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Food & Drink

Clarkville’s opening “very close” (updated)

December 2, 2015

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Clarkville in September 2015 (Photo West Philly Local).

(12/3/2015): Here’s the latest update:

(12/2/2015): The opening of Clarkville bar and restaurant at 43rd and Baltimore is getting closer. According to its owner Leigh Maida, who we spoke to in the fall, the tentative opening date was Dec. 1, but it hasn’t opened yet. Clarkville’s opening was postponed a couple of times before, with the latest reason for delay being problems with electricity in the building. Maida and her business partners Brendan Kelly and Brendan Hartranft are renting the two-story, former Best House Pizza space at 43rd and Baltimore. But here’s some encouraging news. According to their latest tweet, the restaurant’s opening is very close. The executive chef has also been revealed on the Clarkville website. It’s Justin Bennett, who has been in charge of Local 44’s menu for the past three years. Earlier this year, Clarkville owners said that it would be “a little less beer forward and a little more food forward” than Local 44. Stay tuned for more information. 

 

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Check local holiday specials, events, and gift ideas; buy local for the holidays!

November 30, 2015

shoplocallog-300x300Shopping local is a way to keep more of your dollars in your own community. Our 2015 local holiday shopping guide, “Buy Local for the Holidays,” is here. Check out this page for information on holiday specials and events and for some great local gift ideas from a variety of West Philly businesses – bookstores, jewelers, gift shops, art galleries, bars, cafes and restaurants, and more!

This Week’s Holiday Specials include:

Monday, Nov. 30: Cyber Monday? How about “Cider Monday” at Penn Book Center, 130 S. 34th Street. Enjoy hot cider and holiday treats as you spend a cozy Monday shopping locally. 25% off sale on select Random House titles kicks off today! The store is open until 6 p.m. Mon-Fri.

Thursday, Dec. 3 – Saturday, Dec. 5: Holiday Kick-Off at Hello World, 3610 Sansom Street – Featuring jewelry designed by West Philly jeweler Amy Neukrug. Thursday and Friday: 5-9 p.m.; Saturday: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 4: Opening reception for the University City Arts League Annual Holiday Craft Show, 6-8 p.m., 4226 Spruce Street. The show features hand-crafted one-of-a-kind gifts by 30 local artists.

• Saturday, Dec. 5: The Baltimore-Lancaster Avenue Shoppers’ Trolley (BLAST), 12-5 p.m. Featuring: great gifts and discounts galore from dozens of local businesses and free trolley shuttle service between Baltimore Avenue and Lancaster Avenue. The event is organized by the Baltimore Avenue Business Association (BABA) and People’s Emergency Center Community Development Corporation (PEC-CDC).

For more information about these and other local holiday events and specials, visit: www.westphillylocal.com/buy-local-for-the-holidays-2015

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

November 5, 2015

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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.”

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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

October 22, 2015

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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

October 8, 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)

September 24, 2015

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

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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: jobs.caferenata@gmail.com  Continue Reading

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