By Liz Johnson

After nearly 6 months of closed doors, Philly restaurants are slated to reopen indoor dining (with restrictions) on September 8. (Cue celebratory drinks!) Despite widespread closures and all of the restrictions over concerns of the spread of the coronavirus these past several months, new restaurants have been opening up throughout the city in interesting ways.

Several New York City-based restauranteurs expanded into the city of Brotherly Love this summer with new locations in the Northern Liberties section of the city.  Others reformulated plans by shifting to takeout-only or adding subscription options to lure customers.

Just last week, New York City-based SET Hospitality opened its first location outside its home base, with expanded outdoor seating at 1030 N.Second Street to comply with the Philadelphia’s Covid dining requirements.

Among SET NoLibs’ offerings: Korean BBQ Marinated Sliced Ribeye,Thai Chili Sriracha Wings and BahnMi Chicken Tacos, a mix of Lemongrass Chicken with Pickled Carrots, Cucumbers, Cilantro, and Sriracha Aioli.

SET NoLibs (Photo by Society Hill Films.)
SET NoLibs (Photo by Society Hill Films.)

“What really drew us into Philadelphia was the city’s unique camaraderie and culture. Expanding was already in our plans. I fell in love with the area and felt like our concept and unique culinary offerings would be a great addition to the area. ” – SET Hospitality Managing Partner Michael Tang

Nearby, Añejo Philly opened at the end of July in Northern Liberties at 1001 N. Second Street with 18 outdoor tables, after delaying plans for a March launch.

Much like its neighbor SETNoLib, Anejo’s parent Mexican restaurant is based in New York City.

“We love what has been happening in Philadelphia over the last few years and we are eager to join the food scene here with so much amazing talent,” said Executive Chef and Partner Ricardo Camacho.

(Photo provided by Anejo Philly.)

Offerings include Duck Enchiladas, slow-roasted pulled duck, chocolate mole corn tortillas, avocado serrano cream; Pork Belly Tostada, guacamole, tamarind soda glazed pork belly, tomatillo pico de gallo, cilantro crema, built on nixtamalized corn chips; Tuna Ceviche, sushi grade ahi tuna, Mexican chili oil, sour orange canela broth, avocado crema, and Octopus Tostada, taro root puree, octopus in chipotle, pickled red onions, built on taro root chips,

In addition to outdoor seating, the restaurant offers takeout and cocktails-to-go with plans to add 35 indoor seats when the city lifts its indoor dining restrictions on Sept. 8th.

GLU Hospitality reformulated plans to open a day club, pool and cocktail lounge by instead opening Hunnie’s Crispy Chicken for delivery and contactless pick-up in person at 1100 North Front Street. Hunnie’s crispy chicken recipes include Crispy Chicken Caesar Salad, Hunnie’s Crispy Chicken and Waffle Sandwich, Hunnie’s Buffalo Chicken and Crispy Chicken Tenders.

“We had been wanting to launch a crispy chicken concept for a long time especially as we are such fans of ChefHee Chino Chang’s rice flour chicken recipes,” said co-owner Derek Gibbons. “When the global pandemic hit and our nightlife concepts had to close, this left us with the time to give this new concept the attention and resources it needed to be successful. This also allowed us to pivot and find a new direction during this crisis for the food and drink industry.”

In addition, Gibbons and co-owner Tim Lu launched We Cooked, a curation of Chef Chang’s prepared meals featured at GLU Hospitality establishments that are available for takeout.

The duo opened Leda &The Swan cocktail lounge in January, which sells cocktails-to-go via the We Cooked Web site.


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Blue Pearl Café, a plant-based café and coffee shop, recently opened at Rittenhouse Place. It’s one of five new restaurants planned by Main Line’s Ardmore Initiative slated to open over the next five years. Its offerings include Spaghetti and Beetballs, Pad Thai, Walnut Taco Salad, grain bowls, organic smoothies, baked goods, breakfast favorites, Rival Bros. coffee, cold pressed juices, and wellness juice shots.

Blue Pearl Café (Photo provided by Aversa PR.)

The café, which was to open in March but shifted gears due to Covid, plans to begin offering immunity subscription boxes as one way to boost trade.

“We were delayed when the global pandemic caused businesses to close and they ceased issuing the permits we needed for final clearance. But now, after working hard to pivot with our Immunity Boxes and expansion of our juice subscriptions, we are ready to continue our growth,” said owner F.J. Leto, who also owns Dr. Juice in Ardmore.

Juno, an outdoor garden and Mexican-American restaurant that’s set-up for social distancing, opened in early July in the middle of the Spring Arts District at 1033 Spring Garden Street –  the former location of Llama Tooth.

“We built upon the colorful and playful designs from Morgan’s Pier and blended them with natural inspiration from Harper’s Garden to create the must-do attitude of Rittenhouse but with a grittier Fishtown vibe. Juno is filled with trees, flowers and greenery so that once you enter our front gate you will forget you are in the city – and you can leave the hustle and bustle behind,” said AvramHornik, who owns all three restaurants. 

Chef Miguel Angel Hernandez Motaleads the team, which offers tableside wheel barrows of cocktail pitchers and beers,  infused tequilas and  frozen drinks along with fresh, simple Mexican-American fare using local produce. The menu will also include vegan, vegetarian and gluten free offerings.

Juno (Photos by Michelle Reese.)

And three eateries have opened up along Philly River Strollalong the Delaware River with social distancing in mind: River Beer Garden, The Garden at Cherry Street Pier and Water Garden at Spruce Street Harbor Park Sustained by Univest.

Beginning at Race Street Pier, patrons can enjoy lite bites and a draft beer from Mainstay Independent Brewing Company at River Beer Garden which has more than 100 socially distanced seats. Or they can take in the scenery at The Garden at Cherry Street Pier, a new eatery and waterfront oasis with 20,000 square feet of blooming flowers, lush greens, ceiling height trees, historic architecture and the best views in Philadelphia of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.

River Beer Garden at Race Street Pier (Photo provided by Aversa PR.)
The Garden at Cherry Street Pier (Photo by Society Hill Films.)

Afterwards, visitors can enjoy the sights and sounds of summer at Blue Cross RiverRink Summerfest with the new socially distanced beach plus amusement rides and other activities. Or they can stop by the vendors and lights at Spruce Street Harbor Park and find their way to the new Water Garden, a floating restaurant with more than 125 socially distance seats available. The menu features sandwiches and salads based on seasonal local produce.

Masks are required at all venues when patrons are not seated at their table, according to Philadelphia city guidelines.

Spruce Street Harbor Park (Photo provided by Aversa PR.)

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