Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Tastes of Center City denizens prove, thankfully, to be far too refined for the likes of artless national chain restaurants

Reaffirming news from this week’s Business Journal.
National chain restaurants are increasing their presence in the suburbs while still largely skirting Philadelphia itself.

Chains such as Cheeseburger in Paradise, Cheesecake Factory, NinetyNine and Fatburger have opened or plan to open in and around the area's major shopping malls.
While Center City does have some chain restaurants, particularly steak houses, most of the big casual dining chains have swarmed to the suburbs. To the point, the nation's two largest owners of casual dining restaurants -- Darden Restaurants Inc. of Orlando and OSI Restaurant Partners LLC of Tampa, Fla. -- have a combined 48 restaurants in the eight-county Philadelphia market, but only three are in Center City.
Casual dining restaurants are often attracted to big shopping centers because of the incentives they receive from landlords.

For instance, Cheesecake Factory is known for drawing hordes of people, and often has a line of more than an hour to get a table. As a result, Gorodesky said, the restaurant chain can command status as an anchor tenant, and with that receive improvement dollars toward renovations.

Plus, they need households.

"Center City has a strong residential population," Gorodesky said. "It's mostly young and old, but not the middle, which is the market for casual dining."
Apparently, the middle is the market for sucking too.

What? Do we think less of people that dine at chain restaurants? Absolutely.

The suburbs are for chumps. And chain restaurants are just one of the many reasons why.

Chain restaurants expand in the suburbs, not in city [Philadelphia Business Journal]
Chain restaurants in the United States are promoting dangerous "X-treme Eating", a US watchdog has said [BBC]
Chains Bring Strip Mall Flavor, Or Lack of It, To Manhattan [New York Times]

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Official Illadelph Crush: TreeVitalize + TreeTenders… and the amazing street trees they hold so dear

TreeVitalize near East Passyunk in PhiladelphiaOur affection for many things green has been well documented in the past, but loving tree-planting efforts in Philadelphia is truly a no-brainer. And something that everybody can dig.

It’s almost so obvious, we think some people must overlook it.

Actually, we think that trees are not given credit for just how much they (can) improve quality of life in urban settings.

But it’s not just quality of life — it’s also the overall attractiveness of a city as a place to live, work or visit.

The Next Great City, which appropriately identified tree-planting as one of their 10 action steps, goes ahead and says “Trees Increase Retail Profitability: Studies show that people prefer to shop on tree-lined streets and will spend more time and money at these stores.”

But they stop there and don’t point out the logical next step that, accordingly, people are also more likely to want to live, work or visit a city that is filled with neighborhoods that are similarly filled with tree-lined streets. Not just for shopping. But also for touring, dining, drinking, gathering, playing, etc.

Think about a few examples. Consider certain blocks in Fairmount, G-Ho and Fishtown. Some (2100 block of Green, 2100 block of Kater, etc.) have an amazing natural canopy provided by street trees and, subsequently, are incredibly desirable. Meanwhile other blocks nearby have no trees and instead appear blighted, desolate and unsafe.

Take Penn’s campus as another example. It is indisputably one of the most picturesque and eminently walkable neighborhoods in the city. Anyone who has ever been down Locust Walk knows as much.

Penn's awesomely green and tree-covered campusIs it a coincidence that it is also one the most tree-filled? Obviously not.

And think about all of the restaurants offering sidewalk seating outside? Aren’t the places like North Third, the new Tria and Twenty Manning, where the trees overhead add to the experience more appealing than the places on tree-less streets where the outdoor seating seems forced and almost counterintuitive.

So the point is, yes, trees have major utilitarian benefits, including reducing asthma, increasing air quality, reducing water runoff and flooding, slowing traffic, reducing temperatures, and increasing property values in turn.

But almost more important are the benefits that are more psychological: trees improve people’s moods and dispositions. They increase people’s sense of safety. Fundamentally, trees make a street a more appealing place to do any number of activities: to walk through, dine at, shop at, gather at… and all the other things associated with living, working or playing there.

These seemingly “superficial” benefits are anything but — if more trees make a street/neighborhood/city more outwardly attractive to the people that we want to come to that street/neighborhood/city to live/work/visit, then it’s time we take a page from PLANYC and plant a tree in every single sidewalk space that can legitimately sustain a street tree.

And then watch as Philadelphia becomes the most aesthetically attractive city in the US.

Not to mention a healthier, cooler, more sustainable and more economically prosperous city to boot.

Local Volunteers Needed for Large Tree-Planting Effort [KYW 1060]
Next Great City: Replant Neighborhood Trees [Official Site]
Philadelphia's future looking 'greener,' but battle's not over [Philadelphia Inquirer]
TreeVitalize [Official Site]
Tree Tenders [Official Site]

[ Photo via Flickr user dimasi ]

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Eating the Illadelph: The Manayunk Invasion Edition

The future site of a new gastropub at 11th and Ellsworth in South Philadelphia- The owners of Old Eagle Tavern — the venerable, authentic Manayunk watering hole filled with local craft beers on draught and accompanying $15, three course prix fixe dinners — are opening a new bar in South Philadelphia. No word yet on if it will be dubbed the Spread Eagle or, perhaps more apropos, the Choking Eagle.

UPDATE: Are the Eagle folks headed to 11th and Ellsworth (above) in the spot that was formerly Felicia's? Certainly sounds like it.

- Meanwhile, Johnny Mañana’s of Midvale Avenue fame — yes, we know it’s in East Falls, but it’s close enough — will be slinging their Tex Mex fare in Center City before too long. They’ll be opening a new location at 2031 Walnut, adjacent to Monkey Bar, just down the street from Bard’s and a stone’s throw from Rittenhouse Square.

- Nice to see that Dave Magrogan’s Kildare’s empire is going green with Grady David's, a new concept with one location deep in Chester County that “features seasonal and locally grown foods and a wood-fired oven.” Also, “the to-go packaging, which is corn based, degrades after six weeks. [And] Grease is recycled for biofuel.” The restaurant is targeted at baby boomers over 50 who shop at TJ’s and Whole Foods. [ Philadelphia Business Journal ]

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Philly’s Foie Gras Saga Drags On, National Media Starting to Take Note

foie gras and hangar steak at vintage in philadelphiaAnd you know what? We’re totally ok with that.
But in Philadelphia last week, foie was the food of the people. At Caribou Cafe, the sliders came topped with caramelized onions and a piece of pan-seared foie gras. At Zinc, the foie came poached with mango chutney and waffle chips. Diners wearing bold red "We Love Foie Gras" T-Shirts embarked on foie-cathalons.
If anything, at least all the commotion is placing Philadelphia’s bevy of awesome restaurants in the national spotlight anew, something the dining scene here more than warrants. (Consider the alternatives.)
Hugs For Puppies, which began as an informal vegetarian outreach and animal rescue group in Philadelphia in 2002, started approaching restaurants a few years ago and occasionally protesting, says founder Nick Cooney.

"Last December [restaurateur] Stephen Starr stopped serving foie gras and it really motivated us to keep going. Now we are out protesting every week."
Starr, who owns a dozen Philadelphia hotspots, insists that the activists had little to do with his decision to remove foie gras from all of his Philadelphia restaurants. "If they said, 'Can we meet with you?' I probably would have, but instead they use the bullhorn, these really creepy tactics. The bottom line is," he adds, "that it's probably not a good thing to do to the animals. But honestly to me it was a non-issue. It didn't sell that well, I don't like to eat it myself."

But having taken credit for a victory, the Hugs for Puppies group has moved onto other restaurants, picketing the businesses and homes of chefs like David Ansill who recently removed foie gras from his menu at his restaurant Ansill after protesters hounded his customers and staff and leafleted his neighborhood for months. "When I talked to him he hadn't slept in 15 days," says foie gras distributor Daguin. "The acts of the protesters are nearly terroristic," she says. Said Ansill wearily: "It wasn't worth it. I caved."
Jeebus… Poor David.

like we were saying… the formation of Philadelphia Chefs for Choice and their “Freedom Foie for Five” promotion marks “the first time anywhere that chefs have organized to protest the foie gras protesters.” Bravo, Philadelphia Chefs. Firsts are good. Debate, we must say, is also good.

And how can you not love it when an AP story proclaims Stephen Starr to be a “celebrity chef”?

You can’t.

Nor can you not love an article with a title like, “Fight for your right to Pâté.”

Fight for your right to Pâté [Time]
Chefs fight back in war on foie gras [AP, Business Week]

[ Photo via Phila Foodie ]

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Eating the Illadelph: Buzz, Design and Build Edition

gallery cafe in perelman building philadelphia- So you heard that La Colombe recently opened up a storefront in Tribeca, finally blessing Manhattanites with their torrefaction, yes? Good. But did you also know that La Colombe now provides the exclusive coffee blend for the MoMa’s restaurant and café, both run by famed restaurateur Danny Meyer? La Colombe’s MoMa Blend boasts “a ‘chocolate tone,’ zero bitterness and a 'soft and velvety' feel on the palate. Supposedly, it’s so naturally sweet, you may not need sugar…" It is on sale only at the MoMa second floor cafe. For $12. [ New York Post ]

- Speaking of museums, anyone else hoping the Perelman's new Gallery Café turns out to be a kick-ass spot for lunch? Cause it already kinda looks it… (at top). What’s more — admission to the Perelman Building is free through the end of the year. Holla. [ Zagat Buzz ]

- Meanwhile, Stephen Starr and Starwood are definitely up to something. It has been confirmed that Starr will be doing the main restaurant, haute and all, for the new W Hotel Philadelphia when it opens in 2009.
That makes two restaurants for Steve-o in W Hotels the first will be in Ft. Lauderdale. Allegedly, Starr is also working on a small, “very cozy,” four-suite boutique hotel in the upper floors of 706 Chestnut Street here in Philadelphia, the building whose first floor formerly housed Angelina and is now slated to become a gastropub. Or something. [ PBJ + CityPaper ]

- Stephen’s boy, one Massaharu Morimoto, will be swinging by the Free Library’s admirable Author Events series in a few weeks to promote his new book, Morimoto: The Art of Japanese Cooking. Stop by and see if he’ll make you dinner. October 16, 7 pm. [ Official Site ]

- Wegmans wants to sell you beer in their PA stores. (Um, yes please.) And we definitely have their back. Pennsylvania’s liquor and beer distribution laws need to ditch the Dark Ages. [ Official Site ]

- Early verdict on the fare at Jose Pistolas? Definitely work to be done. The tacos are lacking. (A lot.) The nachos are decent. But it's quite possible that the empanada (a new addition) was the worst menu item we’ve ever been served in a restaurant or bar.

tinto expansion philadelphia- A reader was kind enough to send in this photo they took of the progress Tinto is making on its expansion into the building next door. But from the photo, a camera-phone pic that was supposedly snapped from the front door of the new space, does not indicate where they plan to knock through the wall to connect the two spaces.

- And speaking of expansion, we hear that the inimitable South Philly Tap Room is finally, actually, seriously ready to expand. Which is good considering the bar is already pretty terrific. More newbold spuds anyone?

Now, if you’ll excuse us, we need to go get our money right.

[ Photo via ]

Monday, October 01, 2007

Bukkake Alert: Jade McCarthy gets a celebratory one from the entire Phillies team

Jade McCarthy - HotThe girl's got gumption.

You have to respect that.

Anyway, a few more pics after the jump.

(Oh wait. We don't do that.)

PS - Jade, we apologize.

You're just so effing adorkable.

Jade McCarthy - Hot AgainAnd hot.

Jade McCarthy - Hot point threeGo Phils.

Phils Celebrate Division Title [NBC10]