There’s a pandemic out there, with many restaurants in various stages of hanging on for dear life. Still, that has not stopped the parade of openings.
Most restaurants on this rundown of newcomers were planned before the coronavirus upended life on Earth, and owners know that they are taking a chance by opening with a modified game plan — including reduced seating, no bar service, and plastic panels.
This crop, in no particular order, includes a Center City pizzeria that already is selling out daily, a Southern restaurant in Chester County possibly haunted by ghosts, and a literal ghost kitchen — that is, it’s part of a new wave of businesses operating with takeout and delivery only and no public face.
Morea, 110 S. 11th St., Philadelphia, 267-930-1110
“Resort-style cuisine” is what Scott Hockfield has assigned to the dishes at his polished contemporary restaurant next door to his Wrap Shack location across from Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. Chefs Ian Drossner and Andres Lara’s menu includes ahi tuna with mango, tamari, avocado, radish, and red cabbage; a seafood grilled-Caesar salad; and braised short rib.
The name is simply a unique spelling of Moorea, in French Polynesia. Designed by Tom Bury of Restaurant Impossible, it has two functions. By day, it’s a coffee bar and restaurant complemented by a grab-and-go section that sits behind a roll-up door that goes down in the evening. Open for lunch and dinner, indoor and outdoor, Monday to Saturday. Happy hour from 4 to 6:30 p.m. weekdays, and it extends a 20% discount on food to health-care workers.
Buna Cafe, 5121 Baltimore Ave., Philadelphia, 610-615-8575
Chef Belaynesh “Bella” Wondimagegnehu and husband Demalash Demessie, who previously owned Blue Nile in West Philadelphia, renovated a dilapidated building next to Greensgrow West into a charming, two-level Ethiopian cafe open from morning through dinner (with a gap in the late afternoon) for juices and typically excellent house-roasted coffee and a menu they are calling Ethio-American.
Amid such staples as ful, firfir, doro wot, and family-style stews, there are plenty of vegetarian dishes that can be made vegan. Indoor/outdoor/takeout. Open Monday to Saturday. BYOB is on the way.
Fitz and Starts, 743 S. Fourth St., Philadelphia, 215-278-2736
The old Hungry Pigeon in Queen Village has undergone a hard reboot, and now-solo owner Pat O’Malley has put the bird to rest. The menu overall is more casual, and maintains what O’Malley calls “a sort of luncheonette-cafe-bar vibe.” Burger or French dip for dinner? Why not.
There’s a bakery and bottle shop, too, and prices have been worked to accommodate a no-tipping policy.
Takeout/delivery/outdoor. Brunch and dinner Wednesday to Sunday (8 a.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. weekends).
Pete’s Place, 604 South St., Philadelphia, 215-593-2232
Peter Serpico is back at the stove at his eponymous restaurant near Sixth and South, but he’s not cooking Serpico food. He and partner Stephen Starr have sidelined that for now in favor of a “ghost kitchen” — that is, takeout and delivery only, with a menu that they call “kinda Korean” — that is, flavors that reflect his Korean heritage and American upbringing. (Pete was adopted at age 2 and raised in Maryland.)
Groove on staples such as bibimbap, spicy chicken stew, and soft tofu stew. The ultra-creamy potato salad, with its slightly funky kimchi relish and chili flakes, is unlike anything you’d find at a backyard cookout around here; you may never want to eat your auntie’s again. The attention to packaging is most welcome, too. Imagine Korean fried chicken that stayed fairly hot and quite juicy after a 40-minute car ride, and coddled egg individually packaged so you can finish the dish in your kitchen.
Takeout and delivery only. Open 4 to 10 p.m. daily.
Clementine’s Stable Cafe, 631 N. Broad St., Philadelphia, 215-454-6530
David and Alex Greenberg, who developed Tela’s Market in the Francisville section, recently redid an old horse stable nearby on North Broad into apartments with a bar-restaurant beneath. Post-pandemic, it will also be a morning destination for the neighborhood. For now, it’s open for dinner Wednesday to Sunday, with weekend brunch.
Fling-out windows open to sidewalk seating. Chefs Leo Forneas and Leonardo Barrios’ something-for-everyone menu includes lamb chops, roasted sea bass, and yellowfin tuna on uni vinaigrette; the $39 three-course special is a true bargain. Cocktails, too. Bottle shop is on the way.
Community, 1200 S. 21st St., Philadelphia, 267-319-1027
Michael and Angela Sultan of the catering outfit 33rd Street Hospitality, who live in Point Breeze, signed the lease for the former Burg’s Lounge in April. They’ve turned it into a bar-restaurant befitting its name, serving their neighbors not only with food and drinks but provisions, including Mike’s salmon, bacon, and dry-aged beef. Menu is changing, and you never know what will pop up, including pork belly ramen, chicken fried rabbit, and gumbo with shrimp, Andouille sausage, and chicken.
Indoor/outdoor/takeout/delivery. Open at 5 p.m. daily.
Pizzata Pizza, 240 S. 22nd St. Philadelphia, 215-546-7200
Vinny Gallagher and Davide Lubrano, who met on the pizza circuit, are spinning naturally leavened pies (New York-meets-Neapolitan) and toasts out of their little shop near Fitler Square, and the neighbors have gone wild. Lubrano has worked around here for years, while Gallagher is a comparative newbie, having won the 2019 Caputo Cup for Neapolitan as an amateur.
It’s open at 11:30 a.m. daily except for Tuesday. Work the phones early. Pickup only.
Ken Love’s BYOB, 701 N. Third St., 215-922-2621
Paul Zelinsky, who was chef at the well-regarded Jaxon BYOB at Third Street and Fairmount Avenue in Northern Liberties, has taken over the cozy spot, renaming it after his late buddy, whose portrait hangs behind the open kitchen.
The self-taught Zelinsky’s refined menu includes frogs' legs Creole style, tagliatelle with veal Bolognese, fish and chips made with blackened halibut, pork chop, hanger steak, and a mushroom mezzaluna. Most entrée prices are around $30.
Indoor/outdoor. Open for dinner at 5 p.m. every night but Tuesday.
Nourish, 943 S. Ninth St., 267-761-9242
Moments after her location at Seventh and South Streets burned down, Sarah Scandone snagged a new spot in the Italian Market. Same vegan menu, from juices and smoothies to sandwiches and platters, in a stylish setting.
Indoor dining/takeout. Hours: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday to Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday to Saturday.
Bloom Southern Kitchen, 123 Pottstown Pike, Chester Springs, 484-359-4144
Chef Michael Falcone, who killed it years ago in Pottstown with Funky Lil' Kitchen, has partnered again with David Backhus (owner of Morgantown Coffee in Elverson), with whom he opened a Korean-ish BYOB called Oori last year in South Coventry Township, Chester County. They’ve taken the historic Eagle Tavern and went for a modern-farmhouse polish. (Dave creeped me out on a tour of the basement’s catacombs, used during the Underground Railroad and reportedly haunted.)
Falcone has gone Southern for his menu, twisting things here and there. He pickles the tomatoes in the fried green tomatoes, and he adds crab and mushroom to his hush puppies, for example. Drinks have Southern flair, too.
Indoor and takeout only. Open for lunch and dinner weekdays, brunch and dinner weekends.
Pinto, 24 E. Glenside Ave., Glenside, 215-220-4086
Chefs Shannon Dougherty and Liz Petersen, who own Cedar Point in Fishtown, have added to their collection with this tiny BYOB in Glenside, a half-block from the train station and across from TreVi (the old Rizzo’s, as we old-timers would note). Menu and look are reminiscent of Petersen’s past in Arizona.
Along with familiar Southwestern chow, there’s a Sonoran hot dog (wrapped in bacon and buried in beans, onions, etc.), plus Navajo fry bread tacos, and a pizzalike pinto cheese crisp. Bring a spirit for house-made mixers, too.
Indoor/takeout. Hours so far are 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday. Delivery is on the way.
Royal Cafe Narberth, 724 Montgomery Ave., Narberth, 484-429-2626
Cafe Lift’s Main Line location has given way to this pub, and now its chef, Josiah Richmond, has returned, this time as an owner. First order of business: installing a pizza oven for 10-inch Neapolitan pizzas. Menu is easy: salads, sandwiches, smash burgers, and easily the largest lobster roll I’ve ever seen — filling a soft, buttered, hoagie-size roll. Cocktails off the bar, which is now service only.
The roomy outdoor setup fills its patio as well as part of the parking lot. (Ample free parking, a plus in this part of Lower Merion.)
Outdoor/takeout. Open for lunch/brunch/dinner every day but Monday.
LaScala’s Fire, 789 Lancaster Ave., Villanova, 484-383-3339
Rob LaScala has taken to rebranding a few of his restaurants to coincide with his vast newcomer in a strip center off Lancaster Avenue off Route 476 in Villanova and the recent reopening of his LaScala’s at Seventh and Chestnut Streets in the Historic District. Now known as LaScala’s Fire, they have a bright, energetic look and a strong pizza game, as well as the familiar Southern Italian faves (don’t sleep on the meatballs), and a bar.
Indoor/outdoor/takeout. Open for lunch and dinner daily. N.B. LaScala owns LaScala’s Birra locations in South Philadelphia and Pennsauken.
Rosalie at the Wayne Hotel, 130 E. Lancaster Ave., Wayne, 610-977-0600
Father-daughter duo Marty and Sydney Grims (the White Dog Cafes, Louie Louie, Autograph, the Moshulu) have transformed the restaurant at the Wayne Hotel into a plush Italian comfort-fooder with a something-for-all menu of snacks and pizzas up to entrées. Plus a bar with 120 wine bottles, beers, and Italian cocktails.