Return of Restaurant Yenta: What Should Go Into the Latham Hotel?

Once upon a time — well, more like three-plus years ago—we wondered what the problem was with the unoccupied restaurant spaces at the Latham Hotel at 17th and Walnut Streets:

The space has been empty (despite an orange liquor transfer sign) for what amounts to an eternity in such a primo location – it has an entrance on heavily trafficked 17th Street and a row of windows (stupidly tinted) on the Walnut Street side. We can only imagine that the Latham is desperate for our help, but afraid to ask. Don’t worry, Latham! We live to serve and we’re here to help – take our advice before you open up something lame.

Is it time for a craft beer bar on Walnut? A second Good Dog? A Monk’s, even? Something fancier? How about sushi by day and karaoke at night? A Distrito in the Center City Distrito? Or maybe this is the spot for the elusive barbecue joint in Philly?

Today, the Inky reports that the hotel’s owners are revamping the entire hotel, including the restaurant spaces. Clearly, they are still too shy to call and ask for our help again, but never fear, Foobooz and its commenters are here.

Back in 2008, we asked for your thoughts on what would make for a successful restaurant in that space, and you answered (BBQ, sushi and oyster house/fish bar, mostly). We’re putting the call out again in 2011: what should go in those inexplicably empty, heavily foot-trafficked, formerly-awesome-when-they-were-Jolly’s-and-the-Redhead spots?

Here’s an idea: the Inky says William Bucknell, founder of Bucknell University, had a house on the land now occupied on the Latham. Maybe the corner spot could be a cocktail lounge called The Bucknell. Or the elusive noodle bar. If they’re keeping the same layout, the smaller former Redhead space could be the magical tiki bar that we will make sure gets opened in this city, whether you people want one or not.

Major makeover for The Latham Hotel [Inquirer]
The Not-So-Jolly Latham Situation [Foobooz]

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  • Matt

    Kevin sbraga should open his restaurant here

  • donna

    I was thinking the same thing Matt just mentioned, that would cut out his search for a space.

  • Mike H

    Bring back The Smoked Joint

  • Tex

    Isn’t it time for a Jose Garces steak house? That would fill two gaping voids in the center city scene.

  • Dan

    @4 – Um, Tex, what two gaping voids? Not enough steak houses and not enough Jose Garces restaurants? Really?

  • j

    Bring back Jolly’s (or something equivalent)…now that place felt like a speakeasy…..not that Franklin mortgage crap

  • Tex

    @5 – I guess the only gaping void is in people who can’t detect irony. That was pretty easy, really.

  • eldondre

    i think you mean sarcasm tex. a good bar isnt a bad idea.jollys was halfway there. maybe a bar that concentrates on regional food that doesnt suck like midatlantic and regiinal beer rather than ten beers from the west coast.

  • Willie

    Sarcasm does not come across well over the net.

  • Tony

    A hotel needs a full-service restaurant that can offer breakfast, lunch and dinner, so I’d probably steer clear of something like a steak house or sushi place. Since the hotel is The Latham, perhaps something English-themed, along the lines of The Dandelion, would work well. Maybe a more English version of something like Parc.

  • KR

    @tony – um, you do realize that “the english version of Parc” is only 2 blocks away, right? Sure, what the hell… let’s get another damn pub in this city…. enough!!

  • Tony

    @KR – um, do you really think a city as big and diverse and vibrant as Philly cannot support multiple versions of a classic format, like an English pub or a French bistro? In great cities, these formats are re-interpreted over and over in varied and exciting ways. This zero-sum mentality is provincial. If Stephen Starr had thought that way, he wouldn’t have opened Parc because Rouge already existed a block away. Or he wouldn’t have opened El Vez, because Lolita already existed across the street. Or he wouldn’t have opened Butcher & Singer, because he already operated another upscale steak house a a few blocks away. The more the merrier! Just make sure each new place is excellent and interesting in its own unique way.

  • barryg

    @Tony yea but that’s boring. How about overpriced ramen like Ippudo in NYC? It’s expensive but delicious, would be popular in Center City I think.

    The problem is that most hotel restaurants need to cater to a broad audience, and usually serve breakfast and lunch as well.