VEG OUT A new menu kicked in this month at Stix (23rd and Pine streets), the neighborhoody Fitler Square restaurant owned by Dmitri Chimes (who also owns the mega-popular Dmitri's in Queen Village and Pamplona at 12th and Locust streets). It features way-cheap sandwiches and pasta (many items under $10) but ditches the all-veggie concept because there just weren't enough vegetarians out there, said manager Nancy Green.
Dish visited the bustling Stix last week and got a seat next to Pamplona sous chef Chakaphong Chuck Sirirathasuk, who was preparing to propose to adorable girlfriend Paula Ong, a waitress at Mai Thai (22nd and South streets). Chuck took Paula out to Fitler Square to pop the big question, which left her speechless.
She nodded yes.
REACHING FOR IRISH STARS A very special mystery guest is on the menu at the Plough & the Stars Irish bar and restaurant (2nd and Chestnut streets) for St. Patrick's Day. Partner Austin McGrath isn't giving hints, but he said Mayor Rendell is also expected. (At an event with free food? Get out.) The morning event is planned in conjunction with the Brehon Society, Philadelphia's Celtic law club. Also on the day, Plough & Stars chef Vincent Fanari will be cooking up a special $90 dinner at the prestigious James Beard Foundation in New York.
CLOONEY AND DREAM Popular brunch offering at the Astral Plane (1708 Lombard St.) is the George Clooney brunch - steak and eggs. The hot TV doc visited a few months back and the dish got its new name.
Brand-new at the venerable spot, which celebrates its 25th anniversary in June and still sports its wonderfully mismatched chairs and place settings, is the Dream Sequence, a Friday and Saturday night (11 p.m.-2 a.m.) fest of live performance art, music and drink specials for the masses, not the classes. Whatever, as long as they're filling the glasses!
BAIT-N-FISH The mahi mahi at Old City's new Live Bait (52 S. 2nd St.) is said to be the best in town, reported Ken Alan, president of the Philadelphia Concierge Association. Live Bait chef Mike McGrogan said he came up with the award-winning preparation on a visit to Hawaii. The fish is served in a kiwi-and-pineapple sauce with banana and coconut chips, a spicy lobster fritter and a Caribbean-salsa-stuffed baked apple.
A TREE GOES? More dish on Rouge 98 (205 S. 18th St.), Neil Stein's soon-to-open Rittenhouse Square French parlor-restaurant: Plans for an outdoor cafe include a dozen or so seats and standing heat lamps (big in California sidewalk cafes) that look like flying saucers, Stein said. The catch? A small tree on 18th Street is in the way and Stein said he's gonna lose it. No way, said Kenneth Kaiserman, president of the Rittenhouse Claridge, the building that houses Rouge. Kaiserman said the Claridge has done lots of nurturing of the trees on 18th Street and will oppose any of them being removed. The Fairmount Park Commission said it was unaware of removal plans.
NO SALE Sansom Street Oyster House (1516 Sansom St.) is not for sale, says owner David Mink, rebutting rumors his Oyster House and upstairs Samuel Adams Brew House were on the market. ``I've heard it before and there's no truth to it at all. We've been here 22 years and hopefully we'll be here many more,'' Mink said. He's planning Customer Choice nights for the spring, where diners - not experts or critics - do tests to see which wines go best with which oysters.