The Making of a Philly Restaurant 2008: Open Secrets

Funny things happen on the way to launching a restaurant

STEPHEN STARR

“When we were opening Morimoto in Philadelphia [in 2001], we were behind, as we always are. We had ordered the bamboo for the floor and the ceiling in a timely manner, but it was shipped by boat. Literally, the slow boat from China. We couldn’t wait. So I bought the wood a second time, and paid to have it flown, second-day shipping, to Philadelphia. The wood cost $35,000 — each time — and the plane ride cost another $35,000.”

BRUCE COOPER

“I misread a letter from the building inspector, and a month out, an inspector told us we had to install a sprinkler system in the basement. We couldn’t open the dining room at Cooper’s Brick Oven Wine Bar [opened in 2008] until we did. It took $8,000 and lots of permits. I text-ed the Mayor on a couple of occasions during the process.”

STEVEN COOK

“The problem with Zahav [opened in 2008] was that the city said our address didn’t exist. I had the health inspection, but I needed the health license. It’s issued by L&I. So I went to L&I and waited for however many hours they make you wait, and when it was my turn, they said no, because St. James Place [in Old City] wasn’t in the computer. I had to hire very expensive attorneys to make it happen.”

ELLEN YIN

“The weeks preceding the opening of Fork in 1997 were exciting times that drew attention from the press. A mention in Michael Klein’s ‘Table Talk’ column in the Inquirer three or four weeks prior prompted a ‘customer’ to write me about his recent visit when a clumsy waiter dropped a knife on his wife’s dress. The note said that a new dress wasn’t necessary, but a free meal would be appreciated! The exact same letter reappeared in 2002 after a review by Craig LaBan.”