Some neighborhoods get hot in a hurry, but let’s face it: the East Passyunk instaboom? That’s an exception. Even the Gayborhood took nearly a decade of steady buildup before every big-name chef in town suddenly began vying for a piece of that action. While it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when these tipping points come, Chestnut Hill seems to be inching toward one. Two trends account for the gathering momentum.
The first is the gradual spread of Mount Airy’s foodie energy northward. The 2010 opening of a Weavers Way branch in Chestnut Hill is the most literal example. But the restaurant scene’s center of gravity has been shifting in the same direction, with spots like Earth Bread + Brewery, Avenida and Umbria (7131 Germantown Avenue) carving out their niches and edging ever closer to the Cresheim Valley.
The second trend is a flow of talent and investment from the opposite direction: the suburbs. In gourmet terms, the exemplar is Mica, where Conshy star chef Chip Roman, of Blackfish, made his city debut last year. But it’s picked up steam lately with Chestnut 7 (8201 Germantown Avenue), an upscale pub, and plans by Iron Hill Breweryto open its first Philly location here, right next to the Chestnut Hill Weavers Way. (See Phoenixville and Media for what an Iron Hill can do.)
The future of Chestnut Hill restaurants: Whether these developments will kick off a proper restaurant renaissance remains to be seen, but the fact that the Hill has become attractive to both a tasting-menu-minded chef like Roman and an expansionist brewpub chain like Iron Hill bodes well for the business of eating along these quiet cobblestones.