Philadelphia is a new place.
Once the “workshop of the world,” Philly had towering chimneys on manufacturing plants that filled the air with acrid smoke.
The Delaware River was once so polluted, it is said fumes from the river would eat away at the paint on the bottom of passing planes. These poison waters essentially killed off the shad in the Delaware River, which were once so plentiful, a neighborhood — Fishtown — was named in honor of the fish.
But now, residents are more environmentally savvy.
Recycling programs are more successful now in the city than they ever have been, and locals are looking at their own impact on the environment while seeking out fresh, local foods — as opposed to frozen or fried meals.
And in this new age of a cleaner, greener Philadelphia, Fairmount’s new Fare Restaurant might just be ahead of the curve.
The new eatery, at 2028 Fairmount Ave., opened May 26 and focuses on what Robert Amar, the eatery’s general manager, called “fresh, clean and thoughtful” meals.
It proudly boasts a “100 percent organic kitchen,” which Amar said means there are no chemicals used in any ingredients.
Admittedly, he said, it’s a tricky thing to provide, but the owners — a trio of Andy Siegel, a property owner of L’Oca Italian Bistro across the street, Savvas Novrosidis, owner of nearby Fairmount Pizza, and David Orphanides, a zoning attorney — wanted to ensure meals that were unlike anything else in the area.
“Having a 100 percent organic kitchen takes a tremendous amount of time,” said Amar. “All the foods we are using are free of chemicals … We did it because we couldn’t get this anywhere else.”
“The question was ‘where can you get something like this?’” continued Amar. “And the answer is you really can’t.”
Pointing to similar businesses which may focus on local and fresh ingredients, Amar said that too often these places offer fried foods or cheeseburgers where the meat and cheese or other ingredients may be organic, but it’s combined into a fatty, high-calorie dish.
“What’s the point of making something clean and organic if you’re just making a heart attack on a bun?” questioned Amar. “We want to try to present something that, after you eat it, you don’t feel like ‘blech’.”
As an alternative, Amar pointed to Fare’s burger offering: a bison burger with spinach and feta cheese, herbed yogurt, lemon and mint.
“With that, you’re still full but, it’s less heaviness,” he said.
But, how do you prepare these foods to ensure the “fresh, clean and thoughtful” aesthetic that Fare is aiming for?
First off, he said, you don’t fry anything.
“We don’t even own a fryer,” said Amar.
Typically fried foods that Fare does offer, like squid, are instead grilled to keep in the fresh flavors and aroma.
“You want to taste the stuff, not cover it up,” he said.
As for providing locally produced foods, Amar said the restaurateurs want to provide fresh, organic foods first; if they can get that locally, they will. But, Fare will not sacrifice organic quality for locality, he said.
“If it’s local and not organic, we will not buy it,” he said. “Who is in our community is important, but the whole world is our community, too … We are putting our money where we think the reinforcement should be.”
One look at the menu and Fare’s focus on fresh foods is obvious.
From an appetizer offering a cauliflower and millet mash with shiitake sauce to baked chicken meatballs with kale, Yukon golds and cheese, Fare’s offerings stand out from the traditional bar foods offered at many eateries throughout the city.
But the new establishment’s push for healthy living doesn’t stop at the kitchen.
Fare’s Web site, farerestaurant.com, provides blog posts about lifestyle choices, sustainability and eco-friendly construction.
Amar said Fare’s staffers practice what they preach in that the eatery’s tables are constructed of what he called “garbage wood.”
It’s an unvarnished black walnut, which he called “sapwood.”
“This is all from reclaimed wood,” said Amar as he ran his hands across a bare tabletop. “This is garbage wood. People usually throw it away.”
The recently opened Fare is located at 2028 Fairmount Ave. For more information on the new restaurant, call 267-639-3036 or visit the Web site at farerestaurant.com.
Reporter Hayden Mitman can be reached at 215-354-3124 or firstname.lastname@example.org