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Twelve thousand followers and counting had been thrilled by a surprise Instagram post final week from chef Jennifer Zavala, asserting she was opening the doorways to Juana Tamale, her neon-colored restaurant on East Passyunk Avenue.
After promoting out every day, the restaurant closed once more briefly to work out just a few kinks. It reopens on Black Friday — and keen prospects can anticipate one other rush.
Zavala has spent over a decade within the Philly meals scene. She helped open El Camino Actual in 2008, and landed as a competitor on Bravo’s “Prime Chef” the next yr. She exited early, however her unabashed fashion and unrepentant perspective earned her many native followers. That aptitude is on show on the new spot.
“For these of you who know Jenn, you’ll see her character at each flip within the restaurant,” mentioned Lauren McFadden, who did Juana Tamale’s inside design. “And for these of you who don’t — properly, now ya know!”
A proud Latina chef of Mexican-Italian heritage, Zavala has cooked at a number of of Philly’s prime kitchens; launched a bright pink food truck; prompted a kerfuffle over meatballs that dared be vegan; and helped introduce Philadelphia to birria tacos, the stuffed and griddled corn tortillas served with a facet of consomme.
Zavala additionally not too long ago made a reputation for herself because the “tamale woman.” Because the finish of her fashionable collection at Underground Arts this spring, her followers have been eagerly awaiting a spot to fill their cravings.
They’ll discover it on the new restaurant, the place all her previous experiences come collectively. “That is my love letter to my life. That is my legacy,” Zavala mentioned at a preview occasion, “and I can’t wait to serve each certainly one of you.”
Right here’s a take a look at what to anticipate while you go.
For a lot of gadgets on the concise menu, it’s all about that darkish, wealthy, glistening broth. You may select to get it other ways: in tacos or as soup, and with queso and/or beef.
The birria ramen ($18) is presently made with Korean-style skinny noodles, however will quickly be upgraded with noodles from Neighborhood Ramen. It’s served in a styrofoam cup and is accompanied by a single beef birria taco and chopsticks for optimum slurping.
Queso birria tacos (3 for $21) are overstuffed with burnt cheese (the very best half) alongside crispy tortilla edges and include a small cup of consomme. Any model could have you tempted to sip the broth in its entirety.
For a chew of SoCal, strive the puerco con chili verde tacos. The pulled pork is cooked medium, nonetheless pink and juicy, accompanied by peppers, cilantro, and onion.
Not into meat? Seize vegan tamales ($5), softly steamed handmade masa pockets from Pennsylvania’s Sherwood Seeds’ Oaxacan inexperienced corn, full of collard greens, plump chickpeas, and diced yam. Or, order vegan wings ($12) or churros ($3) for a snack to go.
Future plans embody including a tortilla machine for much more genuine masa creations.
There’s no official drink menu — it’s BYOB — however South Philly neighbors Stickman Brews will probably be on-site throughout choose weekends, providing three to 4 of their 30 beers to pair with meals. (their First World Issues farmhouse ale makes an excellent complement).
If house is a matter, take your beer and tacos across the nook to the brewery’s Mifflin Road taproom. In any other case, think about bringing your individual beverage.
Search for detailed beer bulletins on Instagram: @StickmanBrews.
An artist by commerce, McFadden is a longtime good friend of Zavala, and she or he channeled the chef’s power into the restaurant’s design.
Peep the FDR Skate Park boards used as cabinets, or the wooden planks propping the upcycled ordering counter and big wood-carved red-and-yellow menu board.
You may’t miss the blinking six-foot neon “Oaxacan dancing man” by neighbor enterprise Electroromanic, displayed on a purple wall. Or the framed private pictures from Zavala’s personal assortment, just like the graffiti-covered van that kickstarted her tamale enterprise, hanging within the lavatory.
Associates and companions helped refurbish current furnishings to match the brightly-colored aesthetics. The result’s like eating inside a world the place Beetlejuice meets road tradition meets tattoo store. Get into it.
Essential notice: No menu modifications are allowed. What’s on the menu is what’s out there, and it comes the way in which it comes.
The restaurant is counter service, with each money and card accepted. There’s no supply, and no on-line ordering. A 20% gratuity will probably be added to every verify, which helps present a dwelling wage for workers.
A mother of two herself, Zavala set hours to not solely help work/life steadiness for herself and her employees, but in addition the neighborhood. She mentioned she’s centered on making meals that’s “approachable and attainable” for households and staff.
To that finish, there are completely different hours for every of the three days per week Juana Tamale is serving. Lunch is the guess on Thursdays, when it’s open 11 a.m to five p.m. Children and college students can drop by after faculty on Fridays, when the doorways are open 3 to eight p.m. Saturdays are prime for dinner, with service from 4 to 9 p.m.
The triangle patio park outdoors of United Financial savings Financial institution will probably be an unofficial off-site seating choice. And if restrictions return to eating inside this winter, Zavala mentioned the entrance home windows are able to perform for pick-up orders.
Tackle: 1941 Passyunk Ave.
12 p.m. to six p.m. Nov. 25
11 a.m. to five p.m. Nov. 26
11 a.m to five p.m. Thursdays
3 to eight p.m. Fridays
4 to 9 p.m. Saturdays