Brownstone vs. Brownstone: Rittenhouse Edition

Google Street View of the lovely and desirable 2000 block of Spruce Street.

Google Street View of the lovely and desirable 2000 block of Spruce Street.

Here we have two single-family homes on the same block near Rittenhouse Square. They are, in fact, only about five houses apart from each other. They have roughly the same amount of square footage, and many similarities in style, both inside and out. But one is above $2 million and the other is not. That’s a significant dividing line.

Let’s take a look at slideshows of each.

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The Revisit: A.Kitchen know those people who go to new restaurants purely to order the same dish they order everywhere else? Because the “litmus test” of a good place is how well it makes a roasted chicken—or guacamole, or steak frites, or chocolate mousse, or whatever that person has arbitrarily determined to be the whole point of eating out?

It’s a dwindling species these days. Fewer and fewer chefs want to cook what the other guy’s cooking; straight-up comparisons are harder to find. And I’ve never counted myself part of that tribe anyway. Meals out are too ripe with potential adventure to waste them looking for litmus tests.

But there’s no need to be dogmatic about it, so today I’m going to nominate one anyway: stuffed squid.

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Stunning Parc Rittenhouse 3BR With Massive Terrace


Private terraces cantilevered from the high-rises surrounding Rittenhouse Square are basically de rigueur. They generally come attached to lavishly finished condos and afford you space enough for a few chairs and a side table on which to set your La Colombe and your Vanity Fair.

Then there is this terrace at Parc Rittenhouse. Its square footage — a staggering 1,500 — could easily be mistaken for an average home’s livable space. Indeed, it’s only a few hundred square feet smaller than the indoor space for this unit.

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Where We’re Eating: Vernick Food + Drink

Photo by Karrisa Olsen

Photo by Karrisa Olsen

I can remember, a long time ago, back when Greg Vernick was first opening his eponymous restaurant on Walnut Street and the early reviews were just coming in, talking with my food-nerd friends about the place—about how good it already was, and the weird feeling we all had that it somehow had the potential to get even better. Now, two years in, it seems to have arrived. The menu, with its oysters and small plates, simply roasted fish and chicken and brilliant toasts, is solid and welcoming and comforting while at the same time inventive enough to never be dull. The short cocktail program is well thought-out, and the service has mellowed and relaxed into a perfect upscale-neighborhood-restaurant model, with easy smiles all around. While there have been some complaints that the menu doesn’t change often enough, the benefit of this (relative) stability has been a crew brought up on consistency and attention to detail, which shows through on every single plate.

Vernick Food + Drink [Foobooz]

Where We’re Eating: Tria Taproom

The team behind Tria Cafe has opened a pizza-and-beer joint. That would be one way to describe Tria Taproom, but not a particularly apt one. The Taproom offers flatbreads, not pizzas. A co-worker wondered if the only difference was pretense, but from my point of view, the Tria team can call them whatever they want as long as they keep making them, whether topped with burrata, balsamic onions and lemon zest or gorgonzola, duck confit and foie gras mousse. The Taproom lives up to its name as well, with 24 beers on tap from a system that’s one part work of art and one part peek into the future. The tap handles are mounted on an illuminated marble backsplash. iPad-based menus describe the beers, which come from Norway, Nebraska and Downingtown. The iPads also illustrate just how much beer remains in the keg, so you’ll always know when one is getting down to the dregs. The wine program is also entirely on draft—a system that promises fresher-tasting wines and incidentally befuddles the city inspectors trying to enforce Philly’s mandatory recycling program: What do you mean there’s no waste? Since this is a Tria operation, cheese, the third fermentable, plays a part on the menu, with options ranging from Approachable to Racy—which is an altogether accurate description of what you get at Tria Taproom.

Tria Taproom [Foobooz]

First appeared in the April, 2014 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

L.A. Company Buys Walnut Street Home of Tiramisu

Rittenhouse Square BuildingPhiladelphia Business Journal’s Natalie Kostelni reports that Los Angeles real estate company Blatteis & Schnur has purchased a small building on Walnut Street just blocks from Rittenhouse Square for $6.2 million. The 8,500 square foot building is home to the restaurant Tiramisu, which was run by the building’s former owner, Albert Shah, and plans to move out within the next few months.

Kostelni reports that Blatteis & Schnur are, unsurprisingly, looking for a high-end retailer to fill the space, which sits between Govberg Jewelers and Barbour. High-end retailers have become increasingly interested in this posh stretch of Walnut, which according to the Center City District saw rents rise a whopping 33.8% last year.

Nearby, the Barney’s Co-Op may become a Barney’s New York, Nordstrom Rack is reportedly opening this fall, and demolition work has begun to make way for a glassy new Cheesecake Factory/Uniqlo building.

Photo: Google Street View

A Builder’s Personal Palace Becomes Apartments With Personality

Original wood flooring. Photo: Sandy Smith.

Original wood flooring. Photo: Sandy Smith.

One of the really cool things about adapting old structures to new uses is that a little of their original personality rubs off on their new function. For a prime example of this, we can turn to 2013 Spruce Street, an 1868 Second Empire townhome now in the home stretch of being converted to 12 rental apartments by property manager AMC Delancey Companies.

2013 Spruce is the largest of a row of mansard-roofed mansions built by Ebenezer Burgess Warren and sold to some of the most prosperous Philadelphians of his time. Warren built 2013 as his own residence, and he had some pretty impressive neighbors: shipbuilder Randolph Wood, broker Joseph Seaver, machinists’ tool maker Walter K. Ludwig and jeweler G.W. Banks of Bailey, Banks and Biddle fame.

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For Sale: Totally Redone Condo Across From Rittenhouse Square

Unit 7A, 220 W. Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia, PA.

Unit 7A, 220 Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia, PA.

Newly renovated and fully furnished, that’s how this Rittenhouse condo is coming at us. It’s almost unfair. Isn’t it enough that it’s in the same building as the the apartment with a Free Library branch on the ground floor?

The remodeling — all done professionally — includes everything from new tiles and backsplash in the kitchen to custom lighting and window treatments throughout.  Read more »

Rittenhouse Condo Above Free Library Branch Puts You In the Trees and in the Stacks


When most people think of the advantages of living directly on Rittenhouse Square, they probably think of proximity to chichi restaurants and lots of excellent shopping. Which is reasonable. But they really also ought to include the Philadelphia City Institute branch of the Free Library in their list of amenities on the Square. It is certainly among the choicest features for this one-bedroom condo lofted just above the branch.

The branch is named for the Philadelphia City Insitute, which actually first opened up at 18th and Chestnut in 1855. According to the Free Library, the branch has occupied the first and basement floors of the 220 building since 1957. Incidentally, that is the centennial anniversary of when the PCI founders (The Young Man’s Institute, of course) decided to let the ladies attend the fancy lectures. The Institute also hosted occasional concerts as well as night school. The branch is a gem not only for its David McShane mural (you might know him as the artist behind the Phillies mural project) but because it was designed by Institute member Erling H. Pedersen. He happens to be an architect who is also known to have worked on the Academy of Music, the Fairmount Water Works and the Valley Green Inn, among other city institutions.

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