Neighborhood Pub Dies: The Lunar Inn is closing
Welcome to the Thanksgiving week edition of Foobooz’s weekly food news roundup. I have a mixed bag of good news and bad news to share with you this week, but since everyone’s busy preparing for the biggest food holiday of the year (which we can help you with if you’re looking for a quick Thanksgiving meal to lighten the load or some specialty holiday pies to serve as dessert), I’ll try Keep things brief. So first…
The death of the neighborhood bar
By the end of December, the lights will be turned off at the Lunar Inn in Port Richmond for the final time.
The closure was announced (as is the case with a lot of these things these days) on Instagram. Owners Ryan Ellis and Emily Kovach said all the usual things — thanks to the regulars, neighbors and staff — and announced their last day of service will be Dec. 31. Sure, your New Year’s Eve party will be more than just bittersweet, but really, what isn’t these days?
“We were hoping to get so far along in our journey, and it’s really painful to think about all that magic gone,” Ellis and Kovach said. “We’ve poured our entire selves into Lunar and we love it so much. It’s going to be hard to say goodbye, but it’s our only viable option at this point. We hope “May the next six weeks give us time to find some closure. Please come for hugs, fries and wine before our farewell party in New York.”
The Lunar Inn has been around for four years and has changed. It’s made it through lockdowns, through the coronavirus, through a brutal summer and a recent break-in, and all the while, Kovach and Ellis have been very honest about what it takes to make it a neighborhood bar these days. It takes really hard work, a lot of luck, long days and longer nights, charm and grace in spades. And the Lunar Inn had it all. But it also requires support—butts on chairs and bodies through the door—and Lots of places Now we find that… missing.
Is it the decline in neighborhood traffic after the epidemic in the city? Long warning about gathering indoors? Is the abundance of new bar and restaurant openings burdening the limited number of customers and dining dollars in any given neighborhood? All of these things, probably. But often the number of customers is small in many places.
It’s like this quote from JRR Tolkien: It can sometimes seem as if the Philadelphia dining scene is “scraped butter on a lot of bread.” And there’s only one thing that fixes that: us. everyone From us, supporting the places we love. Especially those close to home.
Anyway, losing the Lunar Inn sucks. It was a neighborhood bar that really cares about your neighborhood. Which brings Port Richmond smart cocktails, natural wines, great burgers, and the kind of third place everyone deserves. And yes, the closing announcement hurts, but you still have six weeks to get there and remember the good times.
Okay, now let’s talk about a little good news…
A tape recording to enjoy
I have a few things to brighten the day after Lunar Inn news. Most interesting? The release I just got about the imminent opening of 48 Record Bar in the space above Sassafras at 48 South 2nd Street. You may remember we reported on this back in April when the opening was (supposedly) imminent – but now In reality About to open.
Now I haven’t been to London or Tokyo, but according to Sassafrass co-owner (and founder of 48 Record Bar) Donal McCoy, there’s this kind of upscale, intimate vinyl and cocktail scene going on there – places where music lovers can relax with a drink and listen to music orchestrated on sound systems. Ultra HD vinyl. That’s what 48. aims to be, and if you’re into that kind of thing, it’s probably the best news you’ve heard all year. Also good news for my brother-in-law and father-in-law who can argue about expensive audio equipment for days without taking a breath. Seriously, they once spent three hours talking only about a certain type of speaker, and that was during Thanksgiving dinner a few years ago. I’m honestly thinking about not telling them about this place.
But I ignore…
48 Record Bar has a lot of plans. They’re looking forward to listening parties, album and cocktail parties (which look great), record release parties, a “Hi-Fi Tea on Sunday” series (which also sounds great), live performances, live streaming recordings and more, all curated by the joint creative director Joey Sweeney. There will also be a 12-seat bar and a menu of 16 signature cocktails as well as beer and wine; A snack menu based on finger foods and tea sandwiches, and a thoroughly lavish setting that McCoy has been working on for years.
No word yet on an exact opening date, but 48 Record Bar already has some events in the books, starting on December 2nd with South Fellini’s HOAGIEWAVE. So, at the very least, they should be up and running by then.
Big Fat Rittenhouse Greek Restaurant
In other news, the team behind Estia is looking to open a new concept in the large space at 1636 Chancellor Street just one block from Rittenhouse Square. Almira will be a 7,000-square-foot Greek restaurant with seating for 200 people on the floor and another 45 people at the long bar. The space is beautiful—all light wood and cream furnishings—and surrounded by large windows overlooking the corner of 17th and Chancellor Streets. These windows will allegedly be able to open in the summer, adding a nice breeze to all the promised live plants and greenery, which I’ll admit does look kind of cool.
Modern Greek menu, as you would expect. The kitchen will prepare short ribs with mashed feta potatoes, filet kebabs with parsley chimichurri, Greek-style sushi rolls, and tiropita dumplings drizzled with hot Greek honey. And the bar, they operate by the same playbook: ouzo, metaxa, and mastiha, with a large wine list and bottles hung along the walls.
As with the 48 Record Bar above, they’re also talking about a “state-of-the-art JBL sound system” that promises a “lively late-evening bar scene,” according to Estia manager Gus Pashalis. “It’s unlike anything I’ve ever heard before in a restaurant.”
Almyra will offer daily dinner service from 4pm to 10pm, with the bar remaining open slightly longer (11pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and midnight on weekends) to facilitate the aforementioned “vibrant bar scene”. And while (again) there is no set date for the grand opening, the plan is to turn on the lights and start welcoming guests in early December.
Is “Churro Happy Hour” redundant? Discusses the
There’s another good news for those of you who, like me, are fair obsessed With Churro: The Mercury (across Rittenhouse Square from the new Almira) is launching its own Churro Happy Hour!
and that is especially Good news because the Mercury crossover? they A sight to see. Giant, crazy, and served (mostly) in a smooth vanilla cup, The Merck Kitchen does what feels like dozens of different varieties — everything from Eagle Green topped with meringue and sprinkles to a South Philly version with extra caramel sauce, Nutella, and cannoli chips in ice cream. And now, from 3-6pm Monday through Friday, at the Chestnut Street location only, they’re running a BOGO deal where you can buy any one of their super-cool $7 churros and get a second one free. Or, when the weather is gray and dirty, you can swap your second free churro for a hot drink instead. I suggest Guatemalan hot chocolate (as a second dipping option), but there are also espressos, cappuccinos, and lattes.
Seriously, if you haven’t come down to see a churro at the Mercury, now’s your chance. Grab a friend, grab a BOGO churro and share. Or go it alone and eat both yourself. You are an adult. No one can tell you how to live your life.
Now it’s time for leftovers.
Odds and Ends
It looks like Christmas Eve will be the last day of service for Aux Petits Delices in Wayne. The French bakery operates through Thanksgiving but declines afterward Reducing operations during the Christmas season.
As the sign says, Aux Petits has been there for 36 years. This is a very noticeable run for any business. But I think the end comes to all of us in the end. Goodbye, aux petites. And a good opportunity.
In Rittenhouse, Jose Garces announced that Buena Onda, his taco shack with a beach vibe, will now close indefinitely. The place went on hiatus in July, hoping to overcome sluggish summer crowds and lack of lunch business. Perhaps an odd move from a surf-and-sun-themed summer taco spot, it now appears those challenges are still present enough for it to remain closed at least for the foreseeable future.
This is not the end of the Buena Onda brand. There are still locations open in Radnor, Center City, Fairmount and at Wells Fargo Center, and franchise deals are still in the works. The folks at Philly Voice have details on where the process will go next, so if you’re interested — or looking to get a franchise — check that out.
Meanwhile, if you’re looking to put on your old drinking socks and don’t mind walking a bit, the W Hotel Philadelphia — in partnership with Middle Child Clubhouse beverage director Brandon Thrash and Maddie Switzer Lamy of Tiny Table Tours (and, notably, a regular contributor here at Foobooz) — , are doing a “Philadelphia Cocktail Tour” on Saturday, December 9th. They’ll take a look at the city’s cocktail history, then take a small group through a series of cocktail experiences at a bar, Franklin Mortgage, and My Loup, then finish at Steven’s Nebovice — the hipster-style bar hidden behind the café. Living Room Bar at W.
interested? Then be quick. The group is limited to 10 people. You can register your tickets here.
Finally this week, it appears Lucky Well — Chad Rosenthal’s blues and barbecue venue on Butler Street in Ambler — will close so Rosenthal can focus on special events, catering, and the Lucky Well restaurant incubator. It also has a new location already selected for its “faster service” prototype Lucky Well at 4060 Chestnut Street in West Philly, near UPenn and Drexel. The plan, according to Rosenthal, is to open Package From small Lucky Wells near college campuses across the country.
First, though, he had to open this. No word yet on when that will happen. But I’ll keep my eye on her.
But it’s not all bad news, so guess who actually bought the building Lucky Well is leaving? The Inky reports that it’s Brian Serhal of Cantina Feliz. Apparently, 111 East Butler Avenue in Ambler will be the new home of a bigger, shinier, newer Feliz that will (hopefully) be up and running by next spring.
The original Feliz will remain open until work on the new one is completed. But what happens next is anyone’s guess.
And this is the news, people. Happy Thanksgiving, Friendsgiving, and Thanksgiving Eve to all of you who are celebrating, and we’ll see you all out here shining and early next week, at the same bat time, same bat channel.