Three years after it was first announced, Chad Rosenthal is finally ready to debut the Philly location of the Lucky Well, his popular Ambler barbecue restaurant. It opens Friday, July 17, at 10th and Spring Garden with a menu of Memphis-style ribs and whiskey cocktails available for outdoor dining and curbside pickup.
The chef, who’s known for Food Network appearances, took a break from working on the restaurant to open a Lucky Well in Warrington last summer. The city location was teed up to open in May of this year, up until the pandemic. “I didn’t think we’d open now. But then the city made it easier to get a permit for an outdoor cafe and we were able to get a liquor license for out there, so I said, ‘let’s do it,’” Rosenthal says.
The original plan was for a counter-service spot, with diners stepping up to place food orders before sitting at table, where they could order cocktails and wait for the food to be brought out. It’s a model that Rosenthal thinks is the best for barbecue, despite running the other Lucky Wells as full-service, sit-down restaurants (at least, they were pre-COVID 19. The Ambler location is briefly closed so the team could focus on reopening in Warrington; Ambler reopens next week. Both offer takeout and outdoor seating — no indoor dining).
“In Ambler and Warrington, the food is great, but I always thought it could be better. It’s hard to do barbecue for a full-service, 160-seat restaurant, where everyone at a 10-top expects the food to come out at the same time. Barbecue should never sit under a heat lamp,” Rosenthal says. “In Philly, this is the first spot where I can serve barbecue the way it should be.”
The chef is starting out with an abbreviated menu of barbecue, cooked on a wood-burning broiler shipped from Texas, plus salads using Jersey produce and sides like sweet potato mash and cornbread.
The standout is the dry-rubbed ribs, Rosenthal says. Chef Ed Affinito, who was previously at Lloyd Whiskey Bar in Fishtown and has been learning the ropes at the other Lucky Well locations for the last five months, is also making pork shoulder, brisket, smoked chicken, sausage, and smoked-then-grilled wings with barbecue sauce or Alabama white sauce. The smoked pork, brisket, and chicken are available as sandwiches too, and there’s also a double-patty smash burger with banana peppers and Cooper Sharp cheddar. To drink, look for eight cocktails to start, with a focus on whiskey, and a short selection of wines and beers.
The restaurant will only be open Thursdays to Sundays, from 4:30 p.m. Reservations, via Resy, are required for outdoor seating. Pickup orders can be placed online.
When indoor dining is permitted, and Rosenthal and crew feel it’s safe to open the inside, they’ll expand the menu with steaks and seafood and add live blues music on Friday and Saturday nights. Sooner than that, they’re looking into teaming up with the new Spring Arts Beer Garden, a collaboration between neighbors Love City Brewing, Roy Pitz Barrel House, Triple Bottom Brewing, and Yards Brewing Co., to offer food during the day.
For now, Rosenthal thinks takeout will be the key. “Barbecue takes out so well — ribs, wings, brisket, all of it,” he says. “And then you can eat the leftovers the next morning and it’s just as good.”