Eating Crickets, River Snails and Fertilized Eggs in West Philly

Photography by SQ Productions

Photography by SQ Productions

Back in 2002, before it strutted the Vientiane name, the Phanthavong family’s Laotian operation out of West Philly functioned more like an outdoor speakeasy than a cafe. It was known as the “Blue Tent” among locals — a tarp-covered wooden structure which served as an unofficial meeting place for the neighborhood’s blooming Southeast Asian community. The family-run setup was helmed by Phoxay Sidara and Daovy Phanthavong — Laotian refugees — and their two daughters Manorack and Sunny. Hordes of families, friends and neighbors would line up outside the Phanthavong household for a taste of Daovy’s cooking and a seat under the tent where they could spend the night drinking and gambling (before dinner, Sunny proudly mentioned, “Laotians know how to party.”). But, remember, this was an “underground” business with no licenses and permits, and those can only last so long. One night, L&I knocked on the Phanthavong’s front door — they were being raided. The Blue Tent was done.

A year later, the family opened their cafe at 4728 Baltimore Avenue. And that’s how Vientiane Café got its start as the city’s premier Laotian restaurant.

Now they’re serving bugs.

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Interview: West Philly Writer/Musician Alex Smith

Oscar at rest.

Oscar at rest.

West Philly’s Alex Smith is a man of many talents. I first encountered him at City Paper where I edited and assigned his pieces on arts and music. Then I realized he was everywhere: writing fiction (alone and with his collective of likeminded visionaries in Metropolarity), making comics, playing music (in Solarized) and more. When I finally read his NSFW sci-fi adventure comic Believers — and heard Metropolarity was up for an award — it seemed like a good excuse to get inside his head.

Believers is a fast-paced and funny action comic. Do you dream of continuing the adventures of Oscar?

Thanks, I like to keep storytelling light but the stakes relatively high. I would love to continue Oscar’s adventures, however my collaborator Jacob Mazer who runs Animal Kingdom is a pretty busy person! It would mostly depend on him because I could not imagine anyone else at this time drawing Oscar, although you never know. Oscar is one of my favorite characters I’ve created because there’s such a vast amount of weird stuff I can pull from in my own life to project onto the page, as well as so many rich possibilities with pulling him into a universe of kooky demigods and space aliens he knows nothing about.

Believers isn’t like most comics — starting with its gay Black stoner main character. Do you see comics culture in general becoming more accepting of new voices and perspectives? Read more »

Arrest Made in West Philly Homicide

Malcolm Williams | Philadelphia Police

Malcolm Williams | Philadelphia Police

Police say they’ve made an arrest in a West Philly homicide that occurred right before the New Year.

Malcolm William, 39, surrendered to police on Wednesday and charged with murder, violations of the Uniform Firearms Act, and related offenses. Investigators say he has a long history of run-ins with the law for drug and gun offenses.  Read more »

Glam It Up: Makeover of 40th Street Trolley Portal to Start in 2016

Rendering by Andropogon Associates via University City District website

Rendering by Andropogon Associates via University City District website

In case you missed it, the University City District has published its latest State of University City report, an annually-released compendium of the developments bubbling up in University City. The guide spotlights several sectors in U.C., among them academic, commercial, and residential, as well as the impact UCD itself has on this section of the city.

With relation to the latter, the release of the report came with the announcement that the 40th Street Trolley Portal transformation would be seeing its groundbreaking take place next year.

We previously reported the makeover project, spearheaded by UCD in partnership with SEPTA, the city, and neighborhood leaders, came with the aim of turning the bleak station into a lively social space with greenery and stormwater infrastructure, movable furniture, and arts and cultural programming.

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Spotted in West Philly: Chunk of Haverford Avenue Hits the Market

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4041-4051 Haverford Avenue | TREND image via New Age Realty Group

There’s an interesting clutch of apartments up for grabs not too far from the planned “Platinum Corridor” at 41st and Market.

4041-4051 Haverford Avenue has just hit the market for the price of $1.275 million. Currently, it’s a 12-unit apartment complex consisting of three quadplexes (10 of which are leased), but the listing from New Age Realty Group thinks the world is your oyster in terms of development possibilities for the site that inhabits a half-block of real estate in West Philly: “New homes? New condos? New apartments? Your call!”

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50-Year-Old Father of Three Killed In West Philly Home Invasion

On Monday night at 11:12 p.m., the Philadelphia Police Department responded to a report of a shooting inside a house on the 1100 block of South Ruby Street in West Philadelphia. When they arrived at the home, police found 50-year-old Tony Harris shot in the head. He died at Presbyterian Hospital on Tuesday morning, and now police are searching for his killers. Read more »

Lancaster Avenue Night Market Is Tonight

LancasterNightMarket

Tonight is Night Market, folks. Returning once more to West Philly, the party will be descending on Lancaster Avenue for several hours of food trucks, beer and live music shared with tens of thousands of your closest friends. And while we have previously offered general advice for making the most out of your Night Market experiences, here’s some very specific intel on what’s going to be happening tonight.

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