Sunday, April 25, 2010

Stephen Starr: Philadelphia's Restaurant Scene Developing At Lightening Speed

el rey logo philadelphiaKYW's Hadas Kuznits sat down and talked with Stephen Starr at El Rey during preparation for its opening and, among other things, asked what he thought about Philadelphia's restaurant growth.

He had this to say:
I think Philadelphia is developing for restaurants at lightening speed. They're popping up everywhere... everywhere you can imagine: South Philly, Fishtown, Northern Liberties, Old City, here [Rittenhouse Square], I mean it's great. There's a giant boom going on in restaurants.
An assessment like that from Starr is good for Philadelphia.

Appropriately, El Rey and the Ranstead Room open today.

Related:
Stephen Starr Opens 70's Style Mexican Diner in Center City [ KYW 1060 ]
El Rey [ Official Site ]

Previously:
Big Guns: Stephen Starr Teaming Up With Sasha Petraske Of NYC's Milk & Honey To Develop Cocktail Program For The Forthcoming El Rey "Speakeasy" Annex

Monday, April 19, 2010

Team Starr Checks In To Remind Us That Many Of Their Establishments Have Outdoor Dining

starr restaurants outdoor dining ad
That may be so, but what's the story with Starr's beer garden?

It was going to be the crucial addition of the summer — not to mention the year — and now it won't open until the fall??

Totally dropping the ball on that one, Steve-o.

Related:
The Starr bier garten on Frankford Avenue won't open until after the summer [ Grub Street Philadelphia ]

Previously:
Stephen Starr To Jose Garces: I'll See Your Beer & Brats Concept And Raise You A Bona Fide German Bier Garten

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Stephen Starr Scheduled To Open El Rey This Weekend

starr el rey exterior
Open 14 hours, not 24 | Photo via

Sunday, April 25th is opening day — so reports Michael Klein.

The annex speakeasy, to be called the Ranstead Room, looks to be along for the ride.

Related:
Restaurant Notes [ The Insider - Philly.com ]
Starr's Sneak Peek Photos of El Rey [ Grub Street Philadelphia ]

Previously:
Big Guns: Stephen Starr Teaming Up With Sasha Petraske Of NYC's Milk & Honey To Develop Cocktail Program For The Forthcoming El Rey "Speakeasy" Annex

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Stephen Starr Reportedly Thinking Rittenhouse Gastropub Again; Also There May Be A Potential Collaboration With New York's Ken Friedman In The Future

the breslin in new york city
Will a Starr Gastropub have a Friedman influence? | Photo via The Breslin

Yesterday Eater reported that Stephen Starr was having a meeting about doing a gastropub in Rittenhouse Square, something he has long been interested in doing.

Eater suggests that the location Starr is eying for said Rittenhouse gastropub is the corner of 18th and Sansom, i.e. one of the retail spaces inside 10 Rittenhouse.

While Serafina is taking one of the spaces inside the new building, maybe there's room for a second restaurant in the building's ground floor retail space?

Or maybe ARC Wheeler would dump Serafina if they strike a deal for a coveted Starr restaurant??

Or maybe, Starr is looking at another space somewhere nearby?

UPDATE: Apparently, it's the latter. Word is Starr is looking to lease the space on the northwest corner of 18th and Sansom, the space that was formerly Stiletto. So not in 10 Rittenhouse, but right across the street.

Eater also wonders if Stephen Starr would team up with New York restaurateur Ken Friedman (Spotted Pig, John Dory, The Breslin, etc.) for a gastropub project, something the two have been talking about for a while.

Friedman told Eater that they'll probably collaborate on something, but in New York not Philly.

UPDATE 2: It's on.

So there's that.

Meanwhile, Starr likes collaborations these days, so who knows.

Related:
Does Stephen Starr Want The Spotted Pig For Philly?
[ Eater New York ]

Previously:
Big Guns: Stephen Starr Teaming Up With Sasha Petraske Of NYC's Milk & Honey To Develop Cocktail Program For The Forthcoming El Rey "Speakeasy" Annex
New Restaurant At 10 Rittenhouse To Be Located At Corner Of 18th And Sansom
Jose Garces Beats Stephen Starr To Rittenhouse Gastropub; Will Only Serve Craft Beer, Figuratively Decimating Every Other Bar In Rittenhouse

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Stephen Starr Reportedly Eying Two New Restaurants In University City: Pizza And Italian

stephen starr philadelphiaLately, Grub Street likes to say half seriously that "Stephen Starr [is] Opening Every Possible Type of Restaurant Everywhere, All the Time."

Well, it's starting to look like that is really the case.

Starr has a semi-ridiculous amount of restaurant projects in the works right now.

All of the following projects are currently at some stage of development:

1. El Rey (opening in April) at 20th and Chestnut.
2. El Rey's yet to be named back bar speakeasy.
3. Beer Garden in Fishtown targeting summer.
4. Pizza place next to Parc this spring.
5. Stella expansion next door.
6. Taking over the old Ansill space at 3rd and Bainbridge.
7. A hotel restaurant in Manhattan.

And now comes word of two more projects he wants to do in West Philadelphia.

The Daily Pennsylvanian spoke with Starr regarding his use of the DiningIn restaurant delivery service, and they also asked him if he was working on bringing anything new to their neck of the woods.
Starr said he is considering opening an Italian restaurant in West Philadelphia. He also plans to open two pizza shops, one in West Philadelphia and the other in Rittenhouse Square.

The Starr pizza shop would be "a traditional take out and delivery" with "real thin" and "excellent" pizza, according to Starr.

"I think it's going to be slightly revolutionary for Philly," Starr said. "It's hard to find good pizza in Philly."
If you're looking for a little insight as to what Starr is thinking about as he works on all of these new projects, Plan Philly recently asked Starr why he wanted to create a beer-focused venue (with the Fishtown beer garden).

Starr's response: "I'm always looking for something new to do. I get bored with myself."

And how.

But god bless him.

Related:
Dining in, Starr style - Diningin.com will now deliver food from four more Stephen Starr restaurants [ Daily Pennsylvanian ]

Monday, March 29, 2010

Twenty Manning To Be Reincarnated As Twenty Manning Grill

twenty manning philadelphiaMichael Klein first reported on Twenty Manning's closing earlier this month. Owner Audrey Taichman decided to close the restaurant to reconcept and open anew.

The name of the new restaurant had not yet been determined, although Twenty Manning Grill was the leading contender.

Signage went up on the paper-covered windows over the weekend confirming that Twenty Manning Grill will indeed be the new name.

The signage also states the restaurant will serve: fish, fowl, pork and beef.

The new Twenty Manning Grill is supposed to ready to go sometime in April, just in time to take full advantage of two of its greatest assets: its location and its outdoor seating.

Related:
Twenty Manning's changeover
[ The Insider - Philly.com ]

Saturday, March 27, 2010

First Look: Rendering of Wynn Philadelphia Casino

rendering of wynn philadelphia casino
A rendering of Steve Wynn's Philadelphia casino | Image via

Apparently it will have the Wynn name on it.

Related:
Exclusive First Look: Wynn Philly [ Vegas Happens Here ]
Changing Skyline: An artful urban casino or more big-box blah? [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Big Guns: Stephen Starr Teaming Up With Sasha Petraske Of NYC's Milk & Honey To Develop Cocktail Program For The Forthcoming El Rey "Speakeasy" Annex

dutch kills bar in long island city
The Bar at Sasha Petraske's Dutch Kills in Long Island City | Image via

In an interview with Plan Philly regarding his plans for opening a beer garden in Fishtown this summer, Stephen Starr also reveals this gem about the back bar at El Rey, his other upcoming project, which he hopes to open in late April at 20th and Chestnut in the old Midtown IV Diner:

"Starr hired the owner of Milk and Honey, located in New York's east side – to develop the cocktail menu."

The owner of Milk and Honey is famed mixologist Sasha Petraske. So we're assuming that's who the reporter means Starr has hired to develop the cocktail program at El Rey.

Which is big news.

Starr has made no secret of his plans for a speakeasy vibe in the back bar at the former diner, which will be connected to the main El Rey restaurant but be "thematically separate" and have it's own entrance on Ranstead Street.

So by hiring Petraske, who helped start the speakeasy trend with Milk and Honey on Manhattan's Lower East Side last decade, to consult on the bar program for the El Rey annex, Starr is breaking out the big guns.

UPDATE: A Starr rep writes in to clarify:
Sasha Petraske will be consulting with Stephen Starr on a yet-to-be named cocktail lounge. The lounge is an annex of Starr’s new restaurant, El Rey, and will feature handcrafted cocktails for which Petraske is known.

While Petraske won’t be consulting on the beverage program within the restaurant itself, the cocktail list at El Rey will include a handful of specialty cocktails featuring fresh, hand-squeezed juices; a limited list of California , Spanish and South American wines; a choice selection of tequilas and mezcals; and an assortment of bottled and draft beer.
Got that?

Petraske is consulting on the cocktail lounge/speakeasy annex to be located at the rear of El Rey, but not on the beverage program at El Rey itself.

Meanwhile, after the El Rey Annex/Speakeasy opens next month, look out. Between it, Village Whiskey, and Franklin Mortgage and Investment Co., there will be a very nice concentration of excellent cocktails in the immediate vicinity of 18th/20th and Sansom/Chestnut.

Other key outtakes from the interview, regarding the beer garden:
- "Starr says local brews will definitely be joining German and Austrian imports on the menu [ at the beer garden]."

- "We want to do a neighborhood-y place. A place that caters to the city, as opposed to the suburbs,” he said.

- 250 seats outside

= When asked why create a beer-focused venue, Starr said, “I'm always looking for something new to do. I get bored with myself.”

- Starr has no love for the casino projects: "When asked what the proximity of SugarHouse, and, further south on Columbus, Foxwoods, would do for his business, Starr said, "I think they do nothing for it. I'm not a big fan of the casino thing.'
HOLLA.

Related:
Yo Fishtown: A Biergarten is in your future [ Plan Philly ]

Previously:
Starr Poaches Longtime Xochitl Chef Dionicio Jimenez From Team Cook-Solomonov For Forthcoming Midtown Diner Project

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Jose Garces' Mercat A La Planxa Is A James Beard Award Finalist For Restaurant Graphics

mercat a la planxa graphic
Some of the nominated work | Images via

mercat a la planxa t shirts
mercat a la planxa graphic
mercat a la planxa noteWhile the nomination is for the work done for Jose Garces' Chicago restaurant, Mercat a la Planxa, if the Mercat graphics win, the award goes to the design firm — Korn Design out of Boston — that did the design work, not Garces.

Note: Korn Design won the Beard Award in this category in 2009 for the work they did for a Denver restaurant.

Outstanding Restaurant Graphics
[ James Bear Awards ]
Korn Design [ Official Site ]
Mercat a la Planxa [ Official Site ]`

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Dwight Schrute Enjoys A Lionshead Beer On The Office

dwight enjoys a lionshead beer on the office
Lion Brewery of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania represent.

Nice attention to detail on the part of the show's producers. Now if only the Always Sunny gang would start drinking local beer at Paddy's Pub.

Clip below.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Stephen Starr Wins Career Design Award

morimoto restaurant in new york city
Morimoto in New York City | Photo via SRO

Hospitality Design Magazine has named Stephen Starr a 2010 Platinum Circle design award recipient.

About the award: "For the past two decades, Platinum Circle has been awarded to industry luminaries—architects, designers, owner/operators, purchasers—who have demonstrated the highest degree of excellence throughout their careers."

Related:
HD Announces 2010 Platinum Circle Honorees [ Hospitality Design ]

Monday, March 08, 2010

Dining At Parx Casino Defined By Hot Dogs And Cigarettes; Sets Precedent For Philadelphia Casinos To Become "The McDonald's Of Gambling"

mandarin bar at the mandarin oriental in las vegas
Don't expect to see anything like this at the Wynn/Foxwoods Casino in South Philadelphia — it won't even have a hotel | Photo via the Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas, part of the brand new CityCenter complex

In her column on Sunday, pointedly titled "The lifeblood of Parx casino in Bucks is low-roller locals," Monica Yant Kinney takes a closer look at Parx Casino in Bensalem to hint at just how depressingly down-market the forthcoming Philadelphia casinos (Sugarhouse and Wynn/Foxwoods) will be.

The article makes it abundantly clear how different these casinos actually are from any notions people may have in their minds of glamorous Vegas-style resorts and casinos coming to Philadelphia.
Las Vegas uses volcanoes, Emeril Lagasse, and spa treatments to make losing seem fun. Philadelphia's casino "experience" is shaping up to be neither entertaining nor exotic, defined instead by hot dogs, cigarettes, and convenience.
Regarding the regulars who come to Parx 150-200 times a year and their eating habits:
It didn't take much to lure them, beyond proximity, free valet parking, and $50 comps.

"If you live 15 minutes away, you really don't need a room," Jonas told the casino group. His customers "come in, grab a hot dog or maybe a chicken sandwich," gamble three hours, "then go home and sleep in their own bed."
Regarding the overall vibe at Parx:
We tried to get lunch, but Parx's steak house serves only dinner, and the Foodies counter steps away from the casino floor didn't entice.

"This," Mirarchi marveled, "is the McDonald's of gambling."
He's not saying the food options at Parx are 'the McDonald's of gambling'; he's saying the overall experience at Parx is 'the McDonald's of gambling'.

Which sounds about right.

(Meanwhile, it's worth noting that the recently opened City Center in Las Vegas made a strategic decision to further distinguish itself with exceptional food and restaurants.)

Related:
The lifeblood of Parx casino in Bucks is low-roller locals [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
Editorial: Steve Wynn's vision for the Foxwoods site is further confirmation that casino gambling in Philadelphia will be a down-market industry, preying mostly on the poor and elderly who can least afford it [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
CityCenter aims to make dining experience 'cooler and hipper' - Veritable who’s who of celebrity chefs headline casino-resort’s restaurants [ Las Vegas Sun ]

Previously:
Steve Wynn Wants To Build A Cute Casino With A Steakhouse, Italian Restaurant And Asian Noodle House

Friday, February 26, 2010

Comcast's Stroke Of Genius: Getting Don Draper To Be The Voice Of Xfinity


After all, the man is a fucking pro.


Related:
Comcast enters rebranding territory [ Boston Globe ]

Steve Wynn Wants To Build A Cute Casino With A Steakhouse, Italian Restaurant And Asian Noodle House

rendering of the foxwoods casino philadelphia
A rendering of the original Foxwoods Casino | Photo via Foxwoods

Wynn, via the Inquirer:
He said the area was "all full of my old friends - the Italians and Jews and every conceivable type of ethnic group that likes to play craps and gamble - and they're only 10 minutes away."

"I love the proximity of the Vietnamese neighborhood, and I'm going to put in a Vietnamese restaurant for them," he said.
Also, he said his plans would not include a hotel.

Wynn and Foxwoods need to submit revised plans for the site to the Gaming Control Board by the board's March 3 meeting.

Related:
Wynn says he'll build 'the cutest casino': But his plans don't include high-rise hotel
[ Philadelphia Daily News ]
Wynn outlines plan for Foxwoods Casino [ Philadelphia Inquire ]

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Team Cook-Solomonov Begins To Think About How To Brand, Um, Team Cook-Solomonov

steven cook michael solomonov logo
As seen in the footer of a recent 'Xochitl returns' email... Can the formation of a restaurant group be that far behind?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Michelle Obama Visits Fresh Grocer In North Philadelphia

Michelle Obama visited the new Fresh Grocer Progress Plaza on Friday | Photo via The White House

In town to promote her "Let's Move" campaign targeting childhood obesity, Michelle Obama on Friday visited a North Philadelphia elementary school as well as the new Fresh Grocer Progress Plaza on North Broad Street, where she enjoyed a strawberry smoothie, as the Inquirer reported:
Obama brought shrieks of delight from excited shoppers at the Fresh Grocer in North Philadelphia.

Chanting, "we love you," the shoppers reached out to shake hands with Obama who arrived at 11:45 a.m. through a back door to enter the store at 1501 North Broad Street.

The first lady walked into the crowd at a receiving area near the store's butcher shop. She reached across an area of bread and cakes to shake hands with the shoppers many of whom had gathered hours before to get a good look of her.

Obama walked down the store aisles stocked with hot food, salads, cut up fruits and fresh sea food.

She greeted the workers, telling them, "You guys are great," and made her way to the fruit smoothie machine where she ordered herself a strawberry twister smoothie containing strawberries, banana and blueberries.

"I have my own money," she told the worker pulling out a $20 bill to pay for the $4.31 drink.

She sipped her drink through a straw while owner, Patrick Burns, chief executive officer of Fresh Grocer, accompanied her around the store as she spoke to employees. She spent about 15 minutes there before leaving in her motorcade for Fairhill Elementary also in North Philadelphia.
Good to see the First Lady enjoying a quick visit to Philadelphia.

Related to the reason for Michelle Obama's visit, The Food Trust was recently featured on Good Morning America for their work targeting childhood obesity at John Welsh Elementary School in North Philadelphia. Watch the segment here.

Related:
Michelle Obama wows students at Fairhill School [ Philadelphia Inquirer via Grub Street Philadelphia ]
Editorial: Chew on this [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
School Nutrition Program Takes Up Obesity Fight [ ABC News ]
Let's Move [ Official Site ]

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Further Evidence Neighbors Are A Restaurant's Worst Enemy: Ansill Never Allowed To Have Outdoor Seating At Corner Of 3rd & Bainbridge

ansill philadelphia
Ansill: Totally unsuitable for outdoor seating, according to the Queen Village Neighborhood Association | Photo via Google Maps

A couple of weeks back, Grub Street Philadelphia ran an interview with David Ansill about his new gig at Ladder 15. There were also a few questions about his old restaurant Ansill, which closed last summer.

And what do you know... Ansill was never allowed to have outdoor seating because the Queen Village Neighborhood Association wouldn't ok it.
Q. Do you think the neighborhood played a factor? A lot of praised restaurants in that Queen Village/South Street neighborhood have struggled.

[Ansill:] Initially, when I opened up, the Queen Village Neighborhood Association shot me down when I wanted outdoor seating. Which I kind of thought was a no-brainer. It's a beautiful corner and a beautiful visual aspect to have it. They didn't seem happy I was coming in there and cleaning up the corner and making it more of a service to the neighborhood, which is how I thought about it. Even the neighbors that came to the meeting - I was surprised at how adamant they were about it.

I think people are sometimes intimidated by South Street. A lot of my clientele from Pif were from the suburbs; they're not kids anymore and they were concerned about coming down to South Street on a Saturday night with the parking and stuff.

My across-the-street neighbor was the former zoning commissioner [David Auspitz]. I had a couple of tables set out on Bainbridge Street, just for eye candy, to say "Hey, we're open here." We weren't going to seat anyone out there. He said "You can't do that and next time we'll call L&I on you." He never stepped into my place and had no idea what I was doing.
Oh shit, a David Auspitz sighting... Remember him? Kinda makes you long for the good old days...

We kid. Obviously, this Ansill instance of neighbors not allowing the restaurant to have outdoor seating is a moot issue now — the restaurant is closed. But it's still fucking ridiculous. And a perfect example of how fucking stupid neighbors are when it comes to restaurants. (Or, actually, when it comes to everything.)

Moreover, all it takes is for a handful of dumb, small-minded neighbors to show up and complain to block anything, because even though the vast majority of rational people would support a restaurant adding beautiful outdoor seating to the neighborhood, in most cases people don't go to neighborhood association meetings to support a restaurant, probably because people usually have better things to do than to go to a neighborhood association meeting about a restaurant's no-brainer request for outdoor seating.

Which brings us to the news that there's an upcoming neighborhood zoning meeting for Stephen Starr's planned Fishtown beer garden. It's safe to assume that said meeting could turn into a veritable shitshow.

Remember that Fishtown neighbors somehow killed the Jumbo Theater project two years ago over ridiculous noise concerns for a venue that is literally located under the Market-Frankford El, but was going to allegedly bring more noise than the fucking El. On a completely commercial, non-residential corner of Girard.

So if that's any indication, the Starr beer garden zoning meeting could have its fill of self-interested batshit crazies.

The meeting notice:
A proposal for a beer garden & restaurant by Stephen Starr at 1208-1214 Frankford Ave. The meeting will take place at the Fishtown Rec Center, 1202 E. Montgomery Ave. All residents of Fishtown are eligible to vote. Please bring proof of residence in the form of a driver's license or a photo id and a recent piece of mail addressed to your home.

More info from an neighbor's email:

General:

Roland Kassis (spelling?) is the developer. He owns several properties in our immediate area, particularly along the Frankford corridor. He has a long term development plan and is requesting the assitance [sic] and support from the immediate neighbors to realize his vision.

Roland developed numerous properties in N. Liberties (where he lives) and also developed the houses on Mercer Street between F-ford and Crease.

The property under consideration for the Stephen Starr restaurant is on Frankford Ave, beginning next to the Acropolos diner (Frankford and Girard) and spans approximately 100 yards towards Frankford and Thompson.

The concept under consideration is a Bier Garten with ~250 seats. This concept would be co-development with prominent restauranteur [sic] Stephen Starr who will operate the establishment similar to his other businesses. The property has a courtyard type space and plans include using this outdoor space.

As with all other Stephen Starr restaurants, this property would have an open kitchen until 11:00 PM and remain open for drinking/socializing until 2:00 AM.

The expected timeline includes a more formal zoning hearing towards the end of February. Notices will be circulated as will a message on this e-mail list. ALL NEIGHBORS ARE URGED TO ATTEND. Finances and agreements are secure and the intent is to begin building ASAP after approval is granted.

Concerns:

Parking. The plan includes the use of valet parking and Roland stated he has 70 spaces available with more on the way. Parking will be reasonably priced to be on par with what a patron would pay at a meter. Even with valet service there will undoubtedly be pressure on the immediate area for parking. Efforts are already underway for the 1200 block of Crease Street to move towards permit parking and other immediate streets (Thompson, Day, Leopard) are urged to consider this to help offset this problem. Shackamaxon already has it.

Noise. Houses on Leopard Street will likely bear the brunt of the noise from this project. Roland insisted that he has taken this into consideration and will do everything possible to mitigate noise. Leopard Street residents are strongly urged to attend the zoning hearing to have their concerns heard.

Trash: Roland stated that the dumpsters would be contained inside and the collection company would be instructed for a daily pick-up at 11:00 AM.

Traffic. The concern about valet parking traffic was raised. Parking attendants will need to move cars around rapidly and it is a concern that their route will take them through the immediate blocks.

All in all, it seemed that there is overwhelming support for this exciting project but there is also the expected amount of caution and concern. Please keep your eyes peeled for zoning notices posted at the property as well as circulars in mailboxes regarding the zoning hearing.
Should be a doozy.

But at least Philadelphia is not alone. Take comfort in the fact that idiot neighbors just put the kibosh on a Nolita Shake Shack in Manhattan.

Related:
David Ansill Resurfaces on Sansom Street [ Grub Street Philadelphia ]
Stephen Starr Bier Garden Zoning Meeting 3/2/10 7-8pm [ Philadelphia Speaks ]
Neighbors Successful in Running Shake Shack Out of Nolita [ Eater New York ]

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Garces Trading Company Now Open; Targeting Early Summer For Beer & Brats At Letto Deli

garces trading company philadelphiaThe company line:
Garces Trading Company, a gourmet market and cafe, is now open. The multi-purpose space features a host of house-made and imported foods under the Garces Trading Company label, as well as Chef Garces award-winning cuisine, available for eat-in or take-out.

Other features, including a flower shop, an on-site bakery, private label olive oils and vinegars, Chef Garces' signature coffee and the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board's first wine boutique, further distinguish Garces Trading Company as the city’s only all-in-one culinary destination.
Also, Michael Klein is reporting that Garces is aiming for early summer for the Brats and Beer concept in the former Letto Deli at 13th and Chancellor.

Which is the same time that Starr is targeting to open his outdoor beer garden in Fishtown.

Must everything be a competition?

Related:
Garces at Garces Trading Company [ The Insider - Philly.com ]

Previously:
Stephen Starr To Jose Garces: I'll See Your Beer & Brats Concept And Raise You A Bona Fide German Bier Garten

Monday, February 15, 2010

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Starr Poaches Longtime Xochitl Chef Dionicio Jimenez From Team Cook-Solomonov For Forthcoming Midtown Diner Project

Stephen Starr landed himself a major talent to be the executive chef of the Mexican restaurant and bar project he's planning for the former Midtown IV Diner at 20th and Chestnut: Dionicio Jimenez, who's been the executive chef at Xochitl since it opened.

It's a coup for Starr. Jimenez is extremely highly regarded.

We remember what restaurateur Steven Cook (Xochitl, Zahav, Percy Street) had to say about Jimenez in Craig Laban's 2007 review of Xochitl:
If you have already tasted the sublime seviche of watermelon and scallops at the new Mexican restaurant called Xochitl, then you might understand Steven Cook's reaction last year to a tasting meal at Dionicio Jimenez's home: "I wanted to be in the Dionicio business."
So Starr has now got Jimenez (who was part owner of Xochitl along with Cook and Michael Solomonov) to helm the Midtown Diner project, which we feel like Starr wants to take in a La Esquina -esque direction.

Meanwhile, Xochitl will close on February 7 for a two-week renovation and re-open with a new chef and a brand new menu that's already finalized.

How do you like them apples?

Related:
Xochitl chef quits for Starr project [ The Insider - Philly.com ]
Xochitl - The Aztec name means "flower," and the chef's talent has blossomed since his arrival, penniless, from Mexico nine years ago. At their best, his creations are vivid and stunningly original. [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Video: Michael Schulson Prepares Crispy Chicken Banh Mi On The Today Show

Exploding a little sriracha on Kathie Lee in the process.


Related:
Sampan [ Official Site ]

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

New York Post Declares Zahav To Be "The New Momofuku"

zahav in philadelphia from the new york times
Quite a declaration.

From the Post's article, "8 Culinary Adventures for 2010":
THE NEW MOMOFUKU Philadelphia

Michael Solomonov does for Israeli cooking what David Chang does for Asian cooking: He transforms traditional, not-so-exciting dishes, using one-of-a-kind creative flourishes and unlikely flavor combinations.
And in doing so, Solomonov’s restaurant Zahav creates food that simultaneously tastes familiar and unlike anything you’ve ever eaten.

A simply prepared salad with Israeli persimmon (sweet), Bulgarian feta (creamy), green olives (salty) and endive (bitter). Duck hearts with chicken-liver dirty rice. A spicy and tart Moroccan fish stew with tomatoes and peppers.

This is modern comfort food at its finest. At $36 for five courses, it’s a steal too. Solomonov recently opened a barbecue restaurant, with proper versions of Texas brisket and ribs. Yes, that's right: One Israeli restaurant, one pork-a-palooza. No rules, no limits? Works for us (237 Saint James Place, 215-625-8800).
Grub Street New York considers the analogy suspect. But not because Zahav isn't great.

Related:
8 Culinary Adventures for 2010 [ New York Post via Grub Street New York ]

Good Ideas: An Approval Matrix For Bars

approval matrix for barsFoobooz correctly identified the best part about the new Bar For The Course blog: its version of an approval matrix for bars (above).

We're not going to say we agree with every rating on the matrix, but the idea for the matrix itself is undeniably a good one. Because approval matrices are fun.

Related:
Bar For The Course [ Official Site via Phoodie ]
The Bar Graph [ Foobooz ]
The Approval Matrix: Week of February 1, 2010 - Our deliberately oversimplified guide to who falls where on our taste hierarchies. [ New York Magazine ]

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sighted: Porkslap Beer At Pub And Kitchen

porkslap beer
















Oh. Shit.

Stephen Starr To Jose Garces: I'll See Your Beer & Brats Concept And Raise You A Bona Fide German Bier Garten

standard hotel biergarten new york city
The Standard Biergarten in New York City, a potential source of inspiration for Starr | Photo via Zagat

No big deal.

Jose has plans for a beer and brats spot.

Stephen makes plans for a full-on beer garden.

Good times.

We're going to go ahead and surmise that Starr probably found his inspiration for this project at the Standard Hotel Biergarten, which opened this summer to immediate crowds in the Meatpacking District literally around the corner from his NYC Morimoto and Buddakan outposts.

Meanwhile, the last we hear, Garces still does not have a finalized lease for the Letto Deli location, at which he wants to do the aforementioned beer and brats. Hopefully, he can close on that soon.

Related:
Phoodie Exclusive: The Who And The What Of Stephen Starr's Fishtown Bier Garten [ Phoodie ]
The Standard Biergarten [ Official Site ]
Beer Gardening Under the High Line [ Urban Daddy ]

Previously:
Is The Stephen Starr - Jose Garces Rivalry Escalating?

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Small Update On Garces Trading Company, Coming Soon To Washington Square West

garces trading company philadelphiaThe official line from GRG:
In early 2010, Chef Garces will debut his sixth Philadelphia venture, Garces Trading Company (1111 Locust Street, 215.574.1099), a gourmet market and cafe.

Open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., the multi-purpose space will feature a host of house-made and imported foods under the Garces Trading Company label.

Other features, including an on-site bakery and the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB)'s first boutique wine shop, will further distinguish Garces Trading Company as the city's only all-in-one culinary destination.
So there's that.

Related:
Garces Restaurant Group [ Official Site ]

Friday, January 15, 2010

Jose Garces Goes With Amada Chef de Cuisine MacGregor Mann For His Debut As Iron Chef

jose garces and chefs
Jose Garces and Chefs | Photo via GRG

This Sunday, Jose Garces makes his debut as Iron Chef on Iron Chef America on the Food Network. And for his first battle as Iron Chef, he selected Amada Chef de Cuisine MacGregor Mann to be his Sous Chef in Kitchen Stadium.

Previously, Chef Garces has worked with Chifa Chef de Cusine Chad Williams (both on the finale of The Next Iron Chef and when he took down Bobby Flay on Iron Chef in 08) and Distrito Chef de Cuisine Tim Spinner (in the finale of The Next Iron Chef).

So it appears that Chef Garces is making sure all of his Chefs de Cuisine get some solid Iron Chef / Kitchen Stadium experience. How nice of him to spread the love. And as a bonus: he'll have a squadron of battle-ready sous chefs at his disposal.

Related:
Windsor Township man an Iron Chefs' right-hand Mann [ York Daily Record ]

Previously:
Teaser Video For Jose Garces' Debut Battle On Iron Chef America

Monday, January 11, 2010

Game Changer: Stephen Starr To Do Pizza Take Out And Delivery In Rittenhouse

pizzeria stella pistachio pie
It's not delivery... | Photo via Pizzeria Stella

Michael Klein reports some new details of Stephen Starr's plans for bringing pizza to Rittenhouse Square, which Philly Mag first reported in October.

The location is the space that was formerly Potcheen on Locust near 18th, next to Parc.

It will mainly be a take out and delivery operation plus a few seats inside for dining in.

Name not yet determined.

Opening in March.

Boding well for its success — Craig Laban just gave Pizzeria Stella three bells.

Related:
Starr plans pizzeria next to Parc
[ The Insider - Philly.com ]
Pizzeria Stella - Stephen Starr is doing just pizza and doing it right: Artisan slices, simple to decadent, consistently excellent and affordable. [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
Breaking: Two New Pizza Joints for Starr? [ Philadelphia Magazine ]

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Jose Garces Moving Garces Restaurant Group World Headquarters From Old City To Cira Centre

cira centre philadelphia hdr
The soon-to-be new home of the Garces Restaurant Group | Photo via

Grub Street Philadelphia got a few details from Chef Garces about his plans for a restaurant at the Cira Centre, a lease for which he just signed.

Part of the deal: Garces Restaurant Group's corporate offices will be moving to the Cira Centre as well.

Well positioned for quick Amtrak trips to the NYC for location reconnaissance on that next Amada.

Related:
Cira Centre Restaurant a Go for Garces, Coffee Kiosk May Come Later
[ Grub Street Philadelphia ]

Previously:
Looks Like Amada Is Headed To New York City

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Teaser Video For Jose Garces' Debut Battle On Iron Chef America


Iron Chef Garces makes his debut January 17th at 9 pm.

Related:
Iron Chef America [ Official Site ]

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Philadelphia's Roast Pork Sandwiches Get Some (Indirect) Love From The Washington Post

Nothing but good things to say about Roast Pork Sandwiches from Philadelphia (even if the article is primarily about a restaurant in DC that serves an especially inspired version...)
Most Americans think of the cheesesteak as Philly's signature sandwich. But there has been a slow realization around the country that the City of Brotherly Love also deserves praise for a sandwich that would never include Cheez Whiz.

The roast pork hoagie taps into Philadelphia's Italian American roots. From Italy comes the thinly sliced meat, the shards of aged provolone and the broccoli rabe. From America comes the super-sized portion and the everything-is-better-on-a-bun portability. The result transcends either place: It's a balance of meaty richness, sharp cheese and spicy, bitter greens that is greater than the sum of its parts.
And how.

Related:
Sandwiches: The other masterpiece from Philly [ Washington Post ]

Bobby Flay Burger Palace Coming To Penn In Spring 2010

bobby's burger palace
The rumors are true | Photos via

Bobby himself confirmed it over the Twitter-waves earlier today.

And Michael Klein got more details from the man over the phone.

Related:
Gee Whiz, Bobby Flay! [ The Insider ]
Bobby Flay Definitely Bringing His Burger Palace to Penn [ Grub Street Philadelphia ]