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During the pandemic, the Philly food scene, and that of the entire country, was grim. But things changed, and light eventually broke through. Restauranters adapted and innovated to weather the storm of shutdowns, labor loss, and changing dining habits to create entirely new concepts and ways to deliver beautifully made food to hungry customers who patronize their establishments as a means of celebrating life. And Alex Tewfik, food editor at Philadelphia Magazine and their Foobooz site, was inspired. His new East Passyunk restaurant Mish Mish at 1046 Tasker St., which used to be Noord, will open in the spring of 2022.
Tewfik always dreamed of opening a restaurant and fell in love with the industry after working in various Philly restaurants, including one of Stephen Starr’s Center City locations. While he was initially attracted to the “pirate ship-like” camaraderie of the food industry and exciting individuals who worked in it, he eventually put his dream of owning a restaurant aside after learning about the industry’s dark side rife with employee abuse, harassment, and addiction.
Serving as a food journalist was a way for him to be involved in the industry without working in it. Being immersed in the hustle, the people, and the different cultures one can be exposed to in a single city’s restaurant scene made Tewfik fall in love all over again. Despite his previous doomsday reporting of the future of Philly’s restaurant scene, Tewfik decided now was the time to finally take the plunge and open an eatery of his own.
“There seems to be a new sort of energy in the city. It’s very similar to what I saw in 2014 when Philly’s food scene was popping off,” Tewfik told What Now Philadelphia. “There was this excitement. There’s sort of a world-building element to the restaurant industry right now. It was just inspiring seeing people doing different things, and it really captured me.”
Mish Mish has some cosmetic renovations to take care of before it opens as a 32 seat fuss-free restaurant. Mish Mish will serve simple but quality fare, including grilled seafood, cheeses, and lots of vegetables.
“I love dishes that are simple and classic and have stood the test of time,” Tewfik said.
Mish Mish takes its name from an Arabic word for apricot. Tewfik says the menu will have influences from his Middle Eastern heritage but won’t be exclusive to it. Mish Mish will strive toward a “vibe” rather than a specific concept.
“It will be a lo-fi restaurant. I want it to be the opposite of a tweezer restaurant. It’s an anti-tasting menu restaurant. Simple and chill. I don’t want it to feel stodgy in any way,” he said.
Another thing Tewfik is sure of is that his restaurant won’t be anything like the pre-pandemic world of dining. According to Tewfik, that world is dead.
“I was writing about people doing all these different things and how it can’t be the same. There’s no possible reality where it can still be an industry full of abuse, harassment, inequality, inequitable pay, and horrible things. I don’t see a world we can go back to that where people are miserable. I want to be a restaurant where people want to work and are happy and excited to be there, the same way I am,” he said.
Those who are interested in a position at Mish Mish, which he promises will be a happy place to work, can send Tewfik a DM through Mish Mish’s Instagram page @mishmishphilly. Tewfik will stay on as Philly Mag’s food editor through the end of the year while contingencies will be put in place to prevent any potential conflicts of interest between his reporting and his new restaurant.