Fall Preview 2014: 10 Major Restaurant Openings In Philadelphia

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What does Philadelphia's underrated restaurant scene have in store for diners this fall? Read on for details on 10 of Philly's most-anticipated debuts, a mix of celebrity chefs, rising talents and under-the-radar newcomers vying for theirs in this thriving culinary city.

1. Bardot

For his second project, Dennis Hewlett — owner of Pub on Passyunk East (P.O.P.E.) — ditches the punk rock/craft brew vibe for something a little more French. Located across town in Northern Liberties, Bardot, named after the one and only O.G. BB, is Euro in all the right places — pressed-tin ceilings, gilded mirrors, bordello wallpaper and a curtained nook off the bar for hushed conversation. "If the P.O.P.E. is a boy," says Hewlett. "This is a girl." That ethic extends to the bar, with its worldly beer and wine approach, as well as to chef Rhett Vellner's menu, built around plates like squid ink spaghettini with chorizo and corn, and spatzle-style saffron dumplings served in a cast-iron gratin. Open now, 447 Poplar Street

2. Lo Spiedo

Already a dominant presence from Center City northward, chef Marc Vetri has his Italianate gaze fixed south for fall 2014. When he's not busy railing against gluten-free trendiness on HuffPo, he's working on installing a Pizzeria Vetri inside the Eagles' Lincoln Financial Field, and he's also plugging along with Lo Spiedo, an Italian rotisserie all the way down in the Navy Yard. Here, a 72-inch custom-built spit-roasting setup will accommodate primal cuts slow-roasted in the old world-style (half-chickens will be a signature), along with a selection of laidback pasta, veggies, sandwiches and sides. (Stalk the spitmasters on Twitter for menu peeks; chef Scott Calhoun will be hosting a preview dinner at Vetri's Osteria in September.) With 150-ish seats inside and out, Vetri hopes to target the hundreds of workers employed by Navy Yard firms, as well as pre- and post-game sports crowds. Opens in late September, Navy Yard, 4500 South Broad Street

3. Bing Bing Steam House

Now that they've successfully reinterpreted the Philly ramen shop with CHeU Noodle Bar, Ben Puchowitz and Shawn Darragh are ready to take a swing at dim sum with Bing Bing, a moderately priced Asian(-ish) restaurant on East Passyunk Avenue. The duo, who recently took a serious research trip to Hong Kong to nail down what they wanted (and what they didn't), are taking the same deliberately inauthentic engine that drives CHeU and cranking it for spot number two. While the makeup of the menu will be traditional — dumplings, doughs, vegetables and meats, with a few large-format options (steamed whole chicken and fish) — many dishes won't be. Puchowitz is messing around with playful treatments of chicken feet, lacquered ribs and xiao long bao, and teases plates like fried duck tongues and smoked corn with XO butter. No push carts here, though they will work off a scrawl-and-order card system. Opens in November, 1648 East Passyunk Avenue

4. Brigantessa

Acclaimed for his elegant work with underappreciated Abruzzese cooking at Le Virtu, chef Joe Cicala has an opportunity to stretch his culinary legs with Brigantessa, a combo enoteca, birreria, pizzeria and antipastaria he's opening in partnership with Virtu owners Francis Cratil Cretarola and Cathy Lee. "It's nice to get out of Abruzzo," jokes Cicala, whose explorations here will focus on southern Italian regions like Puglia, Campania, Sardinia and Sicily. While he's got his hands on a Gianni Acunto oven he's aiming to have certified by the real-deal Neapolitan pizza association, Brigantessa will offer more than just pies; the 6,500-pound wood-fired beast will be employed for a number of dishes, and Cicala's housemade salumi will be a highlight, as well. A largely Southern Italian wine list, plus Italian beers on draft and by the bottle, will round out the experience. Opens in mid-September, 1520 East Passyunk Avenue

5. Whetstone

Jeremy Nolen, who's been doing his part to change American perceptions of German cuisine with his cooking at Philly's Brauhaus Schmitz, is pivoting away from all things Teutonic with Whetstone, an upcoming neighborhood restaurant he's opening with Brauhaus owners Doug and Kelly Hager. It'll be "American" in approach, which, of course, can mean anything, but Nolen is looking to tap into a combination of well-loved pub grub, bistro fare and Pennsylvania-based specialties to build out his menu. That means to expect a working man's burger and roast beef sandwich at the bar, with a mix of higher-end plates and Commonwealth staples (pepperpot soup!) defining the dining room. One fixture the chef and his crew are stoked on: their vintage hand-cranked Berkel slicer, which will sit behind a glass deli case filled with cheeses and housemade charcuterie. Opens in November, 700 South Fifth Street

Corned pork belly on pretzel challah at Abe Fisher.

6. Abe Fisher

With adjacent sister restaurant Dizengoff already up and slinging hummus to eager crowds, Abe Fisher, from Michael Solomonov and Steve Cook (Zahav, Percy Street, Federal Donuts), is eager to play catch-up. The story here, however, is much different than its fast-casual counterpart — chef Yehuda Sichel will place his culinary focus on foods that have flourished in Jewish strongholds outside Israel, including the U.S., Canada and all parts of Europe. Playful plates will include borscht presented in a tartare format, with hard-boiled egg, roe and dill; veal schnitzel tacos dressed with anchovy mayo and deli-style health salad; and corned pork belly, on a pretzel challah roll spread with Manischewitz mustard. Opens September 2, 1605-27 Sansom Street, abefisherphilly.com

7. Girard Brasserie

This fast-approaching BYOB brasserie in Fishtown has been earning plenty of pre-opening attention for its unorthodox "no tipping" policy — owners Cristian Mora and Brian Oliveira plan on structuring their business to pay staff a flat wage, plus offer healthcare, paid sick days and profit sharing, and they've been happy to discuss the particulars with local press. But what about the food? Oliveira's menu will be brunchy in approach, with various fixtures like piri-piri chicken and daily roast options (lamb ribs, whole fish, venison ossobucco). While they wait for their pop art–inspired space to be finished, the partners are hosting weekend pop-ups at West Philly's Honest Tom's Taco Shop, if you need your piri-piri right now. Opens in October, 300 East Girard Avenue, girardongirard.com

8. V Street

Fueled by the momentum of their smash vegan restaurant (and cookbook) Vedge, husband-and-wife team Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby are headed down-market with their upcoming concept, focused on unforeseen interpretations of Asian and Middle Eastern street food. It'll be much more than just tacos and sandwiches. "All in all, our food motto is going to be 'nothing is safe'," says Landau. "This is going to be for adventurous eaters." That means edgy flavor elements big with Vedge fans, like their "funky" kimchee or their fiery zhoug (both housemade), will find footing here, along with plenty of completely new menu items. This nothing's-off-limits approach will come into clearest focus at Landau's six-seat chef's counter, where he plans on cooking several nights a week. Opens in October, 126 South 19th Street

9. La Peg

One of the most attractive spaces in all of Philly has taken root along the Delaware River, a strip that's long been more associated with drunken dude-bro clubs than sophisticated dining. Chef Peter Woolsey, who also owns French fixture Bistrot La Minette, has set out to change that, opening this new restaurant in partnership with FringeArts, organizers of Philly's internationally recognized Fringe Festival. Set in a dramatic high-ceilinged building that was last a fireman's pumping station, La Peg (Woolsey's nickname for his wife, Peggy) is focused on down-to-earth brasserie cooking, with a handful of surprises. Chef de cuisine Nich Bazik cranks out classics like roast chicken, choucroute garnie and pan bagnat, with unexpected add-ins like pho consommé and raw oysters dressed with smoked cream and blood orange. Opens August 25, 140 North Columbus Boulevard, lapegbrasserie.com

10. Tuk Tuk Real

Thai on tortillas? Alex Boonphaya, chef/owner of the popular Circles restaurants in South Philly and Northern Liberties, has teamed up with his Mexican sous chef, Silvestre Rincon, to marry their cultures and create this taqueria on South Street. Tuk Tuk Real — the first half of the name, of course, is Boonphaya's, the second Rincon's — will capitalize on the commonalties Thai and Mexican cuisine share (humble cuts of meat; spice; rice dishes) to build out their moderately priced menu. Think Thai-style braised pork or beef stuffed into empanadas or layered atop sopes. Opens in August, 429 South Street

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