>> NOW SEATING
With a grand opening Dec. 15, the massive, oh-so-clean Spring Garden Market brings groovy grocery action to the greater NoLibs area, which has long been hungry for a cart-friendly shopping destination. Before you fire off a nasty e-mail missive to chastise my unseasonal use of the word "groovy," consider this: Perusing the aisles one recent evening, we saw it all — mock duck and abalone, insta noodle bowls, a small cookware section, Mikawaya ice cream in the freezer case, chili-fied bean curd, bizarro-world Lotte candies ... we could go on. Past the packaged goods, a fresh section in the rear unfolds to reveal four double-sided produce aisles, a butcher's case (care for some pork snout?) and friendly fishmongers who'll happily gut and scale your selections while you wait (how about sea trout?). Bite This: The pre-packaged dumpling selection here is staggering. On a recent drop-by, we noted countless varieties, including red bean paste, carrot, pork, all-veggie and preserved mustard.
Steve Pollack and Daniel Gallagher, both from the Pennsport area, don't recognize too many of the faces coming in to their American sit-down, which opened Dec. 11. Probably because their old 'hood is now experiencing a sizable influx of residents. While catering to longtimers is a given, Pollack says they're also "gearing the place [toward] new people moving in." Head chef is Joseph Ling, an industry vet who in the past cooked for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. A wine list, cocktail list and brunch menu are coming in the next few months; in the meantime, call to get details on the restaurant's NYE festivities. Bite This: Some of Ling's entrées include cornmeal-crusted rainbow trout with roasted peppers and okra; and slow-braised short ribs marinated in Barolo wine and fresh herbs.
>> LITTLE VITTLES
If you don't mind risking morning "ghee fatigue" — that's a term coined by CP food critic Elisa Ludwig for the exhausted-but-satisfied malaise that takes over after an epic Indian meal — the Ludwig-approved Palace at the Ben (Franklin House, 834 Chestnut St., 267-232-5600) is now serving weekend brunch. Choices include idli, those deliciously fluffy rice cakes that look like little change purses; and chaat, the snack-friendly mixture of vegetables, chutney, yogurt, spices and bread.