Saturday, May 30, 2009

Stephen Starr Potentially Taking Parc Concept To DC

parc restaurant philadelphia
Stephen Starr is looking at taking his French brasserie concept to Washington, D.C. | Photo via

Philly Gossip has the story.
Why were real estate mogul Allan Domb and restaurateur Stephen Starr recently spotted together on a train to Washington, DC? Starr this afternoon told us he was looking at a potential restaurant space there and Domb, who "has a minority interest in Starr Restaurants," accompanied him as he may want to invest in the DC location as well.
As for the concept for the possible DC location, Starr says it "could be a version of Parc."

Also interesting: Did they get the idea for DC expansion from Parc neighbor Rouge?

Stephen Starr eyes DC for new spot, reveals real estate mogul Allan Domb has "minority interest"in his restaurants [ Philly Gossip via MP Philadelphia ]

Pub & Kitchen Shirt Donned By Food And Wine 'Best New Chef' Paul Liebrandt In NYC

paul liebrandt in pub and kitchen tshirt
Paul Liebrandt lends some street cred to the Pabbit | Photo via Gourmet

The photo above accompanies an article on Gourmet about Food and Wine 2009 Best New Chef Paul Liebrandt of Corton in Manhattan (and his use of sham-wows). In the photo, the chef is wearing a Pub & Kitchen pabbit t-shit. Which would qualify as very solid product placement on the part of Team Pub & Kitchen.

The Chef, The Shamwow, and the Infotainer
[ Gourmet via Meal Ticket ]

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Video: The Making of The Butcher Burger at Butcher & Singer recently went behind the scenes with Butcher & Singer Executive Chef Rob Dacko to see how a Butcher Burger is made.


- Meat Blend: Dry-aged Ribeye, Chuck and Brisket
- Pre-cooked Weight: 10 oz.
- Cooking method: Broiler
- Toppings: Caramelized Onions, Aged English Cheddar
- Sauce: Russian Dressing
- Bun: Toasted
- Cost: $16
- Lunch Menu Only

[ Source ]

A First Look At Le Méridien Philadelphia Hotel - Opening September 3, 2009

Le Méridien Philadelphia bar
The Lobby Level Bar at Le Méridien Philadelphia, located at Broad & Arch Streets

Last week, it was the Hotel Palomar Philadelphia by Kimpton.

This week, it's Starwood's Le Méridien Philadelphia.


- 202 rooms on five floors
- a 90-seat restaurant
- a 40-seat bar and lounge at the lobby level
- a grand ballroom with dramatic views of City Hall
- a central atrium courtyard on the fifth floor with a 75-foot ceiling and skylight
- opening September 3, 2009
- 1421 Arch Street
- adaptive reuse project of original 1912, Horace Trumbauer-designed, Georgian revival-style building
- design architects: Blackney Hayes Architects out of Philadelphia

Le Méridien Philadelphia Bar and lounge
A theme of travel and exploration will be integrated throughout the hotel by custom carpets, sculptures, light fixtures and wall coverings.

So Le Méridien Philadelphia (September 3) will actually be opening ahead of the Hotel Palomar (mid-October).

That's important because these two properties will be going head to head after much of the same customer base.

Admittedly, Le Méridien Philadelphia looks very good. And it scores points for its adaptive reuse right off the bat.

It's main challenge, initially, will be its location, which is good but not great.

This will be an early disadvantage, considering the location of Hotel Palomar Philadelphia is great.

But Le Méridien will get a big boost when the expanded convention center opens. Unfortunately, when that will ever happen is anyone's guess. (Actually, it's currently projected to open early to mid 2011.)

Until then, Le Méridien Philadelphia will have its work cut out for it.

a room at Le Méridien Philadelphia
The interior black and white color scheme with splashes of red tones will offset the richness of the building's wood paneling

But a cool new property like this should do fine — we just didn't realize that both Le Méridien Philadelphia and the Hotel Palomar Philadelphia would be opening within two months of each other.

Which should make things fairly interesting.

Le Méridien Philadelphia [ Official Site ]

Introducing Center City's First Green Hotel: A First Look At Kimpton's Sure-To-Be-Awesome Hotel Palomar Philadelphia

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Phillies FAIL: Phillies Now Charging You $2 To Print Your Tickets At Home

phillies online ticket fees
Phillies tickets we decided NOT to purchase.

No. Shit.

This on top of all the other already fairly exorbitant ticket charges.

The $3.50 - $4.25 per ticket "Convenience Fee" for ordering tickets online was apparently not enough.

Nor was the per order "Order Charge" of $4.

New this year, apparently in an effort to gouge their fans even further, the Phillies are now charging a $2 "Delivery Charge" if you select the Email/Print-at-Home delivery method for tickets purchased online.

Granted, a $2 fee by itself wouldn't be that bad. Combined with the other ticket fees, however, it becomes more noticeable. (In the example above, there is a grand total of $14 of fees on a $60 face-value ticket purchase, which equals a 23% up-charge for "fees" in this instance. It becomes an even larger percentage up-charge with less expensive tickets.)

Then considering what the Phillies are charging the fee for makes it even more egregious. It has to be one of the most illogical ticketing "fees" to date — they're basically charging fans extra for selecting an option that saves the Phillies organization money.

The Print-at-Home ticket option was first introduced as a convenience to fans so they wouldn't have to deal with long lines at will call or wait to get their tickets via postal mail. (And as a money saver for teams since they wouldn't have ticket-printing or -mailing costs.)

Leave it to the Phillies to start charging fans for said "convenience."

Seriously, Phillies? That's low.

Phillies Tickets: Print At Home [ Official Site ]

Phillies Ticket Prices Up 10%, Now 5th Most Expensive In Baseball; Not Exactly In Line With Commissioner's New 'Fan Value' Marketing Push

The Chelsea Wants To Lure More Of Philly This Summer

chelsea hotel pool atlantic city
The Rooftop pool at the Chelsea Atlantic City | Photo via DBTH

Mike Klein reports:
The Chelsea, the non-casino boutique hotel in Atlantic City, has brought in Center City's Premiere Hospitality Group to market its Fifth Floor (the Living Room, the Cabana Club, C5, and Chelsea Prime restaurant) to Philadelphia professionals, rather than the New Yorkers targeted for its debut last year. Premiere's Justin Fine and Michael Steinberg are to open their own lounge in Center City in the fall.
What does this mean?

Well, Premiere specializes in a certain type of clientele, generally skewing more douchebag than hipster. (The Chelsea having already gone after the hipster demo last year.)

So, for better or worse, expect the Chelsea after dark to be more like other nightspots in AC
(read mur.mur, pool at harrah's) this season.

And, look, it already has a new biggest fan...

Inqlings - Last Item [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
The Chelsea: Take Two [ Down By The Hipster ]

Washington Post Food Critic Checks Out Philly, Likes What He Sees

Alleged candidate for Frank Bruni's job, Tom Sietsema, the food critic for the Washington Post, just penned a feature for the Post's travel section about eating in Philadelphia.

He had nice things to say.
With its abundance of BYOB restaurants, trailblazing chefs and thrilling interiors (Union Trust Steakhouse may be the most impressive meat market on the East Coast), Philadelphia rivals Washington when it comes to matters of taste.

Indeed, at this month's James Beard Foundation Awards gala, Philadelphia talent Jose Garces was given the honor of Best Chef from the mid-Atlantic. Here are some highlights from a long weekend in the City of Brotherly Love:
He goes on to give glowing glimpses of Chifa, Fork and the sandwiches at Paesano's.

Postcard from Tom - Philadelphia [ Washington Post ]

Opposition Builds To PLCB Proposal For Boutique Wine Stores Inside Gourmet Food Shops/Restaurants

plcb corkMore than 50 restaurants have joined a group opposed to the proposal called 'PA Restaurants for Fair Competition.'

The group has a website, on which they explain their case while conceding that the PLCB proposal is "well-meaning" and that the "PLCB should be applauded for its efforts to improve Pennsylvania's wine situation."

Peter Van Allen updates the story, with statements from both sides, for the Business Journal:
The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board's proposal to open wine "boutiques" within gourmet food shops is facing a backlash from Center City restaurant owners.

Restaurateurs fear the LCB is going to get into the food business, forcing restaurants to compete against the entity that regulates them and enforces actions against them.

"It's a regulation issue; it raises a lot of conflict issues," said Jonathan Myerow, an owner of Tria, which has two Center City locations.

But the LCB insists it is not getting into the restaurant business. Joe Conti, CEO of the LCB, adds that the plan is in the exploratory phase. In a statement prepared in response to Philadelphia Business Journal questions, Conti said the state is focused on a retail concept in which a limited number of high-end wines will be "hand-sold" to customers of gourmet food shops.

"As part of its plan to evolve into a customer-focused specialty retailer, the Liquor Control Board is exploring the idea of having wine boutiques as sublets from high-end gourmet food shops in Pennsylvania communities including Philadelphia," Conti said.

"While we understand the concern, we have a business responsibility to explore new opportunities. The board believes the wine boutiques at high-end, gourmet food shops will help the board meet its responsibility and, ultimately, generate revenue that benefits its shareholders — the taxpayers of Pennsylvania."
In the two months since [the proposal was first reported], the issue has come to a boil.
Jose Garces is apparently still interested but wisely declined further comment.

Eateries sour on LCB wine plan [ Philadelphia Business Journal ]
PA Restaurants for Fair Competition [ Official Site ]
More Opinion on the LCB/Garces Venture [ Foobooz ]

Friday, May 22, 2009

At Chifa, Jose Garces Channels A Little David Chang For Some Momofuku-like Pork Belly Buns

chifa pork belly buns
Recommended: The Pork Belly Buns at Chifa

Pork Belly is delicious.

Jose Garces knows this.

And David Chang knows this.

Pork — not just pork belly, but pork — is so important to Amada's menu (which Garces opened in 2005), a wrought iron sculpture of a pig greets patrons when they enter.

Pork is so essential to the menu at Momofuku that Chang actually removed all vegetarian items but one from its menu shortly after it opened. (Which he awesomely did for spite, by the way.) And Chang has been quoted saying that pork fat is his keystone ingredient and that "There's pork fat in just about everything at Momofuku."

And then there's Momofuku's most famous menu-item: the pork belly buns. This was one of the dishes that began the fervant Chang/Momofuku buzz back in 2005 and 2006.

But they are so good, that more than three years later Frank Bruni, the food critic for the New York Times, felt obligated to heap even more praise on them, stating that Momofuku's pork belly buns "remain the city's most perfect finger food" in his December 2008 three-star review of Momofuku Ssam Bar.

momofuku pork belly buns
Also recommended: The Pork Belly Buns at Momofuku in New York | Photo via NY Times

Which brings us to Chifa. After Garces convincingly conquered Spanish tapas at Amada, then Basque pintxos at Tinto, and then Mexican street food at Distrito, he arrived at an original concept for his next effort: Peruvian-Cantonese cuisine, a unique type of Latin-Asian fusion that no one in Philadelphia had ever seen before. And it also provided him with an opportunity to get some Asian dim sum in his repertoire.

One dish from the dim sum section of the Chifa menu: the Pork Belly Buns.

And while surely inspired by Chang's original creation, Chifa's pork belly buns are not some thoughtless copy. The pork belly is grilled at Chifa — Momofuku's pork belly is roasted. The bun is steamed but there's a top and a bottom bun — Momofuku uses one larger bun folded into half. The garnish is pickled, but a different vegetable. And Garces has added togarashi mayo for added flavor and spice.

(Chifa's buns were originally going to be filled with roast duck but that gave way to the pork belly. It's not clear who was behind that decision: Garces or chef de cuisine Chad Williams.)

You get two buns for $8 at Chifa and we couldn't be happier about it.

Chifa Restaurant [ Official Site ]
Video: Chef David Chang Prepares Steamed on the Martha Stewart Show [ Martha Stewart Show ]
Momofuku Ssam Bar: Serious Strides, but Keeping Its Cool [ New York Times ]

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Awesome Weather Alert: Get Outside This Week For Your Dining And Drinking Needs

"This is your conscience. You need to leave work by 3pm immediately." | Photo via

This week's weather is shaping up to be pretty fantastic, and it's not even Memorial Day yet. Which means we have plenty of warm weather to look forward to in the near future.

But eff procrastination. Spring is here now. And it's ending soon. So get outside and enjoy it. Today.

Bonus round: Foobooz just launched their new, all-too-handy, icon-filled Outdoor Dining Guide, providing all the extra locale info
like whether there is a good beer selection or good people watching or if you'll be choking on bus fumes, etc.

Check it out. It can help you pick a happy hour spot right now.

Outdoor Dining Guide [ Foobooz ]

Introducing Center City's First Green Hotel: A First Look At Kimpton's Sure-To-Be-Awesome Hotel Palomar Philadelphia

hotel palomar philadelphia by kimpton
Breaking: The Hotel Palomar Philadelphia will be LEED certified.

Above is a rendering of the main entrance to the future Hotel Palomar Philadelphia as seen from across 17th Street in front of the Sofitel.

The ground floor of the hotel will feature a chef-driven restaurant and bar. The concept and chef of which, however, is yet to be seen as Kimpton is keeping it well under wraps.

A guest room at the Hotel Palomar Philadelphia | Photo via Kimpton Hotels

Also, as we noted last week, the Hotel Palomar Philadelphia will have a penthouse ballroom with sweeping city views and terraces, but alas, the ballroom and terraces will only be accessible for private events. (For shame.)

Redeemer: the hotel will be applying for LEED certification.

This is the first we've heard about Kimpton's intentions to get the Hotel Palomar Philadelphia project certified by the U.S. Green Building Council.

So big news.

And good for Kimpton. Kimpton's development strategy in Philadelphia of adaptive reuse of the Architects Building was pretty much perfect. (And again at the Robert Morris Building.)

Icing: the project is slightly ahead of schedule and is now looking to open in mid-October of this year.

Which means, by the looks of things, Philadelphia will finally get a cool boutique hotel property (and a green one at that) opened before the end of this decade, i.e. before the start of 2010.

And how.

Big ups to Kimpton for doin it right.

Meanwhile, we invite you to c
ompare and contrast the execution of Team Kimpton here with that of the certified non-geniuses at Starwood who have been trying, incredibly unsuccessfully we might add, to develop a W Hotel in Philadelphia for more than 10 years now. (Remember Will Smith's failed attempt?)

Exhibit A.) Kimpton evaluated the market in Philadelphia in 2007, easily identified a great location, and, presto, the project will be finished in less than two years from when it was first announced.

Exhibit B.) Meanwhile, Starwood keep getting in bed with amateur developers and picking B-grade locations. (12th and Arch? New Market? Really? Awesome location scouting.) And, as a result, W is still nowhere close to opening a property in Philadelphia. Which we're totally ok with.

Right now, we're just going to enjoy watching Kimpton's Hotel Palomar Philadelphia open this fall and go on to be a runaway success.

And wish her a very warm welcome along the way.

Hotel Palomar Philadelphia [ Official Site ]

Hotel Hotwire: Is Kimpton Putting a Rooftop Bar On Its Palomar Philadelphia? Good God, We Hope So.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Zahav's Latest Coup: A Shout-Out In The Sunday New York Times

zahav restaurant in philadelphia
Zahav doin it and doin it and doin it well | Photo via NY Times

So in addition to everything else Zahav has won in the past year,
it was just prominently featured in the New York Times Travel section's 36 Hours in Philadelphia piece, which came out last week. Zahav was their recommendation for dinner on Saturday night:

Housed in a blocky, freestanding building in Society Hill and decked out in the dun colors of Jerusalem stone, Zahav (237 St. James Place; 215-625-8800; features Israeli recipes and a healthy dose of North African and Middle Eastern fare, too.

The ta'yim tasting menu is a good place to start for the uninitiated — first up is a bowl of creamy hummus and a large round of house-baked, earthy flat bread, followed by three small plates and then dessert ($36). The Sabra is flavorful grilled chicken served over fluffy couscous; the salad is a potpourri of eight small dishes that include spicy Moroccan carrots seasoned in cumin and chilies that make your mouth zing.
Not too shabby.

For the record, Zahav's previous awards and acknowledgments:

· Philadelphia Magazine - #1 Restaurant in the Philadelphia Region (May 2009 issue).
· Conde Naste Traveler - World's Top 50 New Restaurants 2009 (May issue).
· Travel + Leisure - Top 50 Best New U.S. Restaurants 2009 (May issue). Zahav is the only Philadelphia restaurant to make the list.
· James Beard Foundation – Michael Solomonov - finalist for "Rising Star Chef" (March, 2009)
· Food & Wine - Fried Cauliflower with Lebneh - 10 Best New Restaurant Dishes (December 2008)
· Esquire – Best New Restaurants 2008 (November 2008)
· Philadelphia Magazine – Best New Restaurant (August 2008)
· Bon Appetit - The Hot 10 – Summer Blockbuster Restaurant Openings (May 2008)

And that's not even counting the Inky's three-spot.

Quite a first year.

You can help Zahav celebrate at their one-year anniversary party this Wednesday at 8 pm with $5 all-you-can-eat hummus and $3 Goldstar beers.

36 Hours in Philadelphia [ New York Times ]
Zahav [ Official Site ]

Monday, May 18, 2009

Unknot Update: Prospects Looking Dim, Developer CREI Appears To Have Been KO'd By Greatest Recession

Unknot tower philadelphia winka dubbeldam
Save the Clock Unknot Tower

A definite shame.

CREI is tanking. Their American Loft project is heading for a Sheriff's sale. And the office is mia.

From the Inquirer:
American Loft was to be the centerpiece of a booming real estate empire, an 11-story, 40-unit luxury condominium project at North American and Brown Streets in Northern Liberties.

Now, the 63,000-square-foot, 21st century mid-rise designed by architect Winka Dubbeldam and looming over a hodgepodge of 19th-century rowhouses, warehouses, and vacant lots, is headed to Philadelphia sheriff's sale.

The developer is Gagandeep Lakhmna. His company is CREI - Creating Real Estate Innovations. American Loft is just one of his several projects under way or planned for Northern Liberties, where working-class grit meets urban chic these days and the future seems bright.
It appears, however, that most of Lakhmna's other projects will not be built, including Q Tower, a 13-story, 24-unit condo building at Second and Spring Garden Streets also designed by Dubbeldam.
Unknot is not mentioned. But the writing is on the wall. CREI was to develop that project as well.

Very disappointing. Both Q and Unknot deserve to be built.

Time to make a few calls.

Who will be Unknot's knight in shining armor?

Philadelphia luxury condo project heads to sheriff's sale [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
CREI [ Official Site ]

Breaking: Center City To Finally Get Its Sexy On (Architecturally Speaking) Via Awesome Winka Dubbeldam-Designed Unknot Tower of Condo/Hotel Hotness

Friday, May 15, 2009

Bringing Sexy Back: The Piazza At Schmidts Is The Shit

the piazza at schmidt's in northern liberties philadelphia
Watching Phillies games on the big screen?? Yes please. | Photo by B. Maule - Philly Skyline

We agree with Philly Skyline, Inga Saffron, Foobooz and everyone else who's excited for tonight's private opening and tomorrow's public opening of the ambitious Piazza at Schmidts development in Northern Liberties.

We especially can't wait to sit outside Good Dog North and watch some Phillies on the giant LED screen.

Because there's nothing better than outdoor baseball-watching on the big screen (that is, if you can't get to the game itself).

Sunday. 1 pm. Phils v Nats. 40-foot LED screen.

Done. And. Done.

Changing Skyline: A nonconformist's development coup [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
Gallery: Schmidt's brewery transformed [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
Piazza at Schmidt's Rundown [ Foobooz ]
11 May 09: On time and on point [ Philly Skyline ]
Piazza at Schmidts [ Official Site ]

Urban Dispatch: It's Time For A Philadelphia Hotel To Make Proper Use Of Its Rooftop Pool Already

rooftop pool at the soho house in new york
The Rooftop Pool and Restaurant at the Soho House in New York | Photo via

Three simple steps:

1. Renovate.

2. Add a bar/lounge/foodservice.

3. Enjoy the results.


rooftop pool at hotel solamar san diego
The Rooftop Pool and Lounge at the Hotel Solamar in San Diego | Photo via NY Times

empire hotel rooftop pool
The Rooftop Pool and Lounge at the Empire Hotel in NYC | Photo via

rooftop pool at london west hollywood hotel
The Rooftop Pool and Lounge at the London West Hollywood Hotel in LA | Photo via

hotel joule in dallas
The Rooftop Pool and Bar at the Hotel Joule in Dallas | Photo via NY Times

soho house rooftob pool and bar in new york city
Another view of the Rooftop Pool and Restaurant at the Soho House in New York | Photo via

hotel gansevoort rooftop pool manhattan
The Rooftop Pool at the Hotel Gansevoort in New York | Photo via

Granted, a few of these are in warmer weather climates. But New York City has plenty that are only open seasonally, including Soho House and Empire, while others like the Gansevoort are open all year.

So there is zero reason why a Philadelphia hotel could not turn its rooftop pool into a legitimately cool day/nightspot.

Candidates here include:

1. Hotel Windsor (17th and the Parkway)

hotel windsor rooftop pool philadelphiaPotential: 10/10

Likelihood: Zero

2. Crowne Plaza (18th and Market)

crowne plaza philadelphia rooftop poolPotential: 9/10

Likelihood: Zero

3. Holiday Inn Express Midtown (13th and Walnut)

holiday inn express midtown philadelphia rooftop poolPotential: 9/10

Likelihood: Zero

4. Holiday Inn Historic District (4th and Arch)

holiday inn philadelphia rooftop poolPotential: 9/10

Likelihood: Zero

5. Doubletree Philadelphia (Broad and Locust)

doubletree philadelphia poolPotential: 8/10

Likelihood: Zero

All the likelihoods are zero because there are not any current hoteliers in the city that give a shit about going after a hip demographic. At least not in a way that would require an investment of a few million dollars. Especially hotels that are corporate properties.

Which is definitely a shame.

We were holding out hope that Kimpton was going to make it rain at their forthcoming Hotel Palomar Philadelphia, complete with some type of rooftop bar and lounge. (Not unlike what they did in San Diego.)

Unfortunately, that appears unlikely for now.

The Hotel Palomar Philadelphia will have a penthouse ballroom with sweeping city views, but that will be used for private affairs.


Is Craig Laban A Candidate To Replace Frank Bruni At The New York Yimes?

Frank Bruni brought the food blogosphere to its knees yesterday with the news that he'd be giving up the restaurant critic beat at the New York Times in August.

So who is going to replace him? And is Craig Laban on the short list?

Well, according to the oddsmakers at Eater, no.

However, in their assessment, the restaurant critics for both the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times are.

So being that Laban is one of the best critics at a next-tier paper (top tier being the Times, Post and LA Times), we're thinking that he'll get consideration. (Clearly, he can still write quite effectively about burgers.)

Whether he has any interest in the position in the first place, who knows.


BruniBetting: So, Who'll Replace King Brunz?
[ Eater ]
Frank Bruni Moving To Times Magazine, Bill Keller Announces [ Diner's Journal ]

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Confirmed: Stephen Starr Bringing Brooklyn Style Pizza To Philadelphia

motorino pizza in brooklyn
Pies from the wood-fired oven at Motorino in Brooklyn | Photo via NY Times

KYW's Hadas Kuznits was able to corner Stephen Starr and get him to confirm some deets on his pizza restaurant plans for Headhouse Square.
"I've been wanting to do pizza for a long time because I usually do things that I want. And I can't get really good pizza here in Philadelphia, so I'm just doing what I want to eat!"

He says they'll offer lunch, dinner, and may even a little Italian-style breakfast. But they will specialize in pizza:

"It's going to be real thin-crust, Brooklyn-style pizza, which you'd think is served here but it's not. Here it's just thick, doughy pizza. We're doing a lot of research on this."

And the tentative name?

"It's probably gonna be called Pizza Select. That's the name that I think -- I actually went to Paris and I saw a bistro called 'Le Select' and I liked the name. So I think it may be called Pizza Select."

He's hoping to have it open by the fall:

"I'd say sometime in September. September, October."
Pizza research is a good time.

Surely, Motorino is on his list:

margherita pie at motorino in brooklyn
The Pizza Margherita at Motorino in Brooklyn | Photo via NY Times

Maybe not exactly "traditional" Brooklyn-style, but at least it's made in Brooklyn.

Stephen Starr Creating a Pizza Restaurant for Headhouse Square [ KYW 1060 ] via MP Philadelphia

Stephen Starr Rumored To Be Close To Doing Artisanal Pizza In Philly

Monday, May 11, 2009

NYC's Death & Co. Rumored To Be Opening Outpost In Philly, Potentially Named Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co.

Death & Co. in New York City
Death & Co. in Manhattan, possibly coming soon to Bar Noir? | Photo via Eater

Down By The Hipster breaks the news that the people behind the serious cocktail bar Death & Co. in the East Village (above) are planning on opening up an outpost in Philadelphia.
Was at the bar at Death and Co. last night and overheard one of the bartenders (young guy, blond hair) talking about a new bar the Death and Co. folks are opening in Philly.

Said it was going to be a similar layout to Death and Co. and called the Franklin Mortgage and Investment Company (1920 gangster founded investment bank used to launder money led by one of Arnold Rothsteins people).
So it's rumored to be going in the old Bar Noir location on 18th Street, which we could definitely see happening. The subterranean space should accommodate their motif well. And this block of 18th Street should be immune to any neighbor complaints.

Which alludes to one possible reason for the Death & Company crew to be coming to Philly: co-owner David Kaplan has been spurned and harassed by New York City's regulations and community boards all too often:
"I'll never open another bar, another restaurant, a deli, a fucking bodega—I’ll never open up anything ever again in New York," [Kaplan] said. "It's awful."
We empathize: neighbors are the fucking rake.

Oh, well. New York's loss may be Philadelphia's gain. And we would certainly welcome this development with wide-open arms.

After all, even Frank Bruni loves him some Death & Co. And that man is not that easiest to please.

UPDATE: Confirmed.
Proprietors LLC, a design and consulting company started by Death & Co Founder and Co-Owner David Kaplan, has been working on a project in Philadelphia in the Rittenhouse Square area.

David, along with designer Jack Dakin (most recently of Rockwell Group) and Alex Day (Death & Co bartender and cocktail consultant), has been working on the design and bar program for the upcoming spot to be named The Franklin Mortgage and Investment Co.
Death & Company to Philly? [ Down By The Hipster via MP Philadelphia ]
Bar Upstart: Death to Liquor-License ‘McCarthyism!’ [ New York Observer ]
To Life for Death & Co. [ Diner's Journal - New York Times ]

Planned Waldorf Astoria Philadelphia Is Officially On Hold

From the Inquirer:
The 58-story Waldorf Astoria Hotel planned for 1441 Chestnut St., next to the Ritz-Carlton in Center City, is officially on ice.

The $420 million project was to include upscale retail, a signature restaurant, seven floors of valet parking, and a spa, as well as 136 luxury condos, starting at $1 million, above a five-star hotel.
Before being put on hold, the hotel was scheduled to open in 2012. So that makes 2013 or 2014 the new best case scenarios for when this hotel could open here.

Don't hold your breath.

One piece of good news: Hilton's still committed.
"We're still committed to the project," said Kimo Bertram, director of development for Hilton. "We're in support of the developer to get the project finished."
Planned Waldorf Astoria Complex Put On Hold [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]

Sunday, May 10, 2009

East Passyunk BID Wants New Board Members; Calling All Candidates Who Recognize Restaurants And Bars As Neighborhood Catalysts/Anchors

Before Cantina Los Caballitos opened on East Passyunk, the Avenue had much less foot traffic than it does today.

[ Photo via Rachel's Guide ]

And candidates who will subsequently advocate on behalf of locating good restaurants and bars within said business improvement district and the surrounding neighborhood.

People NOT wanted: ignorant, fear-mongoring NIMBYs who are entirely convinced that every restaurant and/or corner bar is a.) too noisy or b.) a den of sin.

To whom are we referring? It happens all too frequently in Philadelphia. (It happened last year in Fitler Square.) It happened to Sidecar. A few years ago it happened in the East Passyunk neighborhood — people protested the opening of 1601 Cafe, alleging it would be a nuisance bar.

In reality, 1601 couldn't be further from a nuisance bar and that was blatantly obvious even before it opened to anyone paying attention. But these "neighbors" protested it with all their heart — amazingly even getting the Passyunk Square Civic Association to disapprove (read about it here).

And now comes word that another bar just off East Passyunk is facing similar trials on account of neighbors' protests. Watkins Drinkery is trying to open in the old Bella Rosa II location at 10th and Watkins. However, they've run into opposition because of the type of bar that Bella Rosa II was before it closed.

Meanwhile, the new owner, John Klein, wanted to turn it into a small gastropub, "like if the Royal [Tavern] and the Pope had a very small baby," the very antithesis of a nuisance bar.

So again, this appears to simply be the case of a few very out-spoken and very misinformed neighborhood residents who resent change, no matter what it is.

It's one thing to work with a restaurant and bar to address concerns and make sure a business doesn't replicate mistakes from the past, but to flat out oppose a new business from entering a neighborhood is ignorant and reactionary.

Pre-Cantina "vibrancy" on East Passyunk; Photo by B. Maule via Philly Skyline

Imagine if Cantina had not been allowed to open because what had been there previously. (See before and after shots above.)

Cantina brought about the neighborhood revival to East Passyunk that everyone is fawning over and that Craig Laban aptly described in March:
Not that long ago, conventional wisdom would have envisioned the future of a revived East Passyunk Avenue entwined in a cocoon of spaghetti and red gravy. Even when Lynn Rinaldi first made a stylish comeback to her old neighborhood just four years ago with Paradiso, she simply added an elegant new sheen to a tried-and-true notion: that South Philly's heart and soul would always beat Italian.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Izumi, Rinaldi's latest - and most unexpectedly Japanese - venture with fiance-chef Corey Baver. This corner of deep South Philly has blossomed at last into a neighborhood with its own organically evolving character.

It's not that the pasta purveyors of Passyunk are in any peril of being pushed aside. But they've since been joined by a sudden influx of Mexicans and their taquerias, by the bike-messenger hipsters and their craft-beer gastropubs, by Wi-Fi coffee shops and a steady infusion of young, upwardly mobile home buyers.

"Gentrification," Baver says with Rinaldi lingering in the background. "Lynn hates that word."
A little more than a month later, Laban again took it upon himself to further educate people in Philadelphia about what happens when an old bar changes hands to someone new, i.e. good things. He wrote:
Put the craft on draft, and they will come.

In Philadelphia these days, great beer really does seem to have such transformative powers, where a changing of the brews at an old-time tappie can open the door to a new world of customers and a new source of energy for neighborhood life.

Take, for example, the case of the Lucky 13 Pub, which after just seven months has become the latest "old-man bar" to change hands, upgrade its beers, and become a full-fledged player in South Philly's rising gastropub revolution.

Out with the Molson and Miller Lite of the former Vincenzo's, where the karaoke and purple awnings drew a vintage neighborhood crowd. In with Golden Monkey and Dirty Bastard Scotch ale of Lucky 13, where a juke box rocking the Ramones to "psychobilly" and a kitchen with surprisingly tasty attitude ("punk-rock grandma cooking," anyone?) have drawn a tattooed surge of hipster youth to establish yet another new beachhead in old South Philly.

It's a repeating phenomenon that has spawned quite the pub circuit below the Washington Avenue equator, from the pioneering South Philly Tap Room to P.O.P.E. (Pub on Passyunk East) to the new Tap Room on 19th (at Ritner), where the serious crab fries (with actual crab) would make Chickie's cry "uncle."
So yea, the East Passyunk Avenue Business Improvement District is putting out a call for new Board Members "in a continuing effort to bring more energy and fresh ideas to the EPABID board... and to help our growing commercial corridor realize its full potential."

And good for them for doing so. The EPABID has already done a very good job. Thus, it is commendable that they are trying to infuse their leadership with new energy to keep it up.

So while this may not be an opportunity to directly assist the plight of Watkins Drinkery, it is definitely an opportunity for progressively minded locals to positively affect the future of a dynamic, burgeoning Philadelphia neighborhood.

And to set an example for other Philadelphia neighborhoods on just how open and forward-thinking neighborhood organizations can be.

Seriously. Go for it.

Meanwhile, Philly Mag's Restaurant Club is encouraging people to email the East Passyunk Crossing Neighborhood Association at to express your support for the proposed Watkins Drinkery. So do that too.

Here's the full notice re new board members from the East Passyunk Avenue Business Improvement District:
In a continuing effort to bring more energy and fresh ideas to the EPABID board, we are asking all interested parties to consider taking your volunteerism to the next level.

If you are interested in serving as a member of the Board of Directors, EPABID requests that you submit a statement of intent along with your qualifications and any relevant experience to or to the BID office, located at 1904 EPA, no later than June 30, 2009. In electing Directors, the Board shall consider each candidate’s willingness to accept responsibility for governance, including availability to participate actively in Board activities, areas of interest and expertise, and experience in finance, business, event planning and community organization.

Please note that the Board meets at 9am on the second Tuesday of each month. If your schedule would prohibit you from attending meetings on a regular basis, we hope that you will consider joining a Committee. Descriptions and meeting schedules for each Committee are listed on

Additionally, the BID Board held a special meeting yesterday to elect new leadership. Jim Gallo will be serving as Board Chair, Tony Maugeri was voted in as Treasurer and Vince DiBacco will remain as Secretary.

EPABID hopes that new members and leadership will help shape the future of the BID and the Avenue as we discuss possible changes to our organizational structure and work to help our growing commercial corridor realize its full potential.

Gastros Update: Help the Watkins Drinkery Make South Philly Home [ Philly Mag ]
New South Philly Spot: Watkins Drinkery [ Foobooz ]
1601 Backstory: We received several letters about the proposed bistro at 10th and Tasker streets. The following are representative of the group. [ South Philly Review ]
Options grow as Walnut Street dining fades [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
Build a good bar, and they will come [ Joe Sixpack - Philadelphia Daily News ]
Lucky 13 Pub - Part of the gastropub revolution, South Philly newcomer offers cheeky twists on familiar flavors, craft beers and a quirky clientele [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
Izumi - A Japanese restaurant on East Passyunk? The sushi menu is a great addition to the area, but the fusion fare is less successful [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Sun Chips Introduces World's First 100% Compostable Chip Bag

Sun Chips:
We believe small steps can bring about big change. That's why we're taking a step toward better packaging. Earth Day 2010, we plan to introduce the first 100% compostable chip bag of its kind.

We created this time lapse video from photos taken every 15 minutes as the bag was decomposing over 14 weeks in a hot, active compost just like one you could use at home. So you eat the chips. The earth eats the bag. And we all live in a cleaner world.
Poor plastic bag industry.

The Green Effect - Why Make a Better Bag? [ Official Site ]
That plastic bag could soon cost you in Philadelphia [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Ritz-Carlton Launches "The Ritz-Carlton Bar Experience"; Latest High End Restaurant To Pay More Attention To Its Bar/Lounge

Not your grandmother's Ritz-Carlton

Joining the likes of Lacroix, Barclay Prime, Table 31, Le bec Fin and Morimoto, The Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia is the latest high-end shop to offer something new in its bar and/or lounge.

However, this actually comes down from the corporate parent: The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company has introduced a new nationwide initiative aimed at freshening up its food and drink menus at all of their hotel bars and lounges, to attract a younger, less rigid crowd.

From Hotel Chatter:
McNeill told us that the new Bar Experience is part of a long-term, large-scale food and beverage initiative across the chain that's meant to reinvigorate and reposition the brand, eliminating the "illusion of rigidity" the chain may have given off in the past, "creating a nice environment where you feel comfortable" in the bars and lounges.

With the change in the economy, McNeill felt the change in social behavior — people were going out in groups, looking to unwind after work — warranted a little bit of an adjustment to keep up with the times. These days, people most certainly aren't looking for anything stuffy.

He says, "when you're at a bar, the one thing you dont want to do is drink without eating — and we wanted to provide the kind of products in our bar that allow for social gathering." The food on the new menu is light fare and it's all about share-able plates; you know, so the first person who gets to the bar can kinda feel comfy ordering for everyone.

Oh, and in terms of price points: McNeill says, "Ritz wanted to break away from the image of everything being so expensive" — they're really trying to draw people away from the idea that the place is stuffy, and the prices on the new bar menus reflect that.
That sentiment sounds familiar.

Meanwhile, select menu items include: brie and parsley risotto balls with fresh tomato sauce; smoked salmon and arugula egg rolls; chilly water lobster flat bread and crispy calamari in remoulade sauce; bistro-style herbed Yukon fries; Jamaican Jerk marinated pork spring rolls with roasted tomato Habanero sauce.

Note: these items aren't necessary on the 10 Arts lounge menu — each hotel has a selection of the 30 new menu items.

As for drinks:
"Customers will always order a classic martini and this will certainly remain a signature drink on our cocktail menus, but our updated offerings include Chipotle Mango Margarita, and Blackberry Caipiroschka. Guest tastes are changing and our patrons often prefer premium vodkas combined with innovative herbal ingredients and fresh juices.

Between the new bar snacks, edible cocktails, and re-invented classic cocktails, we think The Ritz-Carlton Bar Experience will appeal to many new customers," said Bart Buiring, corporate vice president, food and beverage.
Say what you will about the whole fancy-restaurants-trying-to-be-cool thing. For our part, we are unapologetically grateful for this whole recessionary-bar-focus trend.

For. Reals.

Ritz-Carlton's Corporate Chef Discusses Their New 'Bar Experience' [ Hotel Chater ]
All Ritz-Carlton Hotels in the United States Launch The Ritz-Carlton Bar Experience [ Ritz-Carlton ]
New Bar Food: The Ritz-Carlton [ We Love DC ]
Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia [ Official Site]
10 Arts by Eric Ripert [ Official Site ]

Recessionary Dining: High-end Restaurants Adding And Emphasizing Bars/Lounges To Help Their Bottom Line

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Philadelphia City Council Wisely Considers Ban On Plastic Bags And Styrofoam Containers

From KYW 1060:
A Philadelphia City Council committee held a public hearing on Friday on proposed legislation that would put limits on plastic shopping bags and styrofoam food containers in Philadelphia.

Members of various environmental groups turned out in force to support the proposed legislation that would prohibit the use of plastic bags at all retail stores, or impose a so-called "green fee" of 25 cents per plastic bag.

Dennis Winters testified on behalf of the Sierra Club:

"Millions of these bags end up in landfills, but millions more end up littering our streets, catching in our city's trees, or being flushed by storm water into our rivers and ultimately into the ocean."

The legislation would also require that styrofoam food packaging be replaced by containers that are biodegradable, compostable, or recyclable.
Regarding styrofoam, one restaurateur is already at least one step ahead: Stephen Starr Events Catering serves its food in green, biodegradable take-out containers instead of styrofoam.

Unfortunately, however, they do still offer plastic bags to customers at check out.

Baby steps.

For Philadelphia City Council, The Issue is Now Plastic Bags [ KYW 1060 ]
IKEA - The 'No More Plastic Bag' Movement Continues! [ PR Newswire ]

[ Photo via ]

Monday, May 04, 2009

Third Time's A Charm: Jose Garces Wins First James Beard Award, Named Best Chef Mid-Atlantic

Congratulations are in order for Jose Garces.

Nominated as a finalist in 2007, 2008 and again in 2009, Chef Garces finally takes home the prize as he was just named Best Chef Mid-Atlantic at the James Beard Awards.

Eater reports that Garces apparently did not make the trip up to New York for the ceremony/celebration. Which is not surprising. Philly Chefs have a habit of not attending. Marc Vetri was allegedly not in attendance when he won the very same award in 2005.

James Beard Foundation Awards [ Official Site ]
Garces Restaurant Group [ Official Site ]

[ Photo via ]

Bacon Vodka To Soon Hit Stores, Homemade Version Endures At National Mechanics Bloody Mary Bar

Did the crew at National Mechanics miss an opportunity here?
A Seattle company, Black Rock Spirits, has finally concluded two years of recipe testing based on the concept of "meat and potatoes" (bacon and Idaho russets, that is), and they've officially launched Bakon Vodka: "Pure. Refreshing. Bacon."
Meanwhile, if you want to see how bacon is properly infused into alcohol, so as to not to have grease bubbles floating in your drink, you should check out this short video of an Old Fashioned made with bacon-infused bourbon. The video features Don Lee crafting the drink — he's Manhattan's buzzed-about bartender of the moment, having just teamed up with David Chang to bring an inventive new cocktail program to the already obsessively creative Momofuku Ssäm Bar.

Public's Demand for Bacon Vodka Will Soon Be Satisfied
[ Grub Street ]
Momofuku Ssäm Bar Introduces Cocktail Program [ New York Magazine ]
Make PDT’s Bacon-Infused Old-fashioned at Home [ Grub Street ]
Bakon Vodka [ Official Site ]

Friday, May 01, 2009

Rittenhouse Row Spring Festival Kick Off Party To NOT Be Held On/In Rittenhouse Row

Today's bit of non sequitur news:

The Rittenhouse Row Spring Festival Kickoff Party this year will be at at the Four Seasons, which is not located within the district that the Rittenhouse Row organization promotes.

"Philadelphia's Five Star Location Hosts Philadelphia's Five Star Party."

We assume the Four Seasons got the gig because they had the best offer to be a sponsor of the festival. Which is fair. Especially because corporate sponsors are hard to come by in 09.

And they're located only just outside the district proper, which the organization defines as Market to Pine, 22nd to Broad.

Still, they're not listed as one of the organization's ten member hotels... so a little questionable.

Please join us Tuesday, May 5 at the Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia from 6-8:30 for the annual Festival pre-party. Rittenhouse Row’s best restaurants will be serving food. Beverages include wonderful wines from the PLCB and Capital Wine and Spirits; innovative cocktails from Ketel One, Tanqueray, Cuervo Platino, Nuvo and Zacapa Rum; Blue Moon beer. Relax in the Infiniti Lounge, bid on the silent auction and enjoy music by DJ Joey Blanco. Tickets are $75… purchase tickets at
Rittenhouse Row [ Official Site ]