Jackie Nucero and Steve Colestock enjoy an actual restaurant experience at the Chestnut Grill Sidewalk Café. (Photo by Stacia Friedman)

by Stacia Friedman

Reopen and they will come. That’s what area restaurants are hoping as they expand their service from takeout to outdoor dining.

 “Chestnut Hill’s varied dining scene has long been one of its great assets, and flexible guidelines on outdoor dining are essential to our ability to recover from business shutdown over the past months,” said Philip Dawson, executive director of the Chestnut Hill Business Association.

•Nothing says summer like soft shell crabs. And nobody does it better than Paul Roller, who takes the helm at McNally’s every Wednesday night alongside chef Owen Lee.

“We are collaborating with Paul,” said chef/owner Anne McNally. “On Wednesday nights we are exclusively featuring the dishes for which Paul is known.” The Wednesday Specials include soft shell crabs, lobster rolls, chicken salad, potato salad, cole slaw and Paul’s corn pudding. Leave room for Paul’s strawberry shortcake, like grandma makes if she had apprenticed at The Frog. (Hint: Place your order early, starting at 11 a.m. They sell out fast.)

On Thursdays through Sundays, McNally’s continues to offer takeout of over 20 items for lunch and dinner, including its chicken corn chowder and turkey chili, as well as beer and cocktails. Outdoor dining at McNally’s is limited to a few sidewalk tables for now, but they plan to expand into the adjacent storefront. On the horizon? Alcoholic slushies! 8634 Germantown Ave., www.McNallys.com

•The Saturday brunch crowd has returned to the Valley Green Inn. “Our staff is ready to go!” said Jack Ott, manager of the historic inn. “In addition to our porch and covered patio, which can seat 90, we have additional tents that can add another 60 seats,” he said. “Our priority is following protocols for safety. We won’t take any more reservations than social distancing guidelines allow.”

The pandemic is just another challenge to Ott. “We’ve survived floods and fires. Whatever we need to do, we will do.” He also gives a shout out to Parks and Recreation. “They are doing a phenomenal job, even though they are understaffed.”

Don’t be discouraged by the filled-to-overflowing parking lots on weekends. If you have a reservation, the attendant will give you access to park at the Inn. Valley Green Road at Wissahickon. www.ValleyGreenInn.com.

•If you are in the mood to dip into some homemade guacamole and mahi tacos while knocking back a Dos Equis, head for on the spacious patio of El Poquito.

“We have done quite well with takeout and are now offering outdoor dining and drinks following the city guidelines,” said Sarah Henry, assistant general manager. “We will not be taking reservation in the beginning. Seating will be on a first-come, first-served basis,” she said.

Their take-out menu includes the usual suspects, plus flatiron steak, grilled shrimp and the House Margarita Kit. Wouldn’t that be fun to take to the shore? 8201 Germantown Ave. www.ElPoquito.com.

•Jansen, known for inventive farm-to-table cuisine with a French accent, is excited to welcome patrons back to its landscaped garden. “We’re excited to put food on a plate again,” said general manager Zachary Bourne. “We have seating for 22 to 34 guests at small tables, plus a private table for 8 to 10. Reservations are necessary so we may assign each party a two-hour time slot. Servers will wear masks, and guests will be asked to wear masks from the front door to the table. Fresh linens will be changed with each seating.”

Since pandemic restrictions went into effect, Jansen has offered takeout. Who knew that takeout could mean oysters Rockefeller, New Zealand lamb chops or Norwegian salmon? “Our most popular takeout is the Jansen family meal for two, which changes every week,” said Bourne  “For Father’s Day, June 21, we are offering a special surf & turf family meal.” 

Popular dishes include Jansen’s branzino stuffed with crab and shrimp. And no one says no to their chocolate love cake, a confection combining a fudge brownie, mocha mouse and caramel Bavarian. Sounds addictive. 7402 Germantown Ave. www.JansenMtAiry.com

•Chestnut Hill Brewing Company in the Market at the Fareway is adapting new procedures to adhere to city guidelines. Known for their wood-fired pizzas and beer selection, the Brewery is no longer self-seating.

“All patrons have to be seated by the host and must wear a mask to enter,” said Lindsey Pete, owner and manager. “They can no longer come to the counter to place their order, which will be taken at their table by a server,” she said. “All tables are now six feet apart or have protective barriers to divide longer tables. We recommend making reservations on Resy, a reservation app.” 

Cash is not accepted. If this sounds rigid, you would not know it by looking at the array of happy patrons on a sunny Saturday afternoon. 8221 Germantown Ave. https://chestnuthillbrewingcompany.com

•Locals are again congregating at the Chestnut Grill and Sidewalk Café, enjoying American Bistro cuisine and drinks al fresco. “It was really encouraging to see all of our favorite people back out again,” said Margaret Tucker, manager. “We’ve kept all the items that are the most popular, including coconut shrimp, ultimate burger, catfish wrap and organic salmon Nicoise salad. Our summer drinks include Watermelon Brain Freeze, Cucumber Martini and Blood Orange Mule.” Tables are spaced farther apart, and servers wear masks, but the ambience and food are as delicious as ever. 8229 Germantown Ave. www.ChestnutGrill.com

•Campbell’s Place has enough café tables on the sidewalk to seat up to 20. Summer specials include their signature red and white Sangria and Summer Squeeze, a watermelon and lemonade flavored cocktail with Citron vodka. Try the fish tacos, lobster roll or New Orleans style crawfish, along with tempting salads and desserts. 8337 Germantown Ave. www.CampbellsPlace.com

Note: Restaurants without outdoor seating will continue to offer takeout, including Cin Cin, Mica, Tavern on the Hill, Iron Hill Brewery, Fiesta Pizza, King’s Garden, Yu Hsiang Garden and Cake. Cosimo’s Pizza Café has some outdoor tables.

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