The Smartest People in Philadelphia

Meet the brains behind the brightest ideas in Philly right now.

The Smartest People in Philadelphia

Food & Booze

Martin Brown, Jeffrey Ziga & Pete Angevine

The Ice-Cream Renegades 
How do you make something as beloved and familiar as ice cream seem … different? Start with what co-owner Ziga calls “a strange brew of self-determination and ice cream”; dream up new flavors for your small-batch offerings (birch beer and vanilla bean!); drive an ice-cream bike instead of a truck; open a Fishtown store with an aesthetic inspired by “neo-realism and Pee-wee’s playhouse”; make some weird commercials that go viral; and be sure the ice cream tastes really, really good. It’s working for Little Baby’s. As is the pizza ice cream, believe it or not.

Audrey Taichman

The Culinary Powerhouse
Taichman, 43, harnesses Philly’s star-chef power for forces of good: Her annual benefit Feastival features food from half the chefs in town and raises boatloads of cash for the arts, while her new school, Cook, headlines those same chefs on a nightly basis to teach us non-food-stars. See? Good. Very good.


The Barroom Progressive
By now, most people know Lêe’s Hop Sing Laundromat, and how he cultivated both an inspired drink menu (are those dried roses in your cocktail?) and an air of mystery that’s rare in the Philly drinking scene. But not everyone knows Lêe the inventor, the fella who imagined better ways to do just about everything, including …

  • The Liquors Ladder: Lêe had a library-style wheeled ladder custom-built to reach the ceiling-high shelves. Note the wraparound cage to keep bartenders from falling, and—more importantly—the handy bottle chute to prevent droppage.
  • The Cocktail Cart: Carts—complete with custom ice carvers, wells and garnish trays—allow servers to make drinks tableside, keeping bar traffic down. “It took us five versions before we settled on the final model,” Lêe admits. “It set us back a month.”
  • The Bartender’s Bar: Lêe designed custom wells to hold his vast selection of spirits, and cutting boards that fold beneath the bar when not in use. “I wanted our barte­nders to minimize their movement and not turn their backs to our guests. I built everything with this in mind.”

Yael Lehmann

The Veggie Activist
When Lehmann, director of prolific nonprofit the Food Trust, launched the first Pop-Up Night Market—a sort of block-party-meets-farm-market—on East Passyunk to showcase “accessible” local fare, “We ran out of food halfway through—we didn’t know people would come.” Eight magical markets later, people are begging Lehmann to pop up in their ’hoods.

Michael Solomonov

The Iconoclast Chef
Solomonov, 34, made an Israeli place that serves duck hearts a national draw, brought Texas barbecue to South Street, turned Korean fried chicken and doughnuts (“world-class doughnuts,” insists the New York Times) into a fun duo of foodie worship, and just opened Merion’s Citron and Rose, destined to be Philly’s only glatt kosher hot spot. We can’t even guess what’s next. Which is how we like it.

>> Click here to see the Smartest People in Philadelphia: Medicine