Why Real Philadelphians Instinctively Hate Shiny New Things


Who could roll their eyes at this? The author could.

Not long ago a treasured possession of mine — an audio tape my dad made when I was about four — got ruined. Somehow the tape in the cassette disappeared and now when I try to play it there’s a vast nothingness where sound should be. On the tape, I am pretending to be a lecturer at the Academy of Natural Sciences, schooling my dad in all kinds of animal facts — some true, some invented, and some attributed to Mommy, who was giving me some seriously inaccurate information (the natural diet of the elephant is not, in fact, buttered popcorn). When I’d get off track, my dad would prod me: “And where do giraffes live, Elizabeth?” “Africa!” That kind of thing.

A lot of people have such keepsakes — childhood recordings and home movies. The fact of the tape itself wasn’t unique. But I kept this tape in a special box, so that I’d never lose it, for two reasons. First of all, one side is comprised, entirely, of my dad methodically repeating curse words — “Shit. Shit. Shit. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.” — slowly, in a grave tone. He sounds like a serial killer, but it’s also weirdly hilarious. He used to leave the tape playing for his parrot, Miles, hoping the bird would pick stuff up. He never did.

The other reason I treasured this tape was because it contained absolute, touching proof of my Philadelphia origins — proof that was better than a birth certificate because it could be heard in one key exchange:

“Where does the hippo live, Elizabeth?” my father asks.

“In the wooder,” I say. Read more »

Recreation Dept. and Fairmount Park Tap Avram Hornik for Parks on Tap

Rendering of Parks on Tap on the Schuylkill Banks at the Walnut Street Bridge

Rendering of Parks on Tap on the Schuylkill Banks at the Walnut Street Bridge

Earlier this year, we told you that Philadelphia’s Parks & Recreation Department and the Fairmount Park Conservancy were accepting proposals to operate a rotating series of beer gardens in the city’s green spaces. It has now been announced that Avram Hornik and his FCM Hospitality will be the operator of these pop-up beer gardens known as Parks on Tap.

Hornik is the operator of the hugely successful Morgan’s Pier along the Delaware River and in the past has run Winterfest at Penn’s Landing and the 2013 PHS Pop-Up Garden on Broad Street. This summer, he will try to recreate those magical spaces at 14 locations around the city. Up first is the Schuylkill Banks. The pop-up along the river will run from Wednesday, June 29th through the 4th of July, before heading to 13 other locations in city parks.

Read more »

Twee West Philly Restaurant Fences In Big Chunk of Public Sidewalk

The "barrier" surrounding the William Street Common sidewalk cafe at 39th and Chestnut in University City. | All photos by Patrick Kerkstra.

The “barrier” surrounding the William Street Common sidewalk cafe at 39th and Chestnut in University City. | Most photos by Patrick Kerkstra.

Some quiet chatter on social media Tuesday alerted Citified to a long, tall fence surrounding the sidewalk cafe of the new William Street Common bar and restaurant at 39th and Chestnut streets in West Philadelphia. The establishment, which opened in February, is owned by power restaurateur Avram Hornik (Morgan’s Pier, Union Transfer, Boot & Saddle and more), and it features cocktails in mason jars, a hyped no-tipping policy, and, if I remember right, mismatched, self-serve tableware. All of it is a bit twee for West Philly, but it’s a nice place nonetheless.

But just look at that monster fence! It’s attractive, as far as fences go, but it’s jarring to see such a big swath of public sidewalk cordoned off for what is so clearly a private use. Most outdoor cafes commandeer public space to one degree or another, of course. But somehow it feels very different when passersby get to gaze at the leisurely patrons and their food, and vice versa. Sidewalk cafes are supposed to feel like a part of the streetscape. They’re supposed to blend private space with public space.

There’s no blending with this fence. Just taking. And it’s not at all clear that this cafe, as constructed, is permitted by city law.

Read more »

Boot & Saddle Sign Will Soon Shine Again

UPDATE: Monday’s Boot & Saddle sign relighting has been postponed. Len Davidson says more work needed before the old boot glows again over Broad Street. Stay tuned.

Posted by Inga Saffron on Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The two-story tall Boot and Saddle neon sign was recently taken and down and refurbished. This past weekend saw the sign get reinstalled at the Broad and Ellsworth bar, and soon it will be relit.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Inga Saffron, that was set for Monday, June 15th but that date has been pushed back.

In the meantime, read Saffron’s Good Eye column about the Boot and Saddle’s sign.

Boot and Saddle [Foobooz]

Avram Hornik Bringing William Street Common to University City

Photo by Jason Melcher

Photo by Jason Melcher

Zagat has the scoop on William Street Common, the new restaurant and bar from Avram Hornik (Morgan’s Pier, Union Transfer, Boot & Saddle and more) and chef David Gilberg (Koo Zee Doo, Morgan’s Pier in 2014). There will be no tipping at William Street Common though there will be a service charge added. Check out Zagat for more on that. We’re much more excited for Gilberg’s food, the old-school arcade with Skee-Ball, $5 cocktails, and the three drink brunch with bottomless donuts.

Read more »

Morgan’s Pier Gets a New Chef


Morgan’s Pier, which opened on the Delaware riverfront two summers ago has made a splash each year with a significant name in the kitchen.

In Morgan’s Pier inaugural year it was David Katz of the much loved Mémé who ran the restaurant operation. Last year, the ownership group that includes Avram Hornick and Sean Agnew tapped George Sabatino who had just made a name for himself at Stateside.

Read more »

Where We’re Eating: Boot and Saddle

boot and saddle square“Back in the saddle again” is more than just an Aerosmith lyric. It’s what looks to become a familiar refrain as I return time and again to Boot & Saddle, the bar from Avram Hornik and Sean Agnew (Morgan’s Pier, Union Transfer) that restores the country-western joint that closed more than 15 years ago into something altogether new that feels like it hasn’t changed in decades. The western paintings remain from the old Boot & Saddle, as do the stamped-tin walls and ceilings. What is new is a bar illuminated by an I-beam lassoed in thick rope, with six Edison-style bulbs hanging down. And then there’s the 150-person-capacity live-music venue behind a soundproof door at the back of the dining area. Even the much-cooler-than-me waitress admitted needing to Google most of the bands, but the vibe is undeniable. During a British punk band’s set, the bar area’s music matched the live band’s energy; on a quiet Tuesday night, the same bar became a welcoming oasis. The beer list is well-curated, with some hard-to-find American craft brews, and while the cocktail lineup was less successful, you should probably just be drinking whiskey here anyway. Plus, George Sabatino has designed the short and vegetarian-friendly menu with all options coming in under $15. So however the night finds you, this Saddle won’t chafe.

Boot & Saddle [Foobooz]

First appeared in the December, 2013 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

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