All’s Fare: New year generates fresh restaurant news

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By Bill Gelman

James Morrissey

The arrival of a new year usually comes with excitement and anticipation of what’s coming in the months ahead. With South Philly having a booming restaurant scene, the conversation includes hot topics of “now open” or “coming soon.”

After appearing at a variety of events around South Philly and beyond, Mike’s BBQ, 1703 S. 11th St., welcomed its first customers last week at the new storefront location. Michael Strauss is performing double duty as chef and owner. The soft opening took place on Jan. 3, with the grand-opening event taking place on Saturday (Jan. 13). Brewery ARS, 1927–29 West Passyunk Ave., will be there providing free samples. Strauss said he has gotten a “very positive” response from customers. The brisket is a popular item. He is taking a serious approach to the barbecue business, as the kitchen includes a smoker that required a forklift to get it inside. Strauss is excited to have a stationary spot to fulfill his passion.

“It’s good to have a home. I’ll eventually get back on the road, he said.

The hours are noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. For more information, visit mikesbbqphilly.com. …

Jahri Evans, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, is preparing to join the local restaurant scene with the anticipated spring opening of SOMO SoPhi — short for South Philadelphia — at the former Packer Park space occupied by Medora’s Mecca, 3101 S. 13th St. It’s being described as a “game-changing restaurant concept.” The project will be a joint venture by Evans, his wife Takia and designer- turned-restauranteur James Morrissey.

The property will encompass more than 5,000 square feet and include three levels and two outdoor dining/lounge spaces. The first floor will be a larger replica of SOMO Manayunk, with an eco-chic feel. Patrons will experience a “relaxed, casual restaurant/bar with televisions that will air live local or significant sporting events.” The menu is being described as a new American bistro offering elevated appetizers, sandwiches and entrees. The ground floor will also feature a lounge and a large al fresco cafe/sidewalk seating area. Other highlights will include what is being described as the ultimate chef’s table featuring a private event dining space with a boutique whiskey bar and chef’s kitchen where guests can request customized menus for their soirees or cocktail parties.

“I’m super excited about selecting the décor for this one-of-kind room, and we hope it will be one of the most unique dining experiences in the region,” said Morrissey.

Evans, who won a Super Bowl ring as a member of the New Orleans Saints, is a 12-year veteran, which includes the recently completed season with the Green Bay Packers. Off the field, he is a minority owner of the Arena Bowl champion Philadelphia Soul.

“Philadelphia is our home,” said Takia, who grew up in West Philadelphia. “We’re really excited to open SOMO SoPhi this spring.”

Have restaurant news to share? Email news@southphillyreview.com.