Neil Stein Returning to the Restaurant Business

[Photo: Trevor Dixon]

Once one of Philadelphia’s most talked about restaurateurs, Neil Stein has spent his time rather quietly since his January 2007 release from SCI Schuylkill, where he served a yearlong sentence for tax evasion and wrote about the prison food. But now the man who was at the helm of a restaurant revolution and brought us the concept of outdoor dining is ready for his comeback.

This morning, Stein confirmed that he plans to open a restaurant at 1801 JFK, a space currently occupied City Garden, the Chinese restaurant. Though he won’t divulge much, including the name, he says it’s going to be a bistro (shocker!) that screams modern, or as he puts it, “This place is very modern, very very modern.”

“It’s been a few years since I’ve been out of Rouge,” says the 70-year old Stein, “and I just couldn’t turn down this opportunity. It’s so exciting, and I just know that it’s something that the city is going to like — no, it’s something that the city is going to love.”

Though JFK is not exactly the Restaurant Row that Stein is used to (hello, Chima), he points to the site’s proximity to the Four Seasons as part of his recipe for success. “Remember that we’re only 200 yards from the hotel,” explains Stein. “So in addition to the fact that we have a lot of people around for work during the day and a lot of people who live nearby at night, we also have the best tourists in the city just down the street.”

With a declaration that will certainly elicit eye-rolls from the Philadelphia restaurant community (and, by all means, here at Foobooz), Stein maintains that a late fall opening is entirely possible. “We’re working with two designers right now, and if we get going on this in the next 3 to 4 weeks, then I think an opening in 3 to 4 months is right,” he says. After all, he adds, “I’ve done this before.”

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  • Max

    Is this an April Fool’s joke?

  • Snake

    Best of luck to him. I see him wandering around Fairmount these days and he’s always been very pleasant to me and my dog – don’t know much about the backstory other than the unpaid taxes, but people deserve second chances.

  • Stein’s new restaurant will look at Table 31’s Plaza eatery which is on JFK too.

  • PeterP

    This cannot be true. This is worse than Perrier’s story becuase he literally stole his staff’s money (& our money = US Taxes!)for year’s. This guy really is a criminal & his brain is so fried from overdoing drugs. When you talk to him you can see why he’s wearing shades all the time . . . there’s nothing behind his eyes!

    & I worked for him for 3 years.

    • Lynne

      He did not steal his staff’s money. People shouldn’t be so hard on him and just because you worked for him doesn’t mean you understand whatever really happened anyway.

  • This is one of the kindest men you will ever meet, okay he made mistakes, have you? If you are lucky enough to talk to him you would know he would give you the shirt off his back, very intelligent & willing to share that with you. I consider myself lucky to call Neil Stein my friend!

  • Murri

    I worked for Neil for many years in the kitchen and on the floor and I learned everything I know about great food, seafood and high standards working with him and for the Fish Market. I made a ton of money waitressing there also which really helped me out in my early years. He had exacting standards and I look back on those years with fondness and respect for the level of that establishment. Our place of employment was familial and we all understood the task at hand. Quality food and great service were paramount.