The good news for fans of Vernalicious: Three years after shutting down one of Philly’s most beloved food trucks, the woman who ran it is getting back into the game with a brand new restaurant.
One downside: The truck’s ultrapopular pulled pork grilled cheese will not be on the menu.
“People are going to be pissed,” acknowledged proprietor Verna Swerdlow. “But it was important for me to keep this as a healthier thing.”
Not that Vernalicious part deux will be a health food place, Swerdlow quickly clarified. But it will be more “veggie-centric” than her comfort-food-focused mobile operation.
The general concept of the venture — which will take over a tiny corner storefront at 101 W. Ritner in South Philadelphia — is based on a rotisserie, something Swerdlow said she’s been interested in exploring for at least half a decade. But because the space is already outfitted with a pizza oven instead of a spit, the meat and veggies will be cooked via that method instead.
Offerings will include choices like roast chicken, pork, and lots of vegetables, with the option to get them as a platter with housemade sides, over a salad, or on sandwiches made with Philly Bread — one of many local purveyors whose products Swerdlow will use. Prices will top out around $14 to $15.
“It’s basically like you’re coming over to my house for dinner,” Swerdlow said. “I’m not reinventing the wheel, it’s nothing you can’t do at home — but you don’t want to.”
Plans call for lunch and dinner at the BYOB counter-service spot, which will be outfitted with about 16 seats and potentially curbside parking for easy pick-up. The location, which sat vacant the past couple of years, is a stone’s throw from I-95 and a few blocks from the Ikea plaza on Columbus Boulevard.
Swerdlow found it by chance, after stopping to inquire about a different address owned by the same landlords. Given her long and varied career in business marketing, she wasn’t necessarily planning a return to hospitality, Swerdlow said.
“I’m too old for this,” joked the 49-year-old, explaining that she closed down the truck in hopes of a better work-life balance. “Oh well, now I’m throwing it all into the wind.”
She’s on the hunt for a co-chef — “someone with culinary chops” — because target opening is soon: likely some point between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
To help make it happen fast, Swerdlow launched a crowdfunding campaign to supplement her personal investment. Awards for backers range from dinner for two to a private party for 10. In its first day, the Indiegogo page for Vernalicious pulled in more than $1,500. There’s a whole additional month to go.