Thursday, February 26, 2009

Philly.com Ad Simultaneously Reveals PMH's Genius Reader Growth Strategy AND The Real Source Of All Their Troubles: KYW New Radio

Philly.com attack ad on kyw news radioWowsers.

This ad (at right) was on Philly.com’s homepage yesterday afternoon.

If this is any indication of the brilliant strategic direction that is coming out of Philadelphia Media Holdings, well, we can’t say we’re at all surprised by the predicament they find themselves in.

The ad’s landing page:
Where News Radio Gets its News

There is more news on one page of The Inquirer than news radio can read aloud in an hour. Do you want the first few lines ... or the whole story?

Let’s face it, you don’t need someone to read The Inquirer or the Daily News to you. And if you really need ancient teletype sound in the background while you read, here it is. Enjoy its clacking while you enjoy the real news sources in the region ... The Inquirer, the Daily News and philly.com! And then click here to subscribe.

No. For real. The page has audio of a teletype machine playing in the background.

A-mazing.

One dying medium trying to siphon readers from another dying (or, at the very least, extremely antiquated) medium. Priceless.

Because that’s the problem, PMH. Keep chasing those phantom print subscribers. They’ll save you. Don’t worry about your chronic under-investment in and mismanagement of your one actually viable asset, your website. Because, clearly, that’s not the problem.

However, to be fair, at this point, PMH has to be thinking that anything is worth a try.

Related:
The Real Story… Where News Radio Gets Its News [ Philly.com ]
Brian Tierney: Sam Zell With Hair [ Gawker ]

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Loews Philadelphia Hotel Does The 'Buy Local' Thing, "Adopts" Bucks County Farm

Loews Corporate recently issued a "Buy Local Mandate" for all its hotels and the Loews Philadelphia was more than happy to oblige:
Loews Philadelphia - The hotel works with Blue Moon Acres Farm in Bucks County Pennsylvania, which grows sustainable products and is committed to providing the highest quality organic produce with minimal impact on the environment.

Blue Moon Acres has an extensive selection of greens and herbs available all year with specialty items available from season to season. SoleFood at Loews Philadelphia serves Blue Moon Acres Squash Salad with dried cranberries, goat cheese, and hazelnut vinaigrette.
Ok, good work Loews.

Although, hopefully, you can get a lot more than one dish out an entire farm.

Related:
Loews Hotels Embraces Brand-Wide "Buy Local" Mandate [ PR Web ]

Monday, February 23, 2009

Recessionary Dining: People Not Tipping 20+ Percent As Indiscriminately As They Used To

restaurant billOver on Diner's Journal last week, Frank Bruni noted that diners are tipping less. Not just ordering less food or going out to dinner less often, but rather decreasing the actual percentage of the bill they deem appropriate to leave as a tip when they do go out. Like from, say, 20% or above previously to 19% or less now.

So, basically, as a cost-cutting measure, many diners are generally being more discerning about how much they tip, i.e. what level of service warrants a 20% tip.

Probably an inevitable development, but one that has to be nonetheless disconcerting for Philadelphia servers… ahem, the city’s excellent (and well-deserved) reputation for tipping notwithstanding.

Related:
Tipping and the Recession [ Diner’s Journal - New York Times ]

Rouge Burger, Morimoto Burger Represent At Rachel Ray’s Burger Bash (Though Neither Wins)

rouge burger at rachel ray's burger bash, february 2009
The Rouge Burger in the house.

No big deal.

Morimoto’s Wagyu Burger was apparently a hit.

Rouge paired its namesake burger (above, image via Grub Street) with a mac ‘n’ cheese rendition (that at least one reviewer enjoyed), instead of its normal companion of frites. (Also, are those brioches not toasted?)

For more about the Bash, check out Grub Street.

UPDATE: Didn’t see that MP Philadelphia covered this already.

Related:
Top Chef’s Spike Wins SoBe Burger Bash [ Grub Street ]

Earlier:
Rouge Burger To Compete In Rachel Ray’s Burger Bash At The South Beach Wine & Food Fest In February

[ Photo via Grub Street ]

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Urban Dispatch: Mets New Citi Field Getting 4 Danny-Meyer-run Food Stands; Begging The Question When Will Stephen Starr Open Up Shop At Citizens Bank?

mets citi field via the new york timesNever may not be the right answer.

Danny Meyer is doing a Shake Shack and three other concessions at the Mets new stadium: a taqueria, a barbecue restaurant, and a Belgian Frites stand. Plus the entire catering operation of Citi Field’s Delta Sky360 Club, the premium seating area, the equivalent of the Diamond Club at Citizens Bank Park.

Considering Starr's ever-expanding move into corporate catering, something like that is not outside the realm of possibilities. (Especially, since Aramark is running the concession recruiting at both Citi Field and CBP.)

Moreover, we’re not suggesting that Starr would open a Continental outpost in Ashburn Alley. (Please, that would be a disaster.)

We are suggesting, however, that, similar to how McNally's has a stand for basically one famous menu item from its restaurant, the Schmitter — Stephen Starr could have a successful concession gig at CBP with a concept that was based on a particularly delicious and accessible menu item. Like perhaps a high-quality burger concept, which is probably the most obvious possibility.

Not a Barclay Prime Kobe Slider stand — rather a relatively normal burger operation, but one that sells burgers of significantly higher quality than the ones available at the generic Aramark-run “Hatfield Grill” stands at CBP.

Intriguingly, Stephen Starr is sitting on such a burger concept and he is just waiting for the right opportunity to present itself to break it out. Citizens Bank Park could be a good option.

Similarly, a Distrito-themed burrito window operated by Jose Garces could work too. A quality burrito is both accessible and delicious — and would certainly garner attention from the food-obsessed fans at CBP.

The idea here is not that these additions are or would be absolutely necessary — no, CBP already is a fine place to eat and gets rave reviews to that effect — but rather that it is never a good idea to rest on your laurels.

And the more diverse the offerings at CBP, the more diverse a crowd you will attract.

The Mets are clearly making the food offerings at Citi Field a focus. (Dining and food, in general, have simply become so high profile and important to a project’s success, that they have to be a focus.)

The New York Times profiled ballpark food across the country last summer and there were some pretty impressive offerings.

So next time, don’t just swap out Rick’s for Geno’s. Think outside the box. See who else you could attract to CBP… who would continue to raise the ante, food-wise, making CBP not just a great place to watch a game, but also one of the greatest parks to eat at in the entire country.

(And to everyone who thinks nothing should ever change in South Philadelphia, and that all foods served at CBP should either be roast pork or cheese and steak — get over it; change equals progress, something Philadelphia is going to be very good at.)

Related:
More Plans for Meals at Mets Games [ A Diner’s Journal / New York Times ]
Buy Me Some Sushi and Baby Back Ribs [ New York Times ]

Previously:
Stephen Starr's Top Chef Appearance To Air Tomorrow; Starr Events Catering Arm Lands Another Big Gig
Sunday Times Does A Ballpark Food Tour, Can’t Help But Love The Offerings At Citizens Bank Park

[ Photo via the New York Times ]

Friday, February 20, 2009

Hot Chef Alert – El Camino Real's Jennifer Zavala

chef jennifer zavala, el camino realIn the wake of some mixed reviews for El Camino Real, we are going to go ahead and give head chef Jennifer Zavala (and the Elkie in general) a vote of confidence.

While our own experiences have admittedly been somewhat mixed as well — some things have been excellent, some items have been just ok, service lacking at times — we have to believe in the potential of the place, and therefore are not willing to give up on it before it’s even two months old.

Moreover, Philadelphia could use a few more head chefs who also happen to be hot and female. (Just sayin'.) Especially when they’re described as a “petite, tattooed firecracker” in the restaurant’s promotional material. Because that’s awesome.
For the food, Chef Zavala – a 30 year old, petite, tattooed firecracker who has worked in Connecticut, California, North Carolina, St. Croix and Manhattan – was inspired by her over-the-border visit with [Owner Owen] Kamihira to Texas and Mexico, as well as her own Mexican heritage.

A self-described “culinary gypsy,” she applies her experience traveling with Ozzfest as a rock ‘n’ roll chef and channels that same hard-living, untamed spirit which also characterizes border life and fare.
Untamed indeed.

Hopefully, Zavala irons out any kinks in the kitchen and El Camino starts kicking ass.

Meanwhile, a comment about the design of the space: it feels a bit conflicted. El Camino professes a desire for an authentic border bar feel, however, that’s hard to achieve with an open kitchen and a wealth of windows onto the street, which immediately limit any ‘from-dusk-til-dawn’ type of vibe. Which, to us, would be a cooler feel for an “authentic” border bar boasting a menu of lots of whiskey, tequila and bourbon. You know, updated a little and without the vampires.

Related:
El Camino Real [ Official Site ]

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

NB Local Restaurant Industry: Craig Laban Does Not Appreciate Being Flagrantly Recognized During His Fieldwork

craig labanThe commenters over at Foobooz picked up on this as well, but it still warranted a quick post.

Laban is being recognized more frequently and he is adjusting to the loss of review anonymity.

Which, he's normally fine with — unless the restaurant goes egregiously overboard (in his opinion) after recognizing him.

So he sent a message to that effect in his review of Butcher & Singer this Sunday — e.g. "recognizing me is fine, but be relatively subtle about it, because if you make too big a deal to the point of bothering me, I may very well rip you in my otherwise glowing review of your restaurant."

Judge for yourselves:
Well, pass the statins, Doc, because Butcher & Singer has made its case to my lipid-lovin' inner carnivore with some stellar chops and a throwback theme that, despite the kitschy plaid carpet and cloyingly chatty manager, is a perfect new identity for this classic space.
[…]
Speaking of toning it down, Butcher's overly chirpy manager might restrain herself from incessantly interrupting meals to blather on about the retro nostalgia. Her uninvited monologues (four at my first meal) and forced introductions were a saccharine distraction from the otherwise excellent, understated service given by waiters like Mickey DeVivo.
Cloyingly chatty and overly chirpy. Ouch. Especially since she was simply doing her job.

But the man had to make a point.

Duly noted.

Related:
Butcher & Singer - This Starr steak house, with stellar beefy chops and a throwback theme, is a perfect identity for the old brokerage [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
Sniping the Chirpy Manager [ Foobooz ]

Monday, February 16, 2009

Cole Hamels Finally Tires Of Playing House In Deep Suburbia, Buys Center City Penthouse Ready To Get His Pat Burrell On

pat burrell at bar noirPlus, he can have his friends come over now. (Previously, no one wanted to drive all the way out to West Chester to hang out — and, honestly, who can blame them?)
"It's quite nice," [Hamels] said of the 2,700-square-foot, 31/2-bath [penthouse] unit. "The views are spectacular. It will be a great transition into the Philadelphia city lifestyle for us. And we'll at least be closer to a lot of players.

"I used to say, 'Hey, you guys want to come out?' And they'd say, 'How far away do you live?' Then it was like, 'Nope'. Now I can say, 'Hey, I just live on this block.' I can have guys over, bond with them a little bit more. It'll make things easier when family comes. You'd like them to enjoy the city and all the history that Philadelphia has."
That, and the fact that the suburbs are pretty much for chumps. Not 25-year-old World Series MVPs.

So, congratulations, Cole. You found your balls.

Moreover, it’s nice to see Phillies stars (Chase, Cole and RyHo*) representing by living in the frickin’ city in which they play. None of this Jersey bullshit (Donovan) or Main Line crap (Iverson).

Especially, considering Burrell’s recent departure for the soulless shores of Tampa Bay, invariably leaving a gaping void of any player-induced awesomeness at Rittenhouse bars.

Which is very much a shame.

Godspeed, Pat Burrell — you will be missed.

Cole et al., good luck — you’ve got some big shoes to fill. And a lot of Miller Lites to drink.

Related:
Cole Hamels On Top of the World [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]

*We think.

[ Image via Philadelphia Weekly - (God Bless Pressler's Miscellany) ]

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Urban Dispatch: SEPTA’s Quiet-Car-Pilot A Big Success; Should Spawn Sibling Bar-Car-Pilot IMMEDIATELY

bar car on train from new york to atlantic city
Shots on a train!

So yeah, Quiet Cars. Great. About time. Welcome to 2009.
A SEPTA spokesman says the "QuietRide" pilot program is only the first step in what will be a "wide-ranging customer-service initiative promoting etiquette and basic common courtesy." That's part of SEPTA General Manager Joseph M. Casey's welcome campaign to improve customer service overall.
So there are more rider improvements to come? Ok. We’re listening…
As more and more people crowd onto trains because of gasoline and other price spikes, this is the perfect time for SEPTA to explore ways to make the ride more comfortable for everyone.
Ways to make the ride more comfortable? That’s easy.

Two words for you geniuses: bar car.

The new train from NYC to AC — Atlantic City Express Service (ACES) — is rocking one, and to great effect. (And by “great effect” we mean: it makes us want to ride it.)
The train will run nine round trips each weekend, with seating for 300 in four double-decker cars, and will take about 2 hours 45 minutes each way. The [three casinos that finance the service], the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa, Caesars Atlantic City and Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City, spent $19.5 million outfitting two trains to operate the service. They feature leather seats, small bars and a lounge.
[…]

But many passengers spent little time in their seats, congregating in the small bars at the back of three cars, where they gripped handholds and sipped cocktails.
Sounds, well, it sounds effing awesome.

And shocking that the train's bar cars are full of riders.

Septa, we’ll make you a deal — if the Quiet Cars occupy the first car of the PM rush hour trains, you can even put the bar cars all the way in the back so as to not disturb the fun-haters up front.

K? Super.

Bottoms up.

Related:
By Rail From New York to Atlantic City, Minus Chips [ New York Times ]
Editorial: SEPTA's "Quiet Cars" [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
Atlantic City Express Service (ACES) Train [ Official Site ]

Previously:
Breaking: Septa To Offer Free Rides To Promote New Late Night Regional Rail Service

[ Photo via New York Times ]

* Also, we realize this will never happen on SEPTA, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Urban Dispatch: D.C. Nixes Modern Apple Store for Georgetown; Preservation Alliance: Do Not Get Any Ideas

Hella lame:
Apple's attempts to open its first store in the District of Columbia have once again been put on hold.

For the third time, the Old Georgetown Board, an advisory commission acting under the authority of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, rejected Apple's proposal for a new store that would replace a building in the city's Georgetown neighborhood that Apple has owned for more than a year. The Dec. 2 rejection comes after similar shut-downs by the Board on Oct. 18, 2007, and Mar. 20, 2008.

While the site in question is not itself a historic building, Georgetown, a shopping mecca for tourists and locals, is a National Historic Landmark district notable for its Federal style houses and businesses, and any significant changes to a structure must pass the board's strict review.
The ‘Old Georgetown Board’ wanted the design to have more brick.

Ugh.

We love the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia most of the time. And this is totally just preliminary worrying at this point, since Apple has not even signed a lease yet for a Center City store … but the potential for troubling parallels are there.

Mainly, because the rumored location for the Center City Apple Store in the old Brasserie Perrier building on the 1600 block of Walnut Street is technically located inside the Rittenhouse Square Historic District. And because this is Philadelphia.

So, that said, the Pres. Alliance should know that if they were to try to pull any of this kind of crap with an Apple Store going in on Walnut Street there, shit would definitely hit the fan.

Serious.

Don’t fuck with the Apple Store.

Just don’t.

Related:
D.C. Nixes Apple's Plans for Modern Store
[ National Trust For Historic Preservation via Planetizen ]
Apple Setting Sights on First Philadelphia Store? [ MacNN ]
Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia [ Official Site ]

Monday, February 09, 2009

Chifa Media Advisory Reveal: Jose Garces Now A "Superstar Chef"

Which may very well be an exceedingly appropriate label — not judging, just saying … the descriptor definitely stood out a bit on first glance.

Media Advisory lede:
LATIN SUPERSTAR CHEF JOSE GARCES ANNOUNCES THE OFFICIAL OPENING OF CHIFA, HIS PERUVIAN-CANTONESE RESTAURANT

PHILADELPHIA, PA – Tomorrow, February 10, 2009 at 5 p.m., Latin superstar Chef Jose Garces will debut his fourth Philadelphia restaurant, Chifa (707 Chestnut Street, 215-925-5555), named after the unique hybrid of Peruvian and Cantonese cuisines found in Peru.
Duly noted.

He is on Hulu after all.


Related:
Chifa Restaurant [ Official Site ]

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Holy Mother Of God — Transformers 2 Teaser-Trailer Easily Makes Philadelphia’s Bit Role In Its Filming One Of The Coolest Things The City Did In 2008

Ok, granted, you can not at all see any scenes filmed in Philadelphia in this trailer.

And more likely than not, they’ll probably be close to totally unrecognizable in the actual film.

But, we don’t care. At all.

Watch:


Judas. Effing. Priest.

Hand over the goddamn Oscars already. Like 20 of them.

Seriously, that is an extremely frickin’ well done trailer.

And it kinda has us completely geeked out at the moment. So excuse us for the tangentially Philadelphia-related post.

(It is funny, however, how obvious it is that “dark” is the marketing angle du jour of Hollywood, with studios blatantly trying to emulate the success of The Dark Knight last summer.)

Related:
Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen [ Official Site ]
Previously:
It’s Official: Awesomest Sequel Ever, Transformers 2, To Film In Philadelphia

(Also, 10 Rittenhouse — eat your heart out.)

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Revenue Down Slightly At Stephen Starr’s New York Restaurants; Stephen "Concerned"

"The lady will have the tasting menu, but with some substitutions: instead of … any of it, she’ll have a cup of hot water with a chicken bone in it … and a bowl of salted ice cubes."

From the Times:
Mr. Starr, meanwhile, said business at his Manhattan restaurants was solid until December, when sales fell 5 to 9 percent. Now, he said, “We’re all concerned about this quarter.”
We’d be shocked if revenue wasn’t down at least somewhat.

And 5 to 9 percent does not sound that bad.
Industry watchers are anticipating a shakeout. Mr. Cannon, for one, predicts that 10 to 15 percent of New York’s high-profile restaurants will close in the coming months.
That may be true, but Mr. Starr should be able to weather this one out.

Maybe even expand?
Still, the downturn offers opportunity for chefs or restaurateurs with access to cash and a good concept. After a breathtaking run-up in rents over the last several years — which gave rise to the $30 and then $40 entree as restaurants tried to cover their costs — many landlords are lowering their asking rents.

More favorable lease rates and a large pool of talent available for hire add up to “great opportunities to expand right now,” said Danny Meyer, the C.E.O. of the Union Square Hospitality Group. High rents are one reason his company hasn’t signed a lease for a fine-dining restaurant in five years, he said.

Mr. Roseman noted that many well-known chefs still did not have a presence in New York. “You can have the best restaurant in Cincinnati, but you’re not that big until you’re in New York City,” he said. Some starry-eyed chefs and restaurateurs are sniffing around, he said, adding, “There’s action.”
That.

And there’s always To-Go menus…

Related:
Putting Capital at the Top of the Menu [ New York Times ]

[ Photo via The New York Times ]