Michael Klein: Cafe goes whole hog for barbecue

The dining room at del Prado, a bruncherie/takeout in the Cedars Country Store complex in Skippack.
The dining room at del Prado, a bruncherie/takeout in the Cedars Country Store complex in Skippack. (MICHAEL KLEIN / Philly.com)
Posted: August 16, 2013

The Philly region lately has become a magnet to all manner of barbecue from around the country - Brooklyn's Fette Sau, California's Baby Blues BBQ, Texas' Bubba's BBQ.

Direct from Arkansas is Whole Hog Cafe, which last week took over a shuttered Bob Evans at 2321 Route 70 West in Cherry Hill (856-910-8060), on the eastbound side, just past Bayard's and across from Top Dog. It's BYOB.

Decades ago, Haddonfield native Kathy Maynes moved to Little Rock, where she married Ron Blasingame, a BBQ hobbyist. The couple owned a leasing company. In 2000, Blasingame and two partners opened the first Whole Hog.

In 2009, Ron died. Kathy took over the business and asked her brother, Chris Maynes, to help run it. Maynes, whose background was with the Navy, had an MBA in finance and had worked for such companies as Aramark and Comcast. He took it over, shuttling between the growing chain and his home in South Jersey. There are three company-owned locations and 10 franchises.

The menu is based on competitive BBQ (it took first place in this year's New Jersey State BBQ Championship), so it's pretty much pulled pork, pork ribs, pulled chicken, beef brisket and smoked sausage - all smoked over pecan wood. No burgers, no fries.

Country dining

The dining lineup at the Cedars Country Store complex on Skippack Pike in central Montgomery County has grown by a third. Chef Grant Langdon Brown has added del Prado - a country-elegant bruncherie/takeout - next to his Mediterranean small-plater, 19 Bella (3401 Skippack Pike, Worcester, 610-222-8119). Kevin Carton's Olce Pizza Grille - also a destination - rounds out the development, which in the olden days housed a restaurant by Alison Barshak. Del Prado opens at 7 a.m. with creative breakfasts and segues into lunch (sandwiches, panini, salads). Brown makes his own bread and butter. There is also a sizable cheese and grocery selection, including homemade pastries and hand-held pies to go; pour over, brewed, and espresso coffees (Brown roasts his own); cured meats; pastas; honey; and homemade preserves and jams.

What's coming

 

Avance is the name of the progressive-American restaurant that chef Justin Bogle will open late this year at 1523 Walnut St., the former Le Bec Fin. The Roxborough-rooted Bogle, 32, who won two Michelin stars at Manhattan's Gilt, says the concept at Avance (say it ah-VAHNCE) is locally sourced ingredients prepared using both classic and modern techniques. There will be tasting menus as well as à la carte dining.

Kensington's old Chug A Mug Pub is getting a big-time spruce-up at the hands of restaurant veteran Laura Viegas (ex-White Dog Cafe, Farmicia, Bistro 7), who lives nearby. "Early fall" is the planned opening of Cook and Shaker at Albert and Tulip Streets (2301 E. Albert St.)

What's new

 

ReAnimator Coffee Roasters has opened its brick-and-mortar shop at 1523 E. Susquehanna Ave. in Fishtown (215-425-5805), in a former flower shop at the crossroads of Susquehanna, Norris and Cedar. ReAnimator's Mark Capriotti and Mark Corpus roast their Third Wave coffee in Kensington. The new shop sells pour-over coffees, espresso-based drinks, as well as food from Pure Fare. A retail shop, Capriotti believes, will "solidify our legitimacy."

TV chefs

Philadelphia has not one but two competitors on Season 11 of Bravo's Top Chef, premiering Oct. 2. Jason Cichonski, who co-owns Ela in Queen Village (and was exec chef at the Rittenhouse Hotel at age 24), and Nicholas Elmi, erstwhile chef at Rittenhouse Tavern (and previously Le Bec Fin), shot the show in New Orleans. The Churchville, Bucks County-bred Cichonski, who just turned 29, and West Newbury, Mass., native Elmi, who turns 33 later this month, have been operating on radio silence about the experience, which required a stay in a mansion in the Big Easy from May through mid-July.

Kevin Sbraga of Sbraga, who won Top Chef's season seven, has a TV pilot that hits the screen Thursday. On Get Trucked (9 p.m., Cooking Channel), he plays a troubleshooter on food trucks - "their menus, their service and their curb appeal," says Sbraga, who worked with Nancy Glass Productions.

In brief

 

Calexico - a New York-bred Mexican food truck-and-restaurant chain - will occupy the ground floor of a mixed-use project at 1600 South St. Its projected opening is later this year.

Mission Grill at 19th and Arch Streets has closed after 61/2 years. Partner Brian Harrington said the happy-hour-y Tex-Mex had run its course.

Pumpkin Market, the offshoot of the BYOB Pumpkin, has closed.

Italyani, an Aldo Lamberti-run Italian in Lumberton, has folded.


Contact Michael Klein at mklein@philly.com.

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