year in review

Five Ways Dining Changed in Philadelphia in 2012

Royal Sushi and Izakaya could set the bar even higher for gastropubs, if it ever opens.

Royal Sushi and Izakaya could set the bar even higher for gastropubs, if it ever opens.Photo: Jeff Towne

We saw the flagship of our city’s fine dining flotilla, Le Bec Fin, sink in 2012. And we also saw it resurface a few months later with a new crew at the helm. While Starr reeled in more exports from New York, and team Solo + Cook went to the burbs with Citron and Rose after delivering a second Federal Donuts location, and Marc Vetri dialed back the luxuriance with a gastropub. Today we’re taking a look back, and highlighting how things changed in our corner of the foodiesphere. And if you’re curious about how things shook out in other major metropoli under Grub Street's watch, be sure to peep our sister sites throughout the day for the latest movements in Foodlandia.

The Cheesesteak Fell From Grace
You know there’s trouble in sandwich paradise when Anthony Bourdain and Guy Fieri are in agreement about keeping cheesesteaks out of their shows’ respective Philly episodes. While The Layover chose to focus on the gut-busters at Paesano's, and gave a nod to American Sardine Bar’s signature union of sardines and sliced, hard-boiled eggs on white bread, Adam Richman might’ve delivered the takedown when he declared DiNic’s roast pork “America’s Best Sandwich.”

There’s Still Room for Fine Dining
Le Bec Fin’s successful reboot signals fine dining is alive and well in the city of Brotherly Love. The fact that following the opening of the storied restaurant’s third act, Vetri increased the price of his restaurant’s prix fixe only serves to reinforce it. But by the same token, Federal Donuts second location, and subsequent Han Dynasty locations, Pizza Brain and Fette Sau, shows there’s still an appetite for fun dining too.

The Ascension of the Gastropub
With the rise of Marc Vetri’s Alla Spina, and the continued inpouring of praise for Stateside, the gastropub concept has ascended several rungs on the ladder, inching ever closer to sophistication. Sure, there’s always going to be room for neighborhood joints serving affordable, and comforting no-fuss fare alongside solid drink offerings, but with the bar now set considerably higher, simply serving an overpriced LaFrieda cheeseburger, and having a firkin of Yards on the bar probably won’t cut it anymore. We suspect that Royal Sushi and Izakaya, the Asian pub from the Khyber-Royal-Cantina crew that’s been coming together under wraps in Queen Village for what seems like forever, finally opens, it will only further heighten diners’ expectations.

Suddenly There’s Good Reason to Dine In the Suburbs
This year we saw a tremendous buildup of hot dining destinations spring up in the burbs. Sampan’s Michael Schulson teamed with Rouge’s Rob Wasserman to give life to the St. James in Ardmore, and Cook + Solo followed with their modern Jewish venture Citron and Rose in Bala Cynwyd. Over in Dirty Jerz, former Fork chef Terence Feury opened his Tavro 13 in Swedesboro. And now its looking like a recreation of Marc Vetri and Jeff Michaud’s Osteria is going into the Moorestown Mall later in 2013.

Ramen Arrives
Our best guess is that ramen will be deader than dead elsewhere in another year or two. But for the time being it’s as trendy as the farm-to-table fodder that tumbled off the turnip truck in such a huge way last year. In a very short amount of time, Ramen Boy opened for a second, before opening again as a local outpost of Terakawa Ramen. And with that came Nom Nom Ramen in Center City, Ramen Bar in University City, and Green Wasabi and Hiro Ramen on the east side of Broad Street. Up next is the long-in-the-works Royal Sushi and Izakaya, and the much hyped Serpico from Stephen Starr and former David Chang right hand, Peter Serpico.

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