5 New Restaurant Openings in Philly You Need to Know
Brand new barbecue, a few vegan options, and a fast-casual newcomer to add to your repertoire.
After a long, slow, COVID year, summer has arrived in Philadelphia. Diners and restaurant workers are getting vaccinated, and almost all pandemic restrictions have been lifted in Philadelphia as of June 2.
While masks are still required indoors for now, restaurants and bars are allowed to seat to full capacity, including bar seating, which is great news for new restaurants. All this, combined with lower rent prices and a relatively large number of retail vacancies due to spots that closed during the last year, means that this is a good time for new businesses. And restaurateurs are taking advantage.
From spots by proven restaurateurs that have been in the works since before the pandemic, to first-time business owners, it’s encouraging to see the variety of concepts that are popping up across the city. Here are the places on our must-eat list for this summer.
Gabriella’s opening in March was a little bittersweet, since it is in the space that used to house beloved Passyunk staple Saté Kampar. Happily, the space continues to play host to a talented female cook—this Vietnamese restaurant from chef Thanh Nguyen is the sister restaurant to Melody’s Grillhouse in Ambler, Pennsylvania. The kitchen focuses on lesser-known Vietnamese street specialties like banana leaf-wrapped dumplings, charbroiled seafood, and savory crepes. It’s a BYOB for now, with plans for a liquor license in the works.
Huff and Puff Barbecue
It’s an excellent time to eat barbecue in Philadelphia, and Huff and Puff is the latest in a recent boom in ‘cue spots in the city. The spot opened in May with a bevy of vegan options by partners Luke Patrick, Adele Monaghan, and Josh Hitchner. The trio designed a menu that ranges from original specialties like shoestring pickle fries, smoked watermelon salad, and corn ribs, to meaty, satisfying brisket, chicken fried ribs, and a Texas reuben made with brisket and house made Russian dressing. The delectable menu can be enjoyed inside the restaurant, which accepts walk ins only, or at home with takeout and delivery available.
While, yes, technically Irwin’s has been open before, its current form is brand new. Born from a long, COVID-induced closure and the watchful eye of a new chef, Michael Vincent Fererri, who ran the beloved Center City Res Ipsa until it closed during COVID, has taken over the eighth floor rooftop terrace at the Bok Building. He’s serving the modern Sicilian food for which he was known at Res Ipsa, plus a menu of natural wine and cocktails that are perfect for toasting to the best view in the city. Think pasta (with the option to order half-portions so you can sample everything) plus shareable proteins and seasonal vegetables.
From the team at Sojourn Philly—the restaurant group behind classics like Jet Wine Bar and Café Ynez—comes Sor Ynez, a Mexican restaurant focused on fresh ingredients with lots of vegan and vegetarian options. The spot opened in April and now offers indoor and outdoor dining, as well as takeout and delivery. Executive chef Gabriel Romero covers every meal of the day with Mexican pastries and coffee in the morning and an all-day menu featuring all the hits. The drink menu leans heavily on tequila and mezcal, while the wine menu includes a handful of Mexican wines that may just surprise you.
Suya Suya West African Grill
Named for the West African spice blend used on countless grilled meats, Suya opened in April to bring fast-casual West African food to the Northern Liberties. The menu works like this: select your protein (aka Suya)—they serve steak, chicken, and roasted brussels sprouts—then pick a rice (we like the jollof rice), and select your sides. You should probably get both the fried plantains and the buttery cornbread. They also offer tacos and orders of the steak and chicken straight up.