Food & Drink

“It chose me”: Vinny and Gangster Vegan Organics to move into old Cafe Renata location

Posted on 05 November 2015


Vinny Vegan aka Gangster Vegan.

In the early spring, a neighborhood café, Café Renata caught fire and was forced to relocate from the corner of 43rd and Locust. The space remained vacant for some months, but Vincent DePaul (Vinny Vegan aka Gangster Vegan, or Vinny Blanco to his childhood friends) of Gangster Vegan Organics has plans on changing that.

“I didn’t choose the location, it chose me. God sent me over there,” he said.

He named the business Gangster Vegan Organics because those were all terms that defined him. “Growing up, I was obsessed with that lifestyle. I wanted to redefine gangster, helping people reverse diseases like diabetes. That’s gangster. For me, gangster used to be going out to the club every night, spending money. But that’s not gangster.”


Photo from Gangster Vegan Organics Facebook page.

Currently DePaul has one Gangster Vegan Organics location in Norristown, which offers gluten-free, vegan and organic grab ‘n go food options. After considering plans to expand and scouting some potential locations for another store in Phoenixville and West Chester, he decided to go back to a familiar block in West Philadelphia. “I burst into tears when I first came around the building, you know exactly when it’s meant to be… I lived in West Philly when I was 19; I worked at Koch’s Deli for a year.”

He recounted his life events that led up to opening his first location in Norristown, right before he moved back from Los Angeles after becoming 12 years removed from his hometown. When the economy hit, his nine year old t-shirt business went bankrupt and he became homeless. He recalled a moment when he was hungry and had “hit rock bottom” and was given a cup of fresh pressed organic juice, which inspired him to go vegan and lead a healthier lifestyle.

According to DePaul, the new Gangster Vegan Organics will be opening in March. DePaul is interested in hiring a full staff (10-25 employees) for the location, preferably local to the neighborhood and with an interest or knowledge about the organic vegan lifestyle. The West Philly location will be a full-service restaurant with cooked and raw organic gluten-free offerings, seating up to 100 people.

Rana Fayez

Check out this video of Vinny making watermelon juice:

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Chili Szechuan closes Baltimore Avenue location

Posted on 22 October 2015


Chili Szechuan closed its Baltimore Avenue location after a little more than 2.5 years of operation. (Archived photo/West Philly Local)

We received some requests from readers asking what’s happening with Chili Szechuan’s Baltimore Avenue location as it seems to have closed. As you may know, the popular Chinese eatery opened a new location on the 4200 block of Chestnut Street in the summer, and the owner, Kangzhi Ma, said she might close the Baltimore Ave. location, which opened in early 2013, at the end of the year. So we can confirm that Chili Szechuan at 4626 Baltimore Avenue has already closed, so that the owners can focus solely on the Chestnut Street location. As as one of Chili Szechuan workers we spoke to back in May said, “it is a bigger place and close to campuses.”

So it will be interesting to see what business will occupy the now empty storefront at 4626 Baltimore Avenue, a very lucrative piece of commercial property.

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New owners for Gold Standard Cafe, Amari’s opens on Baltimore Ave and more restaurant news

Posted on 08 October 2015

This is a follow up to some of our recent and not so recent restaurant news.

goldstandardcafe The new owners for Gold Standard Cafe, a popular establishment at 48th and Baltimore, have finally been revealed. In July, we reported that the business was up for sale when the old owners, veteran restaurateurs Roger Harman and Vince Whittacre, decided to retire. The new owners, Joseph Oh and Alice Park, previously operated a Japanese fusion restaurant in North Philly, but as they told the local weekly University City Review, their plan regarding The Gold Standard is to keep everything the same, with some minor tweaks to the menu. “They said they might put one Korean dinner on the menu at some point but otherwise keep the same general theme,” Harman told the Review regarding the new owners’ plans.  Continue Reading

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Renata’s Kitchen now open at 4533 Baltimore Avenue (updated)

Posted on 24 September 2015

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Renata’s Kitchen co-owner Kate Aiq at the grand opening on Wednesday.


UPDATE (11/16/2015): Starting Monday, Nov. 16, Renata’s Kitchen will be serving dinner every night from 4 – 10 p.m. Renata’s owners are also sending a reminder that their restaurant is a BYOB!

9/24/2015: Renata’s Kitchen (formerly Café Renata) opened its doors to the public at their new location at 4533 Baltimore Avenue last night. A sizable crowd turned up to celebrate the grand re-opening of the restaurant that suffered a devastating fire at their former location near 43rd and Locust last spring.

Starting this Friday, the restaurant, which serves Mediterranean and American-style breakfast, lunch and brunch, will be open daily: Mon-Fri 7 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sat & Sun 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Renata’s co-owner Kate Aiq said that they’re also planning to introduce a dinner menu in a couple of months after they settle in at the new location. Also, the restaurant is currently hiring, mostly line cooks. Resumes are accepted at:  Continue Reading

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Renata’s Kitchen grand opening this Wednesday (updated)

Posted on 23 September 2015


Renata’s Kitchen owners Kate and Yasser (right) Aiq at the Baltimore Avenue Dollar Stroll this summer.

Renata’s Kitchen (formerly Café Renata) owners Yasser and Kate Aiq are ready to open their new food-focused spot at 4533 Baltimore Avenue.

A fire heavily damaged Café Renata at 43rd and Locust last March, prompting the couple to find the new location. The grand opening party for Renata’s Kitchen is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 23, 6 – 9 p.m. Everyone is invited.

We asked Kate what customers should expect to see at the new location and what is the same and what is different about Renata’s Kitchen compared to Café Renata, a Mediterranean café and breakfast and brunch restaurant.

“The main difference this time around is that we are taking the opportunity to share more of our culinary expertise than we could previously at Cafe Renata. With our focus on food, we’re hoping to launch a dinner menu soon,” Kate wrote in an email.

We’ll let you know about Renata’s Kitchen hours and more details as soon as this information becomes available.

UPDATE: Renata’s Kitchen is hiring line cooks. Please call the restaurant at 267-275-8254.

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How about those Stroll lines?

Posted on 18 September 2015

Dollar Strolls always bring huge crowds to Baltimore Avenue looking for $1 specials from neighborhood restaurants and other businesses, but last night was something absolutely crazy. Reader Marshall Ledger sent us this panoramic photo with the following commentary:

“Two lines to Desi [Village] (its tables of samosas, pakoras, and mango lassi on the left): one stretching to and past Melville, the other up toward 46th Street, past Renata’s Kitchen (tables of croissants, chocolate cookies, and sodas on the right).”


Also check out photos by Bob Lannon: Continue Reading

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