for more details, the bakery declined to comment.
Swiss Haus changed hands early this year, with Ronald Simms, who works in finance, taking over. It was one of a few times the bakery found new owners since the Christen family opened it in 1923, according to the website.
It closed briefly in 2007, before new owner Jim Hausman revived it with the same baker, Donna Feldman, and changed the name from the Swiss Pastry Shop. A second location opened and closed in Old City, and there was a lapse in the kosher status in 2017.
When Simms took over this year, a tipster told Eater he planned to turn it into more of a cafe for hanging out than a place to pick up cakes and cookies.
11 essential restaurants for pho, banh mi, bun bo hue, and more
Philadelphia ranks in the top 10 on the list of U.S. cities with the largest Vietnamese-American populations. But that’s old news to any Philadelphian who has enjoyed a pâté and headcheese-filled banh mi (known around these parts as a Vietnamese hoagie) or a hangover-slaying bowl of pho. This Southeast Asian cuisine has been a longtime favorite in Philly, from the strip malls on Washington Avenue to the mom and pop storefronts of Kensington and Olney, and over the bridge in South Jersey.
Eater’s annual list of the best new restaurants in America is out
South Philly restaurant Musi, which opened early this year on Front Street, nabbed a spot on Eater’s national list of the best new restaurants in America. Eater editors dined at restaurants across the country that opened between May 2018 and May 2019 to narrow the list down to just 16 top picks.
Chef Ari Miller’s little BYOB on the corner of Front and Morris streets in Pennsport is sparsely decorated with a small open kitchen and a menu of locally sourced fare — which is exactly why Eater restaurant editor Hillary Dixler Canavan fell for it: “Musi prioritizes the things that diners ought to demand,” she writes.
Miller describes the food at Musi as “relationship-based cuisine,” referring to the farmers and other producers he works with closely to put together ever-changing seasonal menus, with dishes available a la carte or in a $65 multi-course meal. Dixler Canavan highlights the “expert country pate” and “earthy beef-heart tartare,” but the vegetable dishes shine just as brightly.
Read more about Musi and the rest of Eater’s best new restaurants in America here.
A soft pretzel with country pate and pears at Musi
Musi at 100 Morris Street in Philadelphia
Messina Social Club, a century-old South Philly hangout for Italian immigrants turned modern members-only bar and restaurant, is now open at 10th and Tasker just off the East Passyunk Avenue restaurant strip. The exclusive venue is from Top Chef alum Jason Cichonski, known for the now-closed Ela.
If Messina Social Club sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’re heard of Palizzi Social Club, which opened a couple years ago with a similar story. Like Palizzi, Messina is the reincarnation of an old neighborhood spot, serving cocktails and food in a space with a retro vibe to those who’ve managed to score a membership. And because it’s a private club, it serves until 3 a.m.
For now, memberships are being sold at the door during opening hours — 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. Thursday to Monday. It’s $25 for the year. People who signed up as soon as word of Messina got out were able to pick up their membership cards last month. Once you have one, you can bring up to three guests.
For $100, the membership card comes with the ability to make reservations, plus if there’s a special event with limited space, you get first dibs on attending. Those who had a membership to the old version of Messina (and can prove it) pay $50 to be able to reserve a table in advance.
According to Messina’s website, part of the dues go to fund local philanthropic ventures.
The waterfront market is from the Food Trust, the same nonprofit that organizes the roving Night Market
Last year, Philly’s new waterfront destination, Cherry Street Pier, opened on the Delaware River as an indoor/outdoor artist studio and retail space with food trucks, a garden, and a lineup of festivals. Starting Saturday, July 13, add a farmers market to that list. The nonprofit Food Trust, known for its hugely popular Night Market series, is heading to Cherry Street Pier with a weekly market selling fresh produce, cheeses, chocolates, dumplings, pasta, Vietnamese coffee, and more. The Food Trust’s Market at Cherry Street Pier will pop up at every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through November 16.
Vendors are still being added, but here’s the market lineup so far:
Dumplings and spring rolls with non-traditional fillings from Dump N Roll
Vietnamese coffee from Càphê Roasters
Drinking chocolate from La Chocolatera
Banana whips with a mostly vegan selection of toppings at The Chilly Banana
Vegetables from Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative and from Potato Homestead
Fruit from Sharrah Orchards
Fruit and baked goods from Frecon Farms
There will also be vendors selling flowers, soaps, and housewares.
The Food Trust, founded in 1992, collaborates with neighborhoods, schools, grocers, farmers and policymakers to make healthy food easier to access. The organization’s next Night Market is August 15 in Fairmount.
12 places to get Philadelphia’s favorite summertime treat
Certain things are intrinsically Philly: cheesesteaks, Mummers, hatred of the Dallas Cowboys, and water ice. Any Philadelphian worth her salt has eaten a cup of water ice and a soft pretzel instead of a balanced meal at least once.
Legend has it that ancient Roman emperors sent fast runners into the mountains to bring back snow they would mix with fruit and honey. The best water ice today sticks closely to that original recipe: just fruit, sugar, and water. The texture — looser than Italian ice and smoother than shaved ice — is unique to Philadelphia producers. Chunks of fruit often signal a good product. And the pronunciation is always “wooder ice.”
Stay cool: here are a dozen of the best water ice shops in town.
The chef, known for Sbraga and Fat Ham, closed the last of his Philly restaurants a couple years ago
Kevin Sbraga is back with a new eatery, but it’s not in Philly. The Top Chef winner is bringing his Nashville-style hot chicken to Crave Food Hall, a high-end food court slated to open in time for the coming school year at Purdue University in Indiana. Sonny & Sons, which will sell hot chicken in three “burn levels” and sides like mac and cheese, is named for his father, Harvey “Sonny” Beachem Jr., Sbraga himself, and his son, Angelo.
Sbraga made a name for himself in Philly with his eponymous restaurant at Broad and Pine in Carl Dranoff’s Symphony House high-rise. Within five years, he opened two locations of Southern restaurant Fat Ham in University City and King of Prussia, the 1980s-themed Juniper Commons on Broad Street, and Sbraga & Company in Florida. But he grew too fast, he later told Philly.com, and the restaurants closed one after the other.
Sbraga started working as a restaurant consultant and occasionally reappeared in the Philly food scene with hot chicken pop-ups. In late 2017, it was announced that he had signed on as culinary director at the Fitler Club, the private lifestyle club at 2400 Market that opened last month. Sbraga developed menus for the club’s restaurant and catering operation, but left before it opened, presumably redirecting his attention to Sonny & Sons, though he declined to comment. Marc Vetri took over the Fitler Club role.
The neighborhood’s under-the-radar food scene is one of Philadelphia’s most interesting
West Philadelphia doesn’t get as much attention for its food scene as other Philly neighborhoods like Rittenhouse, Fishtown, and East Passyunk, but the area is quietly home to the city’s most diverse crop of restaurants. It includes the college-centric neighborhood of University City, but go past the fast-casual student hangouts and all sorts of eating adventures abound. Within a few blocks, Ethiopian eateries cozy up to craft beer destinations and Laotian specialties can be enjoyed in walking distance of vegan burritos.
Peter McAndrews is moving on from Monsu, but he has another Italian restaurant in the works
Sicilian BYOB Monsu has set a closing date after almost nine years in the Italian Market. In exchange, chef-owner Peter McAndrews is opening a new Italian restaurant in another part of town, this one with a liquor license, Philly.com reports.
Set at the corner of Ninth and Christian Streets, Monsu, with its candles dripping wax onto the windowsills, plates of ricotta-stuffed ravioli and crispy pork bracciole, neighborhood crowd, and cash-only policy, is a quintessential Philly BYOB. It’s one of several spots opened by McAndrews, a Philly native known for sandwich shop Paesano’s.
McAndrews also has La Porta outside the city in Media. He used to have Modo Mio on Girard Avenue and a few locations of Paesano’s — Modo Mio and two Paesano’s closed two years ago.
The new restaurant, at an as-yet-undisclosed location, will also be called Modo Mio. It was initially reported it might be in Fairmount.
As for Monsu, the last day is September 29, so there’s still time to have a final meal or two.