The Women Behind the Gayborhood

The women behind 13th Street’s Renaissance (photo by Wesley Mann)

As Philadelphia magazine’s “Best Of” picks are officially made public today, we wanted to congratulate two women who have changed the Gayborhood with not only great restaurants and shops, but also a new attitude that has recreated 13th Street into a must-see destination.

Chef Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran, partners in life and business, have been named among The 10 Best Philadelphians. Here’s what the editors have to say about them:

In a city where what has been usually dictates what will be, in a neighborhood that nobody else wanted or cared about, two women came in and breathed change all over everything. There was no grand vision—it was just that it was their block, and they had ideas. Then Stephen Starr’s El Vez came; so did Capogiro. And suddenly, their unloved, unlovely swath of 13th Street wasn’t just the center of Philly; it was the heart. “What Marcie and Val have been able to accomplish, in such a short amount of time, is astounding,” Starr says.

Val simply says this: “We’re neighborhood people. And that’s what Philly is: neighborhoods. That’s why this all works.”

Click here for more on this dynamic duo. Plus: Find out who else is being honored.

Chick-Fil-A: Against Gay Marriage

Chick-Fil-A's endorsement of anti-gay organizations has led activists to spoof ads.

In an interview with the Baptist Press, Chick-fil-A’s COO Dan Cathy admitted that the fast food chain is definitely against gay marriage. “Guilty as charged,” he said. And while he says he’s careful about calling his a Christian business, that he does apply biblical law to each of the restaurant franchises.

“As an organization we can operate on biblical principles,” he told the publication. “So that is what we claim to be. [We are] based on biblical principles, asking God and pleading with God to give us wisdom on decisions we make about people and the programs and partnerships we have. And He has blessed us.”

In the past, Cathy denied that the restaurant chain had a beef with gay folks, but this latest interview might explain why Chick-fil-A has donated upwards of several million dollars to antigay groups, including the Family Research Council and Marriage and Family Foundation. Both organizations tout reparative therapy as a way to erase homosexuality. And both oppose equal LGBT rights.

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Pink Pub Crawl is Back

Now in its fourth year, Bruce Yelk’s PINK Pub Crawl attracts hundreds of revelers each season who make the rounds at favorite watering holes throughout the Gayborhood. On March 24, the crawl kicks off the spring season with an anticipated record number of 450 participates – beginning the evening at Tavern on Camac (9 p.m.).

The event crawls to several other bars and nightclubs for drinks and dancing, including Woody’s (10:15 p.m.), Sumo at Raw (11:30 p.m.) and finally Voyeur (12:30 a.m.).

The Sumo Lounge at Raw Sushi and Sake is the newest venue to be added to the pub crawl (courtesy of Raw)

“I’m thrilled by the community’s continued support of all three versions of the PINK Pub Crawl every spring, summer and Thanksgiving Eve,” says Yelk of NightlifeGay.com. “I am very proud that in 2011 it was named ‘Best Community Event’ by G Philly due to its fun nature and broad community participation.”

Tickets for the PINK Pub Crawl are $25 for those wearing one prominent pink clothing item (shirt, pants, jacket, or even a boa). And for those not in pink, tickets are $30 each (seriously, folks, nothing pink?). Each ticket gets you one free drink at each of the first three stops, plus free admission to Woody’s through a private entrance to the dance floor, and free admission to Voyeur Nightclub through the morning.

And if you can’t make it to Tavern, just join the crawl at Woody’s to get your ticket. A few local businesses, like 12th Street Gym, will provide the first 100 crawlers with a free one-week membership. And one lucky participant will even win a complimentary three-month membership, as well as a free dinner for two to a popular Gayborhood restaurant.

“We’ve partnered with great sponsors and venues,” says Yelk, “to provide a tremendous value for what is shaping up to be an unforgettable evening.”

A Taste of Philadelphia

“We’ve really outdone ourselves,” says Rich Rubin, producing artistic director of Quince Productions. Rubin is getting ready for the third annual “A Taste of Philadelphia” (March 18th) to benefit GayFest, Quince’s popular LGBT theatre festival every August.

For just $25, tasters will have the opportunity to sample flavors from around the world in one locations at the Artists’ House Gallery in Old City. Rubin says this year’s participating restaurants – Garces Trading Company, Tria, Kanella, Opa, Fish, Leliz Turkish Cuisine, Tokio Global, Bierstude, Marabella Meatball Co. and Cake & the Beanstalk – will be touting new dishes and plating up old favorites.

The event also features a grand raffle with prizes that include gift cards to Twenty Manning, Audrey Claire, Tabu and Cafe Twelve, as well as a gift basket from Starbucks and a collection of cookbooks paired with ingredients like vanilla beans from Tahiti, nutmeg from Grenada and rum from Martinique.
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Inside Jamonera

Inside Jamonera (all photos courtesy of Jamonera)

Life and business partners Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran have added yet another eatery to their restaurant empire on 13th Street. In addition to the already popular Barbuzzo (which won a reader’s choice honor from Philadelphia magazine thanks to its creative take on Mediterranean-inspired cuisine) and Lolita, a modern Mexican BYOT (the “T” stands for tequila) – not to mention their shops and gourmet grocery on the block – the women also welcome Jamonera to the mix in the space formerly occupied by Bindi, their Indian fusion eatery that has since closed.

Papa Fritas

The new restaurant and wine bar takes a page from tapas culture of Spain with small plates that combine popular Spanish flavors with traditional ingredients in a new way. The women traveled to the Iberian Peninsula to taste test the local flavors themselves as is common when they open any of their restaurants (Barbuzzo was inspired by the couple’s trip to Italy).

The decor is inspired, in part, by the opera "Carmen"

The renovations of the former Bindi may be the most pronounced change to the 13th Street space this season. With the help of Tim Shaaban of Urban Space, the restaurant has been transformed into a Spanish-style eatery and wine bar with a 20-foot copper-topped bar, hand-carved chandeliers and artwork inspired by Georges Bizet’s opera “Carmen.”

As for the menu, look for nods to Moorish culture and Spanish flavors featuring everything from olives and pig’s tail to guindilla peppers and, of course, jamon. The prices for dishes range from a few dollars for the small plates up to $20 for larger, shared plates.

The drink menu has also been carefully selected, with not only a selection of Spanish wines, but also ciders, beers and specialty cocktails like the La Granada (with Sailor Jerry spiced rum, pomegranate, cardamom, citrus and mint) and the Bizet (with Tito’s Handmade Vodka, passion fruit, clementine and fresh thyme). The restaurant also offers its own take on sangria with brandy, tree fruits and orange, as well as desserts, like bunuelos (warm donuts with espresso dulce de leche, spiced chocolate and sea salt) and Crema Catalana, a citrus custard with grapefruit gelee, citrus, candied pistachios and lemon.

Jamonera, 105 S. 13th Street, 215-922-6061.

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