October 31, 2017
Not dwelling on the past is one of the prime benefits of Philadelphia’s thriving dining scene.
But even with incredible eating options debuting on a weekly basis, it’s worth taking a moment to pay homage to the restaurants that made it all possible.
From 19th century hot dog houses to the chrome-clad diners and tiki huts of days gone by, here are 10 of the city’s most memorable shutters.
Center City is still mourning the passing of this 24-hour Greek go-to that
graced the corner of 17th and Chancellor streets for nearly 40 years. Until
last May, no late night in Rittenhouse Square was complete without a trip to this
cash only, after-hours spot for a hangover fighting something or other from
the well-worn griddle.
Before the Four Seasons transitioned into the sleek, new Logan Hotel, the ground
floor of the hotel was home to The Fountain. This breakfast, lunch and
dinner dining room with views of the Swann Fountain was elegant up until
the end, hosting lavish breakfasts and brunches, power lunches and dinners
that often ended with a visit from the cheese trolley.
Even though nation’s first automat restaurant made its debut in
Philadelphia way back in 1902, 115 years later, the concept still feels
like something straight out of the Star Trek commissary. This chain of
vending machines-meets-restaurant featured walls of serve yourself windows
where customers would insert coins and help themselves to a la carte plates
of veal stew, Harvard beets, double decker ham and cheese sandwiches and
chilled slices of melon for dessert. Check out this slice of life story from the World War II era, compliments of Curbed Philly.
You’d never know from the retractable roof and wood-fired menu of
Revolution House, but for 60-plus years, this Second and Market corner was
home to a stuck-in-time, chrome and vinyl diner. While no bells ever rang
for the luncheonette’s griddled cheeseburgers or hand-scooped milkshakes, this
little slice of Americana in Old City enjoyed a glorious run from 1950
Retro restaurant enthusiasts might be familiar with The Pub, a salad bar
and steak palace just over the river, but the Pub’s footprint was once much
greater. The Pub had four satellite locations around town – two in Center
City, one in North Philly and the Pennsauken outpost that’s still kickin’
today. But the jewel in the restaurant group’s crown was Pub Tiki, a
Polynesian-themed, date night spot on the 1700 block of Walnut Street.
Along with an array of punch-packing tropical drinks, Pub Tiki boasted a
cheeky menu full of gems like sweet ’n’ pungent pork Tahiti and barbecue
ribs Leilani, all accompanied by fried rice, bread and butter, a noodle
nest and fried wontons with complete with a mysterious dunking sauce.
Before Stephen Starr oversaw a national empire of more than 35 restaurants,
he helmed one of Walnut Street’s swankier turn-of-the-century destinations.
From 1994 until 2008, The Striped Bass graced the expense account set with
a seafood-centric menu, heavy on the truffles and Champagne. For those
interested in a peak at early aughts dining, the restaurant’s
website lives in perpetuity.
Jose Garces might have had historical preservation in mind when he took
over the Bookbinder’s building between Front and Second on Walnut Street, but even
with snapper soup on the menu, there’s no way that this newish iteration
could hold a candle to the Old Original Bookbinder’s. The restaurant’s 2002
closure took with it the title for world’s largest indoor lobster tank and a retro
menu full of gems like deviled crabs, herring in sour cream and oysters
The story of Philadelphia’s finest French restaurant unraveled into
something of a Greek tragedy during its final days. From international
a particularly damning review from Craig Laban, not even a change in ownership in 2012 could save the grand dame of
Philadelphia dining. The famed space at 1532 Walnut St. was briefly
transformed into the ambitious but poorly received Avance before ending its
run as a restaurant and morphing into fast fashion optical retailer Warby
When Steve Poses opened his first restaurant, Frog, on North 20th Street back in 1973, it was an
absolute game changer, forever shifting the trajectory of Philadelphia
dining. Bringing together international flavors in a time before the term "fusion" had any culinary connotations, Frog and its casual counterpart, The
Commissary, were expanding palates throughout the region with international
flavors. These days, Poses runs a catering company and onsite eateries at
The Franklin Institute, but his biggest contribution to the city has to be
legendary carrot cake.
For nearly 100 years, this family-owned classic on 6th between South and Lombard streets served up an only-in-Philly menu of hot dogs, fishcakes and Champ Cherry soda before closing its doors in 1990. These days, the legend lived on in Abington, until just a few days ago. Those in the market for a Philly Surf ’n’ Turf, i.e. a jumbo dog and mashed potato heavy fishcakes served on an Italian roll could get their fix on Old York Road, and those who had the pleasure of visiting the Queen Village location know that there’s nothing like the OG.