Is The Main Line A New Restaurant Boom-Town?
Or boom-neighborhood, I guess. Or boom-region?
Over on the Insider, they’re reporting that yet another “Center City operation” is looking at branching out into the ‘burbs. Following in the footsteps of Michael Solomonov and Steve Cook (who opened Citron & Rose in Bala-Cynwyd last year) and Michael Schulson and Rob Wasserman (who brought The St. James to Ardmore), it looks like Nick Pashalis (of Estia and Pietro’s Coal-Oven Pizzeria) has his eye on a former Buca di Beppo on Lancaster Avenue in Wynnewood.
The project is a long way off (and will, eventually, become two projects, with the massive space being divided up between another Pietro’s and a casual version of Pashalis’s Estia), but what’s important here is that this now makes three large operators who’ve taken a look at the situation in Center City, then taken a look at the long-neglected scene out on the Main Line, and decided that maybe it was time to make the big jump. And the reason I find this mini-trend so interesting? Because it’s something we were talking about more than a year ago, when Philly mag’s Neighborhoods issue hit the stands.
In addition to naming all the hot blocks in and around the city, we chose three neighborhoods that we thought might be where the next restaurant boom would take place, then detailed what would be required to make them cool. The Main Line was one of the three we picked (along with the Poplar and Graduate Hospital neighborhoods), and here’s a bit of what we had to say at the time:
What does it need? Everything. It needs a couple of stupidly huge and opulent build-outs from Big Name chefs willing to suffer the too-high leasing rates in order to cram overpriced “signature dishes” into the maws of the locals. It needs pioneering independent owners to look away from the main drags for spaces to house their genius 50-seat BYOs, and dumb-but-moneyed investors to bankroll their friends’ Thai-Caribbean-fusion bistros, which will close fast and make room for smart, hardworking journeymen chefs who can come in and colonize those finished spaces. It needs Asian food that doesn’t come in a takeout box, burgers that don’t come from a drive-thru, some awesome pizza, a risk-junkie to bring foams and liquid nitrogen to the neighborhood (just so the residents have something to bitch about), and, finally, a real success story, to convince the skittish they can survive in one of the most challenging restaurant environments in the state.
You can check out the whole piece on the potential for a Main Line restaurant boom here. But the question is no longer who’s going to be the first big name restaurateur to try to crack the Main Line. The question now is who’s going to be next.
Philadelphia’s Best Restaurant Neighborhoods [Phillymag]