Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Old-Ass Building: Bellevue Court Building

1418 Walnut St

Photo by Michael Bixler
            I've always loved this skinny bastard but never knew that there used to be a street next to it. Not only that-- the building is named after that street! Read all about it at the Hidden City Daily!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

GroJLart's Favorite Grub!

              I often get asked about what bars and restaurants I enjoy around the city-- I've avoided posting such a thing because there are plenty of food blogs etc out there already, however I've finally given in and have written it all down. I know most of you probably don't give a shit, but I think I'm ready to list for ya the ones I like the most... and if you don't like it, FUCK YOU!! It's my birthday. How am I 35 already? I was 25 like two weeks ago as far as I'm concerned.
        Everyone thinks they're an expert on food and restaurants-- I blame the Food Network just like I blame HGTV for making everyone think they're a house flipper. Yelp made things worse by making people think that anyone gives a fuck about what individual shitbirds think about a certain establishment and caused this bullshit I see where people whip out their phones to take a picture as soon as food is placed in front of them. Nonetheless, I'll present to you the ones I like while also admitting that I am not a culinary expert nor claim to know what its like to run a restaurant or bar.
        I should preface this by telling you that I go through stages where I go to the same place over and over again, get tired of it, and then move on to another spot to go over and over again. Therefore, some of these places are spots I like to go to now and some of them are places I used to go to once a week and have moved on from, but still like a lot.
         I have placed them into categories I totally made up on the spot but think are appropriate for organizational purposes:

Friday Nighters: Places I've gone to over and over again on Friday nights for months at a time.

Gennaro's Tomato Pie, 1429 Jackson St:

         This place is the motherfucking bizzomb!! They've been around since like 1916 and offer super-crispy tomato pies on a super-thin crust. It almost seems like this is the place Nomad Roman and some others like it are trying to be. The service is awesome, the atmosphere is great, it doesn't get too crowded, and its a BYOB!! I can't say enough good shit about Gennaro's. I almost don't want to tell you about it in the fear that it might start getting too popular. Nonetheless, they definitely get the GroJLart Seal of Approval, for whatever that's worth.

Cheu Noodle Bar, 255 South 10th St:

         You probably all know about Cheu already, but in case you don't, this is where you can get some good-ass ramen dishes that are made in unique and interesting varieties. Its not for people who are hardcore traditional ramen believers, but for folks who want to taste something good. The place is small as fuck, but that's part of the reason I like it. Sit at the bar and watch them make your meal. They change the menu constantly so even if you get tired of their current menu you know it will be changing soon (of course this can backfire if you really like something and they change it too much). Friendly and personal service-- after you go there a few times they will definitely remember you. Places always remember me because I'm a weirdo but they remember normal folks too from what I understand.

Franky Bradley's, 1320 Chancellor St: 

         This is probably the newest place on this list but its probably the one of the best. Franky Bradley's is the modern version of a classic Philly steak house of the same name that was in the same location! The food combos on the menu seem like they were arranged by an insane person but when you try them, they knock your fucking socks off! I'm pretty sure there's a hole in their wall somewhere from when my actual socks blew off at terminal velocity from tasting one of their appetizers.

Breakfast/Second Breakfast: Where to get that awesome meal in the morning-- or second breakfast, where to get kick-ass breakfast items in the afternoon.

Dutch Eating Place, Reading Terminal Market:

           HOLY CRAP!! Hands down the best breakfast I know about anywhere at any time. I've been going to this place on and off for at least five years and I still haven't gotten past the pancakes. Maybe their other items on the menu are horrible, but I'll probably never know. At the Dutch Eating Place, you get super-huge pancakes along with a piece of sausage the size of your head and a pat of butter that you could pick up with both hands. Real maple syrup, kick-ass super-friendly fast service, and all for a very very insanely low price!

Excellent. Image by Monavano at DonRockwell.com
Silk City Diner 435 Spring Garden Street:

        Its a diner, its a bar, its a lounge, its an everything. Again, can't get past the pancakes, which they call Silk Cakes. These motherfuckers are malted pancake batter with a pre-installed slice of bacon!! Don't want to wait forever? Go there for a Second Breakfast in the afternoon.

Honorable Mention:

Honey's Sit N' Eat Numerous Locations:

       Another good spot for a Second Breakfast since nowhere is worth waiting an hour in the morning. Pretty decent prices, great service, good food. Whole Wheat Pancakes.

Let's Get Drunk: Places to get your drink on and have a good time. I find that people get very particular about the type of venue they get wasted in so this is the list that will probably create the most ire out there.

McGlinchey's 259 South 15th Street:

           I like this place so much that I went nuts researching its long history and interviewing its owner. This was my first Philly bar and will probably be my last. I quit smoking again this last Thanksgiving so I haven't been there in awhile, but the place is great-- cheap beers up to and including Yeungling Porter on draft, the graffiti in the bathroom, the massive variety of characters drinking together-- it can't be beat.

It's daytime in this picture, I swear! Pic by Brad Maule
 Oscar's Tavern 1524 Sansom Street:

           This place is a great non-smoking alternative to McGlinchey's-- they even have the same booths! Not only can you get some tall-ass draft beers here for a good price, the servers remember you even when you haven't been there in a year AND the cheesefries are fucking awesome!! There was one time when I sat next to the chef on the Broad Street Line and beamed with pride for being in his deep fried presence. Back in the day they used to have a DJ in on Friday nights-- the guy was so good that I hired him for my wedding!

Bar-Ly 101 North 11th Street:

            Do you like to get drunk and then eat some fattening-ass foods? This is the place for you. Sixty beers on tap, including the entire line up of Six Point beers. Once you're drunk enough, there's a massive assortment on the menu, from cheeseburgers to sushi. Its also a huge sports bar with TV's everywhere if you're into that sort of thing. They claim to be the largest sports bar in Chinatown but since the largest actual restaurant space in the whole city (Public House) is a block away that doesn't seem to matter much. The best part about this place is going to the bathroom-- its located down a long hallway and seems to be shared with the HSBC Bank branch on the same floor.

Bongo Bar and Deck 401 South Columbus Avenue (Deck of the Moshulu):

           I discovered this place while hanging out at the Spruce Street Harbor Park last summer-- I wish I knew about it before!! This is a bar on the deck of the Moshulu where you can get drunk while sitting among the fake masts/lines/yard arms that were added to the ship in 1970 to make it look old-timey. Not only are the beers cheap as fuck compared to everywhere else around, you can smoke cigarettes on the outdoor part of the deck! Its also a great spot to watch the Penn's Landing fireworks on the 4th of July. This is one of those spots that tourists and out-of-towners know more about than actual Philadelphians, so you can often meet people there from parts unknown.

Honorable Mention: 

Frankford Hall 1210 Frankford Ave:

             A great spot for larger groups and great beers. I love how you can get drafts in a big-ass glass-- keeps you from going back and forth for beers constantly. I also quite enjoy going there for Urban Geek Drinks-- as I am Urban, a Geek, and I DRINK! In fact, I'm going to the one tonight! See you there! The food is pretty good too!

Gastro-explosions: Places where I can't stop eating and/or drinking for one reason or another

Dock Street Brewing Company 701 South 50th St:

             Despite its extremely misleading name, this place is located at the corner of 50th and Baltimore Avenue in West Philly. They've got their own awesome beers they make on site and offer a vast array of great food items. The Flammenkuche Pizza was my first favorite that I would get every time I was there until I had the Vegan Pesto Wrap and now I can't get enough of that one. They have these great panko-crusted mozz sticks that I call Mozzarella Pods and plenty of other great shit. I've been going there for at least 7 years and they are good at handling large groups as well.

Tashan 777 South Broad St:

          This is one of those places where even when the service is shit and you feel stupid for coming back, you forgive them the moment the food is placed in front of you. Seriously, I need to get away from this place. I like it so much that I wish it never existed. I first went there about the same week it opened and remember how silly it was when they'd give a big group the menu on a single iPad that we all had to pass around (they don't do that crap anymore) and how crazy the bathroom looked-- I just want to take a piss, not have a life-changing experience! The next few times I went the service was inconsistent and sometimes downright bad... but the food... that Old Delhi Butter Chicken should be illegal in like 17 states. That shit is fucking crack, I tell ya!!

Best crack I ever ate. Image by John of the Belly of the Pig food blog.
 Honorable Mentions: 

Supper 926 South St:


       A little pricier than I like but the food is outstanding. They serve a burger bigger than your mom's ass and who knew that duck and waffles went together? Genius! Great service too.

Brauhaus Schmitz 718 South St:

        Get the Schweinshaxe and you'll understand.

Snack Attack: For those random moments when you want a bite of something good. 

Cake and the Beanstalk 1112 Locust St:

              Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich-- that's all I have to say. It'll change your goddamn life for only 5 bucks.

Miller's Twist Reading Terminal Market:

             I don't even fucking like pretzels! Nonetheless, the pretzels from Miller's Twist at the Terminal are ungoddamnbelievable. Don't believe me? Try 'em! You won't be disappointed... and if you are, fuck you.

I love you Miller, whoever you are. Image from Tripadvisor.com
            Well there you have it. Don't approve of my choices? Think I'm a moron for liking any of this shit? Well, joke's on you! You read all the way down to here. I'll get back to architecture and shit next week.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Fill This Front: Home 2 Suites Space 3

1200 Arch Street


            Ok I waited about as long as I could for this one but now I've had about enough. This little hotel, despite being shitty-looking and way too small for its high-profile corner, has managed to be pretty impressive at engaging the street level experience out front-- at least on its 12th st side. As you can see, one little retail space on the Arch Street side is still empty as a motherfucker and doesn't seem to want to change any time soon. Enough of this shit! Let's Fill This Front!
           I'd like to tell you a long string of history detailing every occupant this place has had, but I can't simply because there is none! The hotel its in was completed in 2013, an ugly building that will forever stand as a symbol of the recent real estate bust. It stands on a site once targeted for a W Hotel!! It makes one wonder that if we all waited a few years, the new one now being site-prepped at 15th and Chestnut would have been built here instead! Funnily enough, the same architect who designed the new W also designed this place! I should also mention that a massive amount of government cheese was used to fund this little bastard, so enjoy the place-- you paid for it.

What was supposed to be there.
              When the hotel was complete, the other two retail spots in the building were already leased by Panera Bread and BurgerFi. I know people rag on having chains in Center City but being that this location is in Convention Land, these types of tenants are perfectly appropriate. I've never even been to a Panera Bread but BurgerFi is pretty fucking good. Plus I always appreciate a chain from far away that has only one location anywhere near here... I always tell people how I went to the BurgerFi in Key West because I'd never thought I'd see one again-- only to see them installing the sign on the place when I was in the cab on the way home from the airport.
          Anyway, what the fuck is with the last retail space? The other ones seem to be doing just fine-- they are crowded even when there is no convention in town. Nonetheless, this last little space stands empty with no sign of getting better. Therefore it's time to make this place shine.

Image from the Michael Salove Company
           The space is 1,948 Sq Ft  with a 22 foot frontage on Arch Street and the location is ideal. You're right in the middle of Conventionland near the corner of 12th and Arch streets. Now that the convention center has mostly fixed the bullshit that kept exhibitors from wanting to come here, there's a good chance that the right business plopped into this storefront would do really well. Don't forget that a shitload of potential customers are staying overnight in the floors above.
        Even if there was no convention-- this spot is still pretty good. You've got plenty of transit access via an EL/Trolley stop a block away to the south, a BSL stop not too far away, the shitload of buslines that run on Market Street nearby (which includes New Jersey Transit buses), and even Regional Rail access from Jefferson Station! Not enough? What are you, made of stone? Well, you should also know that SEPTA's longest and most heavily used bus line, the 23, passes right by this place. Don't forget the always-crowded Reading Terminal Market is on the next block!
        Strangely enough, even if you want this spot, I'm not sure you can have it. The listing for the space went "Off Market" on February 6th, but whomever or whatever has taken this place has yet to do shit to make their presence known. Michael Salove Company was the one marketing it. Hopefully there is a hero out there that has recognized this potential and has found a way to FILL THIS FRONT!!

UPDATE:  I have been informed that the space is leased and that the lessee should be officially revealed fairly soon. Thanks to Jacob Cooper from MSC Retail for the info!
           

Monday, May 11, 2015

Old-Ass Building: People For People Charter School

800 North Broad Street


Photo by Michael Bixler
               I have a personal connection to this building that y'all need not know about, but I figured it was time to get its awesome history out there. Read all about it at the Hidden City Daily!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Fill This Front: Uhuru Furniture & Collectibles

1220 Spruce Street


            After nearly 2 decades of straight occupancy by the same tenant, this little storefront on the 1200 block of Spruce Street has been empty for 15 straight months. Its about time we FILL THIS FRONT!
           I'd like to tell you that this storefront has a long and storied history, but the fact is-- this storefront, despite being in an 150+ year old building, has only existed for about 34 years. The building its located in spent many years as a singular row-mansion... during the Civil War the U.S. Marine Corps Quartermaster lived here. Later on, it was known as the Goddard Residence and in the following decades was inhabited by a number of doctor's home-offices. 
         In the mid-20th Century, the neighborhood was one of the worst in the city, as hard as that is to believe, and the entire building became a flop house that held a shitload of tiny apartments. In about 1981, the building's current owner came along and installed larger apartments upstairs and turned the first floor into retail.
        This guy had one hell of a hard time turning that first floor into retail-- the ZBA didn't like any of the possibilities that had to do with food service-- the restaurant, health food store, and caterer all got denied. Even after that, the place became a revolving door of uses-- its hard to pin down them all but at least one was a Art Supply Store and despite all that ZBA stuff in the past there was a coffee shop there in the early 90s. In the mid 1990s, Uhuru Furniture & Collectibles came along and held down the space for nearly 2 decades.

As Uhuru in 2011 via the Google Streetview Time Machine
       Uhuru is a store that fundraises for the African People's Education and Defense Fund-- they have locations all over the country. In February, 2014, Uhuru moved to the long-empty store building at the northwest corner of Broad and Parrish. Ever since, this space has been sitting empty and as depressing-looking as ever. Let's get it filled!
      This space is about 700 square feet with a nice big-ass display window. I'm told that the rent is $3600/mo + utilities but don't hold me to that. This place is on the mini-restaurant row where Vetri, Vallanni, Mercato, and even Toast beef up the area with awesome. Transit-wise, this is a sweet spot considering the Broad Street Line's concourse is a block away, as is the PATCO's. A bike lane runs right in front of the place. On top of all that, a whole dorm full of UArts students stands just down the street.
       What the fuck are you waiting for? Call the number on that window and tell them that you want to FILL THIS FRONT!!




Monday, May 4, 2015

Butt-Fugly Building: Seaman's Church Institute

475 North 5th Street


             Jesus Christ, what an ugly piece of shit. I understand that its in the Franklin-Callowhill Industrial District so I'm not supposed to expect greatness, but if you're gonna obliterate an entire neighborhood to build industrial garbage with huge surface parking lots in between, at least try to make it look nice!
           Before this building was here, the southern part of the original version of Northern Liberties was an actual neighborhood. York Avenue, the diagonal main street of the district, ran right through the middle of where this building is now.

The area just north of this shitty building, mid 19th Century or so. Library Company of Phila via PhillyHistory.org
           Around 1970, the Franklin-Callowhill Industrial District was created in order to create a manufacturing/warehousing district in the middle of city and supposedly create all kinds of jobs for nearby residents. It was a failure in almost every respect-- urban planning-wise, revitalization-wise, manufacturing-wise... there's not much else to say about it.
          In 1983, the construction of crappy short industrial buildings there wasn't done yet. In that year, Altman Brothers Inc out of Glenside, PA proposed a 23,000 Sq Ft juggernaut of ugly called the East Callowhill Industrial Building (real creative). The unfortunate design was by Theodore Brandow of Brandow Design Associates.
         The facade appears to be that corduroy pants-looking cladding used on all of the worst buildings I've ever seen. The openings in the facade are big and round with some kind of brown stone trim. Its not visible in the pic above but the facade rounds out at the north and south corners. It was 1984, people. Even I have to give them some leeway for that.
         After the building was finished in 1984, its first tenant was COFCO Group, a.k.a. the Commercial Office Furniture Company. They eventually added to the building and installed a mezzanine/2nd floor office space. In 2002, they sold the place for $2.4 Million to the Seaman's Church Institute of Philadelphia, an ancient organization that deals with support of seafarer's and maritime-related crap. They started in Philly way back in 1843 in a goddamn floating chapel!
          Today, the Seaman's Church Institute shares the building with Color Reflections, a digital imaging company that printed out large images of a fish and some water to cover those big-ass round windows. I guess they didn't want any sun coming in and fucking their shit up.
            As ugly as this pile of shit is, I wish I could say it was the worst-looking building in the shitbag Franklin-Callowhill Industrial District. If you ever have a chance, take a walk around there and check out what a real urban planning mistake looks like up close. You can check out Silk City when you're done, but be careful to put the ugliness of the neighborhood out of your mind before macking on their incredible Silk Cakes.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Old-Ass Building: 320 Race Street

320 Race Street


            You've never even noticed this old bastard, have you? Well, its pretty dang cool. Check out its story at the Hidden City Daily! Also, there are still some spots open on this Saturday's Forgotten NORTH Broad Street Tour! Click here to sign up.