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September 23, 2022

Musi, the tiny Pennsport BYOB known for its Frizwit sandwich, to close next month

The critically acclaimed restaurant reinvented itself as a cheesesteak pop-up during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it could not overcome financial hurdles

Food & Drink Restaurants
Musi BYOB Musi BYOB/Facebook

Musi, a small BYOB in Pennsport opened by Chef Ari Miller in 2019, will close its doors on Oct. 15. The restaurant stressed the importance of developing relationships with farmers, purveyors and other local sources to create meals with minimal food waste.

Musi, a small BYOB in Pennsport that was heralded as one of the best new restaurants in the United States shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic, will close its doors for good on Oct. 15.

Until then, the restaurant will be open Thursdays through Sundays and serving food from its tasting menu, the owners said in an Instagram post Thursday. 

The South Philly BYOB opened in a tiny storefront at the intersection of Morris and Front streets in February 2019. Its philosophy, which Chef Ari Miller named "relationship cuisine," focuses on the importance of forming and developing relationships with farmers, purveyors and other local food sources to create a homey atmosphere and reduce food waste. 

"Every ingredient entered our space to be dissected and devoured in a cyclical pursuit of creativity, responsibility, and deliciousness," the owners wrote on Instagram. "Our objective was not a transformation of ingredient into a small, precious plate. It was to feed and delight you, to find comfort in the uncomfortable. We understood our place in this cycle and pursued it with a spiritual obsession." 

Musi's owners also elaborated on the financial difficulties the restaurant has faced since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Though much of Philadelphia's restaurant scene saw a reduction in sales due to restrictions on indoor dining during the first two years of the pandemic, Musi managed to stay afloat amid the same challenging environment as everyone else in the industry. 

But the financial burden became too much to handle, Miller said in an interview with Philly Eater. He noted that "the writing was on the wall" when the restaurant struggled to make payroll for its six-person team. The combination of operating as a BYOB and paying its workers at least $15 per hour made it difficult to continue operations.

"The pandemic has caught us in a financial riptide in which we managed to not drown," the owners wrote in their goodbye Instagram post. "But, at this point, it's no longer possible to maintain our experiment on our forgotten Pennsport corner. We trust you understand that operating a small business in this climate is a monumentally difficult endeavor and ours is no longer financially sustainable." 

When the pandemic forced restauranteurs throughout the city to get creative to make money, Musi pivoted its focus and operated as a cheesesteak pop-up

The Frizwit — as well as other cheesesteaks and sandwiches — became immensely popular among residents. The sandwich even made Food & Wine's "Best Dishes We Ate In 2020" list. 

Those who want to grab their last Frizwit cheesesteaks can order pickup or delivery on Sundays through Oct. 9. 

The Food & Wine list was not the first time Musi received national acclaim for its menu and overall atmosphere. Shortly after it opened in 2019, Eater ranked the tiny BYOB as one of the "Best New Restaurants in America." 

"Musi presents a bare-bones vision of what a ground-floor space on a city block needs to become a restaurant, a show mounted in a black-box studio rather than a grand auditorium," Eater restaurant editor Hillary Dixler Canavan wrote.  

In the weeks following its official closure, Musi will continue to hold a series of private dinners. More information about those will be made available on Musi's Instagram and mailing list in the coming weeks.