Over a year has passed since Philadelphia foodies were initially teased with the news that Stephen Simons, owner of the always-busy Khyber Pass Pub, Royal Tavern, and Cantina restaurants, would open an Asian concept restaurant that heavily centers on a culinary trend that Philly is just now coming to embrace – ramen.
Recently, workers have been witnessed at 780-782 South 2nd St., the site of the former Il Villaggio restaurant and future home of the Royal Sushi and Izakaya (read: Japanese gastropub). L&I issued a permit for Simons to move forth with interior and exterior alterations on July 23, requiring asbestos removal before demolition.
According to OPA records, Simons purchased the building in 2005, and there had been talk a couple of years ago about a steakhouse moving in, but that was a no-go. Plans for this iteration of the space got underway after a pop-up popped up at the Khyber in February of 2011. Once word got out about Royal Sushi and Izakaya, foodies stood for hours in the wintry cold to slurp down some hot Hakata-style Tonkatsu ramen and other Japanese executions, like french fries with wasabi mayo. But it was the ramen – and the dearth of the comfort food in Philly at that time – that got the raves and the press. The pop-up’s startling success made the Izakaya a solid bet.
Word was the restaurant would make its premier in September 2011…then “before the summer” of 2012. The time has come and gone, and still no soup for you. But, Simons told Philly Eater that the Izakaya would be open “ten weeks after the city approves [the plans].” So can we look forward to an October 1 premiere? Here’s hoping. At least things seem to be moving along, at last. It’ll be great to see this vacant space filled on an otherwise charming and pleasant block.
Just a few steps away from the busy New Wave and the fragrant Dmitri’s, Royal Sushi and Izakaya should add to the number of delicious, walkable options for Queen Villagers and perhaps bring traffic from outsiders wanting to try Simons’s newest experiment, counting on his excellent track record. Matter of fact, we’d wager it will.
— Ashanti M. Martin