What’s new in and around Philadelphia in dining, dessert and fun – FYI Philly January 8 show

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — 3 new additions to Philadelphia’s dining scene
Looking to try some new flavors in 2022? We rounded up a few new spots featuring a wide range of flavor profiles.

Primary Plant Based is the first restaurant for long-time Philadelphia chef Mark McKinney. The menu is 100 percent vegan. McKinney has lived a vegan lifestyle for more than three decades and during the pandemic pursued his passion to bring that lifestyle to his own space.

The menu features items like a Sloppy Joe made with banana blossoms, a kimchi pancake with celery root sushi and masa ball soup. McKinney is hoping to share his passion for healthy eating and leave his mark on the Philadelphia culinary scene.

Farina Pasta and Noodle is serving fresh-made pasta compliments of Daniel Lee. The idea was born while Lee studied culinary at Drexel University, came to life in a ghost kitchen during the pandemic and now has grown to a brick-and-mortar in the Rittenhouse neighborhood.

Imagine Chipotle with fresh pasta. Customers choose their pasta, the sauce and the toppings and each dish is prepared using pasta made in-house that day in a fast-casual setting.

Abiha Kitchen has a new look on Chestnut Street. Hasan Ahammad created a menu based on his Bangladeshi roots. Featuring favorites like curry chicken, tikka masala and lamb biryani. He also offers a variety of naan freshly prepared in the restaurant’s tandoori oven.

Primary Plant Based | Facebook | Instagram
161 West Girard Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19123

Farina Pasta & Noodle | Facebook | Instagram
132 South 17th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103

Abiha Kitchen | Facebook | Instagram
2101 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103

Townsend, Vernick and Sazon highlight COVID restaurant comebacks
When Center City’s office district shut down in March of 2020, Vernick Coffee Bar, inside the Comcast Technology Center, had no choice but to shut down too.

But the place re-opened to the public in early December. It’s a grab-and-go coffee shop starting at 7:30 on weekday mornings then a more formal sit-down lunch area opens at 11am.

Celebrated Chef Greg Vernick says the goal is to “wrap a chef’s brain around a coffee shop,” and he does it with hearty dishes like the mushroom and farro bowl and the grilled heart of romaine that has the flavor of the grill but is still crunchy like a salad. Though it’s a vegetarian dish, Chef Vernick says some customers have compared it to a cheeseburger.

He handles the savory dishes while Four Seasons Pastry Chef Ryan Schmitt is in charge of the sweets. He makes all-butter croissants, scones, muffins, tarts, coffee cake and a chocolate pretzel cookie. But his favorite is the carrot cake pie, a hybrid dessert suggested by Chef Vernick and executed by Chef Schmitt. It has a cheesecake-style graham cracker crust with carrot cake batter baked on top.

Vernick Coffee Bar | Facebook|Instagram
1800 Arch St 2nd floor lobby, Philadelphia, PA 19103 (inside Comcast Technology Center)

When Townsend Wentz shut down his signature restaurant on East Passyunk Avenue in 2019, it was supposed to be for just a few months while he and his team opened a second location in Rittenhouse Square. But then the pandemic hit and the place remained closed for more than two years. He planned to reopen with a bar-focused comfort food concept but is instead sticking to the classical French fine dining the restaurant was always known for.

For now, he’s offering a six-course chef’s tasting menu with dishes like Atlantic ray spotted skate with caviar and a filet mignon with winter fruits and vegetables.

Townsend EPX | Facebook | Instagram
1623 East Passyunk Avenue, Philadelphia, Pa. 19148

There’s now a ‘For Rent’ sign on Sazon Restaurant on Spring Garden Street. After 17 years in that location, husband and wife, Robert Campbell & Judith Suzarra-Campbell are now cooking up their homestyle Venezuelan fare at a ghost kitchen dubbed Sazon 2 Go.

They are still making all of the favorite dishes their customers have come to love-empanadas, tequenos, soups, tostadas and the Asado Negro. Legend holds it was created by accident by a Caracas grandmother who accidentally burned the meat dish she was cooking. She decided to keep going, creating the caramelized salty/sour brisket-like dish that is now a Venezuelan tradition.

Robert, aka the chocolate alchemist, is still making his artisanal bean to bar chocolate.

Customers now order through delivery apps but the couple maintains a strong connection to their longtime loyalists, who show up in their DMs and pickup for that face-to-face interaction.

Sazon 2 Go | Menu| Instagram
1308 W. Girard Avenue, Philadelphia, Pa. 19123
The Chocolate Alchemist Online Shop | Facebook | Instagram

Other Reopenings:
The Refectory | Facebook | Instagram
862 Lancaster Ave, Villanova, PA 19085

Giuseppe & Sons | Facebook | Instagram

(Planned Reopening January 12)
1523 Sansom St, Philadelphia, PA 19102

Jeni’s Ice Creams opens 2 new shops in Fishtown, Rittenhouse Square
Who says ice cream is just a summertime treat?

The beloved brand, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, opened scoop shops in Fishtown and Rittenhouse Square in November.

The ice cream is made with grass-grazed milk. Waffle cones and bowls are made fresh and flavors like white chocolate peppermint, gooey butter cake and rum butter almond brittle are designed to flood your brain with happy memories.

Founder Jeni Britton Bauer originally dreamed of being an artist but says she left art school in 1996 to get her ice cream start at an Ohio farmer’s market. Her first flavor was a spicy Mexican hot chocolate that remains on the menu today, and she now has about 60 scoop shops nationwide..

You’ll still see that artist’s creativity in every flavor and even on the scoop shop napkins, that include a tutorial on how to properly eat ice cream for the full multi-sensory experience.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams | Facebook | Instagram

Jeni’s Fishtown
1322 Frankford Ave. Unit 101, Philadelphia, PA 19125
Jeni’s Rittenhouse Square
1901 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103

Can you survive this spicy noodle challenge?
This Philadelphia restaurant claims to have the spiciest Sichuan cuisine.

EMei Restaurant in Philadelphia’s Chinatown is challenging its customers to handle the heat with their spicy noodle challenge.

There are 3 levels of heat to choose from. After the first level is complete, they will be encouraged to go to the next. Customers can start at level 3, the hottest, but it’s not recommended.

The brave souls who complete the 3rd level will be invited back on Chinese New Year to take part in the final challenge.

EMei Restaurant | Facebook | Instagram
915 Arch St, Philadelphia, PA 19107

Fun finds for a full day and night in South Jersey
All over South Jersey, there are things to do in every part of your day.

Cramer Hill Waterfront Park is the new crown jewel of Camden, where you can get some outdoor recreation, as well as take in some of the best views in the area of the Philly skyline.

Nuanced Cafe is the perfect daytime spot for connecting with people and getting a house-brewed coffee or tea. Owner Rose Hicks wants to bring Black culture to all her guests, offering events and opportunities and inspiration for all.

The husband-and-wife team behind Wilson’s Restaurant & Live Music Lounge just opened a vibrant new spot in Hi-Nella. Mark and Mame Wilson set the scene for an upscale night out experience that features live music acts, New Orleans style cuisine, and a full bar.

Cramer Hill Waterfront Park | Facebook | Instagram
1501 Harrison Avenue, Camden, NJ 08105

Nuanced Cafe | Facebook | Instagram
225 Market Street, Camden, NJ 08102

Wilson’s Restaurant & Live Music Lounge | Facebook | Instagram
709 Warwick Road, Hi-Nella, NJ 08083
Thursday through Sunday, doors open at 6pm
Sunday jazz brunch from 11am-3pm

Painted Mug puts spotlight on LGBTQ+ community
The Painted Mug in South Philadelphia is a new café and performance space that focuses on empowering the LGBTQIA community.

Co-Founder Taylor Plunkett-Clements says the new space fills an unmet need and will highlight sober activities that de-centers drugs and alcohol while serving as an inviting spot for younger crowds.

Owner Vinnie Scarfo says they have a packed calendar for January, with everything from drag, burlesque, board games, knitters and yarn crafters, and sober karaoke.

Their goal is to uplift the community and share joy. They are crowdfunding to finish renovations on the space.

The Painted Mug | Instagram | Facebook
1527 Jackson Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19145

Night Forms: dreamloop by Klip Collective transforms Grounds for Sculpture landscape
For 30 years, Grounds for Sculpture has been wowing visitors in Hamilton, New Jersey, with roughly 300 outdoor sculptures.

Now, you can experience the park in a whole new way.

A special exhibition called Night Forms: dreamloop by Klip Collective is transforming the Grounds for Sculpture 42-acre landscape.

“Through a dozen site-specific installations using light, sound and video projection,” says Faith McClellan, Director of Collections and Exhibitions at Grounds for Sculpture.

It’s a multi-sensory immersive exhibition.

The visuals are all choreographed to original sounds and music.

Grounds for Sculpture
80 Sculptors Way, Hamilton, New Jersey 08619
On display through February 27th, 2022 | Thursday through Sunday

The Fin Restaurant and Bar aims to bring the fish back to Fishtown. It’s a cocktail and seafood lover’s paradise where you can pick your seafood, pick your sauce and pick your spice level.
The Fin Restaurant & Bar | Facebook | Instagram
1000 Frankford Ave, #1, Philadelphia, Pa. 19125

The new Brooklyn Bowl, right next to the Filmore and in the same complex as The Fin, is a place where you can rock and roll. It’s 40,000-square-feet with live music, and 24 lanes of bowling on two floors

The menu is comfort food with dishes like pizza bread and fried chicken, and there’s a colorful carnival style decor, what founder Peter Shapiro calls, “a lot of lot of visual eye candy.”

Brooklyn Bowl | Facebook | Instagram
1009 Canal St, Philadelphia, PA 19123

Wilmington, Delaware has a new dining and entertainment destination. Wilma’s, on North Market Street downtown, offers duckpin bowling along with Creole cooking.

Wilma’s | Facebook | Instagram
900 N Market St, Wilmington, DE 19801

Copyright © 2022 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.

Rebecca R. Ammons

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