Valente’s Cucina, 7 Kings Court in Haddonfield, announced that it will be expanding its dining room paving way for more seating indoors. They will be taking over space next door where a tailor used to be.
“Nothing like opening a restaurant during a global pandemic and shutdown and then trying to expand on the brink of another shutdown,” Marcello De Feo, owner, told South Jersey Food Scene.
New Jersey restaurants are still operating on 25% capacity for indoor dining. For a small restaurant with already limited seating, this makes it tough to survive.
Demo and construction will begin “soon” and he’s hoping to have more diners inside, socially distanced of course, by the middle of January.
In the meantime, De Feo is able to run a take-out and delivery “ghost kitchen” business, with offerings not available as Valente’s. This will supplement the business until the new dining space opens up.
Basta offers starters, sandwiches, steaks, salads, pasta dishes, and some entrees for lunch or dinner.
It comes as no surprise to hear that another sit-down food business has converted at least part of its space into a food market.
Last month, cozy French bistro The Little Hen located at 220 Kings Highway East in Haddonfield announced it was transforming its restaurant into a small grocery store offering cheeses, provisions, and kitchenwares. They also scaled back the restaurant menu to offer French-inspired sandwiches only for takeout.
Earlier this month, popular Haddonfield coffeeshop Jersey Java and Tea at 140 North Haddon Avenue announced its own evolution into a pandemic-inspired specialty boutique market to take up unused space due to continued indoor restrictions.
“We can only seat 10 people inside,” owner Mary Burke tells South Jersey Food Scene. “Needless to say, that left a lot of empty space.”
Working with Jonathan Raduns of Merchandise Food to create a retail-friendly environment, Burke brought in refrigerated display cases for perishable food and shelves to merchandise non-perishable food products.
“We want to carry as many local, small vendors as much as possible,” Burke noted. “We’re offering Hillacres Pride cheese from Peach Bottom, PA, Heirzoom Hungarian Pastries from Turnersville, NJ, iSwich ice cream sandwiches from West Chester PA, TBJ Gourmet Bacon Jam also from West Chester, and many others. We’re still in the process of sourcing local products to put our shelves.”
“We’re also setting up a mixer section for customers to take home to make drinks. A popular addition to this section is a Grapefruit Rosemary syrup,” Burke mentioned. “We also have a DIY gift section including Kombucha kits, hot sauce kits, donuts, gingerbread cookies, and bagels.”
They also still offer Square One coffee (from Lancaster, PA) and their own homemade pastries and quiches.
Small businesses such as Burke’s Jersey Java have had to pivot creatively to keep the lights on during the pandemic. Consider supporting these small businesses even more during the holidays.
Chef Ralph Patrick Fernandez has over 30 years experience in the restaurant business as an Executive Chef and Culinary Director working at notable restaurants such as Moshulu in Philadelphia and Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino. Now running his own hospitality group, he helps open other restaurants by providing consulting on design, kitchen operations, and menu development.
While doing some restaurant consulting in Boca Raton, FL last year, he came across poke bowls and fell in love with them. He had embarked on a healthy journey that saw him losing more than 60 pounds. He attributes his weight loss to eating fresh, clean, and raw meals. Poke bowls fit right into his new healthy lifestyle and diet.
So, when COVID hit, he wanted to create a concept that would appeal to the new restaurant industry (fast take-out/delivery) and something healthy and delicious. He immediately decided poke bowls would tick all of the boxes.
“I just really love poke bowls. They are not only healthy, but quite satisfying and you don’t have to sacrifice flavor,” Chef Fernandez told South Jersey Food Scene.
He launched Poke Xpress as a popup operating out of Denim BYOB at 116 Kings Highway East in Haddonfield. He and Chef David Murray worked together at Denim American Bistro when it was in Cherry Hill. He was a consulting chef in 2019. When he needed a space to create and sell his poke bowls, he turned to Murray.
Murray had temporarily shut down Denim BYOB in August to go on vacation and prepare for reopening in September, which he is hoping will include indoor dining at a limited capacity. In fact, he’s added a new upstairs dining area which will allow for more socially distanced indoor dining. He was more than happy to help his friend Ralph use the restaurant’s kitchen to host the poke popup.
“I couldn’t be happier to see my friend and former chef’s dream become a reality,” said Murray. “A month ago when we launched Poke Xpress out of the Denim kitchen for a one-day pop-up the positive response was so strong, Ralph decided to turn it into something. I will offer as much support as I can and know he will be a welcome addition in town.”
Poke Xpress offers a few signature poke bowls ($14.50) or your can build your own ($12.50) starting with a base, protein, sauce, choice of toppings, crunch, and extras. Base options include white rice, brown rice, quinoa, or a mix of all three. Protein options include ahi tuna, salmon, spicy tuna, spicy salmon, cooked shrimp, or cooked chicken.
The menu also features signature salads with your choice of chicken, salmon, or shrimp.
Hours are Monday thru Saturday from 11 am until 8 pm. You can place an order on the Toast app to pay with a debit or credit card or call (856) 520-8114 if paying by cash.
Unfortunately, delivery is not available at this time. Orders must be picked up at the restaurant. They will happily bring it to your car on Kings Highway or in the parking lot in the back.
The goal is to find a permanent strorefront in downtown Haddonfield. They’ve got a strong lead and hope to be securing it very soon. An annoucement will be made as soon as it is a done deal.
Everything was actually going really great for Chef/Owner David Murray at Denim American Bistro’s Cherry Hill location on Kresson Road. Business was brisk thanks to positive reviews and word of mouth from loyal customers online and off. So, why did he move his successful business from a cozy, converted farmhouse to the historic downtown of Haddonfield?
As he tells it, it was simply time to move on and he saw Haddonfield as a place to keep growing. The space at 116 Kings Highway sat vacant for almost 10 months after the closure of Braise 116. When he checked it out as a possible new location for Denim, he said it felt right. Plus, the opportunity for more walk-in business was desirable. Not to mention, Haddonfield is quickly become known as a BYOB restaurant mecca in South Jersey. Right place, right time.
Denim BYOB opened earlier this month in The Shops at 116 and doesn’t seem to be missing a beat. The menu is pretty much the same with a few additions. Creative, comforting, and seasonally-focused dishes, including many hugely popular ones like Brussels Sprouts and Korean BBQ Glazed Short Ribs, take center stage. Denim can be described as Modern-American cuisine that meets classic technique and rustic charm.
The only major change, besides location, is that they are now open 7 days of the week, offering all-day brunch and dinner. Catering for off-premise events and bookings for private parties remain. The 2-floor interior is warm and cozy with denim-inspired artwork adorning the walls.
Upon a recent visit, it’s obvious the food alone can keep them in business. Haddonfield should feel very lucky to have such great, diverse dining options. SJFS wishes them much luck!