Hankering for a Hofbräu lager and some schnitzel? Don’t have time to travel to the Middle East for genuine hummus? Need a shot, or 80, of whiskey to wash it all down?
Look no farther than Fishtown, where all of the above is available, thanks to the restaurant boom that has swept the 19125 zip code.
Amid the fanfare recently about Philly’s underappreciated restaurant scene, Fishtown has become a reckoning force in the field.
Soon to join the ever-expanding local restaurant scene are several more unique eateries, including a tiki bar, a Vietnamese pho-focused restaurant, a combined butcher shop and restaurant, a cupcake BYOB and a combined café and distillery. With so many new bars, cafes, and restaurants coming to Fishtown in the upcoming months, you’ll be hard-pressed to find yourself hungry in the River Wards.
Local restaurant partners Tommy Up and Sarah Brown, who were behind Northern Liberties burger joint P.Y.T. and rum bar Emmanuelle, will open shop in Fishtown in the coming months.
Their latest venture, The Yachtsman, will be located at 1444 Frankford Ave. and will pay homage to the 1950s style tiki bars.
With two successful restaurants and P.Y.T. set to expand into franchises, why travel to Fishtown?
“We’re creatures of where we live and work,” Up said. “We want to be part of the community.”
Up grew up in Fishtown and Brown currently lives there.
So, what should visitors expect at the latest collaboration?
“We’re definitely tipping our hats to the original tiki bars that people coming back from World War II would go to get that Polynesian feel in the U.S.,” Brown said.
The duo traveled in and out of the country two years ago, scouring still-standing authentic tiki bars for inspiration.
“While there will be touchstones [of the original tiki bars], this is our take on an authentic tiki bar,” Up said. “It’s a project from our hearts.”
The tiki bar will feature a nautical décor theme, complete with a second-hand Queen Elizabeth ship diorama that emits smoke. There will also be an extensive drink menu crafted by Phebe Esmon and Christian Gaal, the mixtologists behind Emmanuel, with traditional tiki-style drinks, including scorpion bowls, a mixture of rum, vodka, and fruit that is served on fire.
The Yachtsman will also serve a small selection of food and a pig roast for Sunday brunch.
Other notable features of Fishtown’s first tiki bar include a lei for every patron and the Fishtown Yacht Club, an upscale members-only bathroom.
The Yachtsman will have seating for approximately 45 and will be open seven days a week from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. The grand opening is scheduled for Tuesday, April 15.
Fishtown residents and husband and wife Tyler Akin and Nicole Reigle are planning to open their first restaurant, Stock, a Vietnamese spot with an emphasis on pho and vegetarian friendly options, this April at 308 E. Girard Ave.
“The pho will be made with mushroom broth, our take on vegan pho, and we’ll offer a couple of different salads every day and small appetizers, including whole fish,” Akin said.
Although the menu will abound in vegetarian choices, the name itself, according to Akin, is a reference to the base ingredient of pho: beef stock.
Fishtown’s first pho-based eatery will also be BYOB. Although the spot is small, with inside seating for 20, Stock has already been approved by the city for outdoor seating in the backyard. According to Akin, this would add approximately 10 more seats, but wouldn’t be set up until next summer.
Initially, Stock will be open from Thursday to Monday from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. for dinner and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays for brunch.
“We’re definitely interested in adding everyday lunch service and a sixth day of operation,” Akin said.
With other food friendly neighborhoods in Philadelphia, similar to the owners of The Yachtsman, the Stock restaurateurs want to be involved in their community.
“We moved here [Fishtown] about two years ago and really want to stay for the long haul and hopefully this lets us do that,” Akin said.
“There is so much change going on in the area and we hope to be a small part of that.”
Akin expects a mid to late April opening, pending inspections. There’s no website yet, but photo updates are being posted to Stock’s Instagram account @Stockphilly.
Michael and Jeniphur Pasquarello, the husband and wife duo behind Bufad, Cafe Lift, and Prohibition Taproom 13th, are partnering with veteran butcher Bryan Mayer to bring Fishtown a butcher shop-restaurant combination, Kensington Quarters, at 1310-12 Frankford Ave.
With much success on 13th Street, Fishtown still holds a special place in their heart.
“Jeniphur and I bought a house on Day Street [in Fishtown] about 8 or 9 years ago and lived there for quite some time,” Michael Pasquarello said. “We’ve always really loved Fishtown. I just felt really comfortable opening a business there. The people are so open-minded and into trying new things that I think the concept we are coming with is exciting for the community.”
After contacting Mayer to learn more about whole animal butchery for his latest restaurant, Pasquarello and Mayer decided it made sense to combine the butcher shop and restaurant.
While a butcher shop and butcher-centric restaurant may be a new idea in Fishtown, the tradition of butchery dates back centuries and Pasquarello, Mayer and executive chef Damon Menapace all plan to pay homage to that tradition.
“We’re cooking with solid fuels much like they would have cooked back in that time period,” Pasquarello said. “We’re using a wood-burning oven and a wood–fired grill. We’re trying to use those old world pieces of equipment to cook this old-world food.”
Kensington Quarters will also serve food that is locally sourced. You won’t find strawberries at the restaurant in November, Pasquarello said.
Mayer said that with local food, “what you get is a much fresher and, in my opinion, a better tasting product.”
While the menu is still being developed, it will be seasonal and farm-inspired.
In keeping with the idea of whole-animal butchery and sustainability, the restaurant will feature meats from the butcher shop.
The restaurant will seat about 100 to 120 people inside, with 40 additional seats in the backyard. An upstairs loft will serve as a classroom space, where Mayer and other culinary experts will showcase their skills.
“We want it to be a space where we can cover anything in the culinary world,” Mayer said. “There will be butcher classes, but it’s not limited to that. We’ve got ideas for pasta classes and fermenting classes and coffee classes.”
The space, equipped with two large communal dining tables, will also be used to create a more intimate dining experience, where Menapace will come out and serve visitors.
So, when can restaurant goers and meat-eaters plan to stop at Kensington Quarters?
According to Pasquarello, the team is anticipating a late spring opening, sometime in the months of May or June.
The butcher shop is scheduled to be open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. The restaurant will also be open seven days a week from 4 p.m. to midnight.
A month after opening, the restaurant will add brunch hours on the weekends. The long-term goal is to add lunch hours.
Classes will be added approximately a month after the grand opening.
For the latest updates on Kensington Quarters, check out Mayer’s Twitter @Brybass01 or one of the following Instagram accounts: @Kensington Quarters, @Brybass01 or @13thstreetkitchens.
Cake Life Bake Shop
Cake Life Bake Shop, currently located in Frankford, will bring its Food Network Cupcake Wars-winning cupcakes and pastries to 1306 Frankford Ave. in Fishtown this summer.
While there are already a couple of other bakeries and cake shops in and around Fishtown, Cake Life Bake Shop owners Lily Fischer and Nima Etemadi promise a unique bakery experience.
“It’s going to be something of a bakery and a café,” Fischer said. “Dessert and booze are two peas in a pod. We are in the process of becoming a BYOB.”
Fischer and Etemadi envision the BYOB bakery as an interesting addition to Fishtown, offering people a place to enjoy dessert and an after-dinner beverage .
While Fischer and Etemadi staked their claim to fame winning Episode 2 of Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, the duo plan to broaden their bakery horizon beyond cupcakes.
“We are planning an extensive pastry program with scones, tarts, croissants, cookies, pies, and even breakfast sandwiches,” Etemadi said.
Days and hours of operation are still being decided, but both agreed that the bakery would be open late on First Fridays.
“We identify as being artists even though we are using butter and sugar,” Fischer said.
Fischer and Etemadi are gearing up to open sometime this summer, but the date hinges on when renovations will be completed.
With a location already open in Frankford, why move the bakery to Fishtown?
Aside from the larger space, Fischer and Etemadi wanted to be a part of the changing neighborhood.
“Nima lives in Fishtown and there is just so much happening,” Fischer said.
Etemadi added: “We are excited to be part of Fishtown and the community that has so much spirit and a history of craftsmanship.”
For more information, visit cakelifebakeshop.com.
Fishtown will also be home to another coffee shop, but with an onsite rum distillery.
Philadelphia-based coffee roaster La Colombe will open its latest cafe at 1335 Frankford Ave. in spring 2014, according to The Inquirer’s Michael Klein.
There will be an on-site bakery and the majority of the distilling will be completed at the Port Richmond location.
La Colombe’s website, lacolombe.com/cafes, lists the Fishtown location as “coming soon.”
Fans of Stephen Starr will have to settle for Fette Sau or Frankford Hall if they’re looking for one of his restaurants in Fishtown.
Rebecca Dublin, a spokeswoman for Starr, confirmed via email that the 1526-30 Frankford Ave. restaurant collaboration between Starr and Aimee Olexy, partner with Starr of Talula’s Garden and Talula’s Daily on Washington Square, “is not going to happen.” ••