In addition, Irwin gets ink in Squire, and an Italo-Jewish Hanukkah dinner.
Hi, buckaroos! And welcome to the Monday news roundup.
It’s Thanksgiving week, so you’d think things around Foobooz HQ would be a bit quieter than usual. But like every week lately, the scene has jumped. Agreements are made. The openings are announced. There are Chrismukkah bagels, holiday pop-ups, one of ours on another big national list of the best restaurants in the country, and even the Wu-Tang Clan’s GZA was in Philly last night, hosting another of the legendaries of the Han dynasty. 15 courses, 15 Wu-Tang beer dinners.
But let’s start with an update to a story that we started watching over the summer. Because Jen Zavala has some news …
Juana Tamale is open
Back in July, I brought you the news of traveling tamale artist Jen Zavala going legit with a real showcase operation in South Philly. The good news is that Juana Tamale opened at the end of last week at 1941 East Passyunk Avenue.
The bad news? Because of some technical problems, she had to temporarily close Juana.
But don’t be afraid. Juana Tamale (who initially plans to operate on a 3-day-a-week schedule anyway) will reopen this week for Black Friday and Saturday crowds, serving tamales (natch), vegan wings, churros, vegan birria. and beef. tacos and, most notably, a queso birria ramen that sounds a bit fantastic – and not something I’ve seen anywhere else. Other than the opening hiccups, the place looks very cool (like a punk rock Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, but with tacos). And, as you can guess, it already draws big crowds.
# 11 on the list but # 1 in our hearts
The crew of Squire published its annual list of Best New Restaurants in America last week and guess who got the green light?
No seriously. To guess. I mean, we have a LOT of great restaurants right now, so if it was you picking out the new kids, who would you pick?
Because Squire chose Irwin. The New, after the closure of Irwin’s with its Sicilian menu and crew bringing the group together, brought back almost complete from the late and great Res Ipsa. They put it at # 11 on their hit list, between Shawarmaji in Oakland and Oyster House in Washington DC, and here’s what they had to say:
“The romance is unexpected. Graffiti room, perched atop a former art deco high school, a vast terrace with science lab tables and plastic school chairs, lit by fairy lights and the moon (if you’re lucky), with stunning views of the low rise townhouses and the Walt Whitman Bridge. And then, chef Michael Ferreri’s modern Sicilian cuisine is served by friendly staff: a fritto misto with succulent shrimp and fried lemons, handmade al dente twists of trofie pasta, a perfect caponata. Natural wines are poured in, Prince arrives, and all of a sudden South Philly feels like the hippest, most romantic place around.
What’s good, right? Someone definitely has the magic that does Irwin’s job, and it’s good that someone has found a little romance in South Philly.
So well done to the whole Irwin’s team. Glad to see you get some of this fantasy Squire ink. Even though we loved you before you were cool.
When is a pop-up not a pop-up window?
Serious question: how long can a pop-up run before it becomes, you know … a restaurant?
I ask because Opa (which was a restaurant) appears (as himself) at Drury Beer Garden (which was once attached to Opa when Opa was a real restaurant) from this week and until at least the end of the year – if not more.
Do not mistake yourself. I have no problem with that. I love what George and Vasiliki Tsiouris did with the place when it was more fancy and it made sense when, during the pandemic, they leaned over the garden side of the beer, brought it to the inside the old Opa space and turned everything into an oversized Drury, which occasionally hosted Opa pop-ups.
Now, however, they’re making things official by rolling out a full second menu of Opa’s biggest hits, new Greek specialties, and Opa-inspired cocktails (all of which will be offered alongside Drury’s existing menu) in a sort of Creation– pop-up style of the original restaurant in its original location. Weird.
And also, it will last a while. Plans are to keep the Opa menus in place until at least until January – and possibly further in the winter. So, semantics aside, what we have is Drury Christopher Nolan’s team who integrated the menu from their old restaurant into the former space of said restaurant with no particular end date in mind. I guess what makes this a “pop-up” is that it will all always happen under the name Drury Beer Garden. But to me? Looks like George and Vasiliki are reopening Opa. And that’s good news, whatever they want to call it.
Happy Chrismukkah to all
Speaking of pop-ups, how about four more?
For real: Kismet Bagels founders, Jacob and Alexandra Cohen, have four pop-ups on the books by Christmas Eve. Well, actually three. Because they did one this weekend at Nardone Pasta Co., but I didn’t hear about it until I already filled in last week’s column, so I didn’t have a chance to tell you about it. Which is a shame, actually, because it sounded awesome.
But hey, there are still three to come, right? The first is Sunday, December 5 at Huda in the city center. Kismet will team up with Yehuda Sichel from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. to serve a special Hanukkah blue and white poppy seed bagel breakfast sandwich with eggs, potato latke and Huda sauce. There will also be labne and lox bialy if, like me, you really hate poppy seeds.
Next, Kismet will head to the Her Place Supper Club on December 12 for a bilateral throw. There will be a variety of flavors, walk-in only, available from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. or whenever they sell out.
And on both Thanksgiving Eve (November 24) and Christmas Eve (December 24), the Cohens will be popping up at Vincent Finazzo’s Riverwards Produce in Fishtown, delivering holiday-flavored bagels and bialies to the masses. I know the Thanksgiving spread will include some themed bialily like sweet potato with marshmallow, apple pie and stuffing. Christmas Eve will be a total surprise, however. Both days they’ll be on sale from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., so show up early.
Looks like they’re getting into the holiday spirit at Cicala as well. The kitchen looks to the Jewish quarters of southern Italy as inspiration for an Italian-Jewish Hanukkah dinner on December 1 at 6:30 p.m. $ 125 per person covers everything (including wine pairings) and the menu looks fascinating – a cucina povera look at the historical influence of Jewish culinary culture on Italian cuisine (and vice versa). We’re talking about eggplant falafel with ricotta whipped with harissa, thin slices of beef tongue with all’agresto salsa, salted cod paccheri, chickpeas, cumin and sumac, and shoulder of beef. Braised lamb with Jerusalem artichokes and pomegranate.
“Culinary clues stemming from the influence of Jews from Middle Eastern and North African countries can be seen in southern dishes that use spices like harissa, cumin and mint,” according to Cicala. “Offal is often served, as it is essential to use the whole animal for la cucina povera. The Jews of Italy are surely to be thanked for many dishes based on baccala (dried cod) and fried dishes, especially the beloved carciofi alla giudia (fried artichokes).
Looks like it’s gonna be a good time. Make your reservations here.
In the university town, Misconduct Tavern opened its third location at 3131 Walnut Street (inside the Left Bank). The two originals are still operational in Rittenhouse and Logan Square.
The annual pop-up Christmas bar, Tinsel, will make its public debut on Thanksgiving weekend at 116 South 12th Street in Midtown Village. As in years past, there will be decorations, lights, photo ops, ornaments, Christmas music, glitter and, of course, holiday-themed cocktails.
And as if George and Vasiliki Tsiouris weren’t busy enough with their reincarnation of Opa (see above), they also get into the holiday spirit with their (mostly) annual Christmas pop-up at Craftsman Row Living Room.
After jumping last year due to the pandemic, Craftsman Row is making a strong comeback this year with 5,000 feet of garland, twinkling lights, thousands of ornaments, hundreds of bows, stockings, Santas and elves on various shelves. Seriously, it’s like a Hallmark Channel movie exploded in there. It really is something.
They also make holiday milkshakes (including one topped with a whole slice of pumpkin pie), a burger for Christmas dinner with stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes and fries (like a stir-fry Gobbler, mounted only on hamburger), and serve drinks inside glittering ornaments.
The Craftsman Row pop-up will run throughout the Christmas season and end in January.