For a restaurant less than six months old, My Loup has livened up the Rittenhouse Square scene in record time. With downtown nightlife struggling to stay afloat, My Loup is a respite and much overdue destination for dining out past 9 p.m. on a weekday night – a key hospitality trait they take seriously. Yes, you may recognize spillover diners from Her Place, but there are also locals, suburbanites, reporters, and even some Canadians coming out in droves for chef-partners Alex Kemp and Amanda Shulman’s take on Québécois-meets-American seasonal dinner party food.
My Loup is here not just for a good time but a great time, which is evident from the infectiously cheerful bar team led by head bartender Jillian Moore (the key lime milk punch topped with a teddy bear graham cracker and pink meringue is a must), towering library of personal picture frames and cookbooks (including Joe Beef, where both chef-owners worked in Montreal), extended through the kitchen with its “Let us cook for you!” chef’s choice tasting menu. Now that My Loup has been named “one of the 50 places the New York Times is most excited about,” there’s a shrinking chance that seating will be available.
Luckily for you, we sat down with chef Alex Kemp and general manager Neil Ross to find out how to snag one of My Loup’s prime tables, and what to expect while you’re there.
How many covers do you have on any given night?
Ross: We have 46 seats, including 10 at the bar and we average two turns an evening. So that’s between 90 and 110 guests. We open at 5 p.m. sharp.
When do reservations drop on Resy?
Ross: 30 days in advance at 12 p.m. daily.
How quickly do seats get booked out?
Ross: Primetime gets booked within the day, but the first slot (between 5 and 5:45 p.m.) and the last slot (after 9 p.m.) usually stay open longer — from a few days after they go live to sometimes closer to the date of the reservation.
Any tips to share for walk-ins?
Ross: We found that for people who show up in the middle of prime times, we’re able to welcome them back later that evening. Every night is just a little bit different so what I always ask is, “Are you willing to negotiate?” If you walk in and I have a 6:15 p.m. reservation on two bar stools, and you’re willing to come in just for an hour and have some small plates or classic cocktails, that’s great.
What You Need to Know
Reservations drop 30 days out at 12 p.m.
Hours of operation:
Monday through Friday 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Walk On In
Get there early, before doors open at 5 p.m., to grab a table or have a seat at the bar where you can also dine on the full menu.
The restaurant is sort of vertical: There’s a front dining room with 10 seats and it runs right into the bar with 10 seats. Then you have the dining room which feels like you’re in somebody's home, and it looks straight through to the kitchen.
The P in Loup is silent. Also, Thousand Island dressing is named after a real place — the 1,000 islands up by Alexandria Bay in Ontario near the border between New York and Canada, where chef’s mom is from.
If someone were to set a Notify for My Loup on Resy, is there a specific day of the week or time they’d be most likely to get a reservation?
Ross: It varies depending on the situation. The feedback from guests is that they’re ready [to book] when a cancellation occurs. I don’t think there’s a specific strategy other than being ready for it — our clientele is willing to hit the Notify button on a daily basis or check for cancellations regularly.
For larger groups (up to six), how far in advance should they book a table?
Ross: I’ve succeeded in booking six and seven tops maybe two or three weeks in advance. For anything larger than that, I strongly encourage getting in touch with us before the 30-day window opens.
The bar at My Loup is one of our favorite places to be. Are bar seats just as coveted as a dining room table?
Ross: The feedback of the bar generally has been overwhelmingly positive. When we had some of our first meetings before the restaurant opened, we knew we wanted to allow for reservations at the bar. Booking a seat at the bar is the same as a table, with a max of two seats per bar reservation. There are no three or four tops allowed since it’s challenging for a group to engage in that format. We like to honor the bar reservations as much as possible and I think that overall, that has contributed to the character and energy of the bar. If you’re anything like me, sometimes all you want is an awesome martini and some really good oysters.
Speaking of the bar, My Loup recently hosted an industry night event. Any plans for more?
Kemp: We are planning an industry night event again soon. For the first one, everyone in the city came in and hung out, it became like a party. It was a lot of fun. It’s a special feeling to cook for people who are in the industry because they notice all the small details. For me, it’s like an espresso shot; I get fired up when a chef or writer comes in. I tell the whole kitchen.
The bar is like the center of the room. It can really dictate the pulse, the kitchen gets fired up, and you can feel it. It’s a small team — Jill, Neil, Noah, Amanda, and I have a basic set of rules or principles we stick by. Jill makes some of the best cocktails in the city and I give her free rein to do what she thinks is best. [Industry night] is an opportunity for Jill to do something cool like city-wide specials or a play or riff on a trashy cocktail. We like classic cocktails, no gimmicky names, and as long as they’re delicious, that’s what really matters.
My Loup has quickly developed a following beyond Her Place fans. How would you describe your guests?
Ross: The clientele varies just as much as the playlist – anyone from people in grad school who live in the area, people who have lived in Rittenhouse Square for 30 years, and people who commute from Jersey and local suburbs. We’ve become a dining destination for people who are visiting the city. It’s really cool to see.
What’s your favorite time of day at the restaurant?
Ross: Anytime the restaurant is completely full. There’s an energy that occurs when the restaurant is completely full — something emerges that I don’t think we could have ever planned for when we first opened. That’s when it really becomes a special place that I’m fortunate to observe. My other favorite time of day for me is 4:55 p.m. every Friday. We do a pump-up pep rally speech where one staff member speaks to the team to get us ready for our Friday night. That is a time I genuinely look forward to.
In a city where late-night dining is hard to find, how does My Loup maintain hospitality near closing time?
Kemp: My favorite time being in the restaurant is the nine o’clock hour. We cook late — we really want to embrace the late-night push and not feel rushed. If you come in at 9:50 p.m. you’re going to get the full experience: The staff is going to be warm, the food delicious, and everyone will be smiling. We take a lot of pride in cooking food late.
Let’s say it’s a busy Friday night, can you set the scene?
Ross: For me, it’s picturing someone eating a côte de boeuf while listening to NSYNC and then finishing it off with an espresso martini. Or the entire restaurant is engaging in a sing-along to either Cher or Celine Dion. I love it. That’s the ideal busy night. I’ve witnessed it on more than one occasion where the guests are actually in harmony and the bartenders are using their stirring spoons as microphones.
Kemp: Friday night’s great because we always have a bunch of products and my sous chef Jakub Piven and I will always cook on the fly.
Does the menu change often?
Kemp: The menu changes every day because the way Amanda and I operate as chefs is we get the product from the farms or fishermen or butcher and then we write our menus based on what we have in the fridge. I’m not thinking of a dish and then ordering things for that dish – we don’t have a recipe package, and we don’t have an R&D team. Sometimes I’ll change things at 4:30 p.m. because I’m erratic. The day I came back from our wedding break we changed eight dishes in one day. It was awesome — the food was delicious, and it was pretty cool.
What are a few dishes someone should definitely not miss?
Kemp: The (seafood) plateau is always going to be fire. I love soft shell crab, it’s one of my favorite things. During soft shell season, we’ll change the soft shell set, and we’ll change the garnish on it. We’ll always have roast chicken, steak, a fish option, and the cold roast beef from Her Place — it’s a dish that I love, it’s fun to eat, and Amanda loves it. In the springtime, instead of doing a duck breast, we’ll do a lamb and then get into pork in the summer. The menu is definitely super seasonal.