These rooms are very necessary

Posted on 04 April 2011 by Mike Lyons

Writer Ann L. Rappoport has discovered and written about a well-kept secret in West Philly: The bathrooms at The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College (4207 Walnut St.). They are pretty magnificent.

Rappoport writes in today’s Phialdelphia Inquirer:

Entering it through the bar in the school’s international restaurant, I was greeted by hundreds of antique perfume bottles. Vintage ladies’ hats and beaded bags commanded notice, posed on vintage hat racks suspended from the walls and ceiling, which also host over-the-top sconces and chandeliers. Lace and feathered boas drape the stalls, recalling at least the French Quarter of the Big Easy, if not Paris itself. Somebody had a blast putting this together.

College president Danny Liberatoscioli had the initial idea to make awesome bathrooms to compliment the school’s restaurants.

“We’ve got this thing for restrooms here,” he told Rappoport.

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Mill Creek doc highlights urban farming in West Philly

Posted on 21 February 2011 by Mike Lyons

farmLast week’s warm weather got us pining for spring. So even though the spring-like weather has passed for now we wanted to get something onto the site that reminded us that spring isn’t too far away. Filmmaker Clay Hereth has just what the doctor ordered.

Hereth spent parts of the 2010 growing season filming work at the Mill Creek Farm (49th and Brown Streets). The documentary he produced, West Philly Grown, debuted at the farm’s fundraiser in December. The farm produces, sells and donates thousands of pounds of produce per year and is an important neighborhood asset. An ongoing issue with the farm is getting the land it occupies into a permanent trust.

Organizers are petitioning the city, which owns the vacant lot where the farm and a community garden were started, to place the land into the Neighborhood Gardens Association land trust. That would ensure the land remains a farm and community garden in the future.

Here is part 1 of Clay’s film (we will put part 2 up tomorrow):

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A couple of February events

Posted on 31 January 2011 by Mike Lyons

Here are two fun West Philly things to keep an eye out for in a couple of weeks.

First, Mariposa Food Co-op will hold a giant craft fair and flea market in the new building at 4824 Baltimore Ave. on February 12 and 13. The building isn’t officially open yet, but this will give folks an opportunity to get a sneak preview ahead of the fall 2011 official opening. This shindig will feature jewelry, baked goods, handcrafted items, clothes, books and much more. See the flyer below.

On February 21 Manakeesh, the new Lebanese cafe and bakery at 45th and Walnut, plans to celebrate its official grand opening with a party that will include free giveaways and all sorts of goodies. The party will run during regular business hours.

Mariposa Craft Fair flyer

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Mabrouk! Manakeesh opens at 45th and Walnut in West Philly

Posted on 20 January 2011 by Mike Lyons

Should we start calling the pocket in West Philly around 45th and Walnut “Little Beirut” or maybe “New Lebanon”? The corner is anchored by the Association of Islamic Charity Projects mosque on the northeast corner, Saad’s Halal Restaurant on the southwest corner and now Manakeesh, a Lebanese bakery and cafe, in the old bank building on the southeast corner.

manakeesh insideAfter much anticipation, Manakeesh, named after its most popular dish, opened this week with a dazzling interior and vast assortment of Lebanese fare. The menu is built on the manakeesh, a Lebanese flatbread sandwich that is made to order in front of you. The standard manakeesh features zaatar, a mixture of thyme and olive oil spread on the bread before it is baked. Other traditional favorites are the cheese manakeesh, which includes an assortment of vegetables, and the lahm bajeen – minced lamb.

These are just three of the nearly 20 different kinds of manakeesh made to order. Some have a distinctly American twist, like manakeesh with pastrami or sausage, egg and cheese. But as vital as the manakeesh is to the menu, this place has a lot more to offer, including several kinds of baklava, cakes, salads and coffee. Oh the coffee. Perhaps the most prominent feature behind the counter at Manakeesh, besides the exceedingly friendly staff and the brick oven shipped over from Lebanon, is the Mac Daddy of espresso machines – the Excelsior. It’s orange and chrome and looks like something that might have come out of a Detroit auto factory in the 1950s.

Yunis Ali works the Excelsior.

The general manager of Manakeesh, Abd Ghazzawi, essentially grew up in the neighborhood. He attended the mosque school across the street from Manakeesh and has invited some of his old friends to work at the cafe. The result is an inviting atmosphere with a lot of chatter. That, he said, is the point. Ghazzawi hopes that Manakeesh becomes more than a cafe and bakery, but a “community centerpiece.” You can hear much more on his thoughts about the neighborhood around Manakeesh and the cafe itself in the interview below.

So stop by and give Abd and the others a hearty mabrouk (congratulations in Arabic). It’s been a long wait, but it was worth it. Here is the full menu.

Interview with Abd Ghazzawi:

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Mariposa relocation update

Posted on 20 December 2010 by Mike Lyons

Mariposa Food Co-op is on target to move into its new building at 4824 Baltimore Ave by July 2011. Members got a sneak peak inside the new building during the general membership meeting on Sunday.

Originally built as a bank, the new space will increase Mariposa’s space five-fold and include community classrooms, offices and more storage. The bulk of the renovation will be to the main selling space and will begin in early spring. The entire project cost $2 million, including the purchase of the former bank building, and although the co-op has raised most of the money through loans and grants – about $1.5 million – it is still seeking investors for the remaining costs, said project manager Bull Gervasi. A number of fundraisers are being planned to help offset costs.

Members have already done some light renovation and have found some interesting design features in the 90-year-old building, including the solid marble entrance to the former vault and glazed brick in the basement, which used to serve as a fallout shelter.

The Mariposa membership has decided to offer a new shopping scheme along with the new location. The added space will make it feasible for non-members to shop as well, though members will still be the lifeblood of the organization.

An interview with Bull Gervasi and a quick tour of the main space:


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Shout out to Honest Tom

Posted on 07 December 2010 by Mike Lyons

Tom McCusker makes some damn fine tacos and now Channel 10 knows it too. Oooo, and he wants to make and bottle his own hot sauce. Bring it on Honest Tom.

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