Best New River Wards Hot Spot
Winner: Mugshot Diner, 2424 E. York St.
Mugshot Diner Manager Andy Likogiannis said the diner’s win is the result of a simple fact — the food is top-notch.
“The portions and the price, nothing compares,” he said of Mugshot’s extensive menu. “Everyone leaves here full and satisfied.”
Mugshot opened on May 30 this yeasar, after about nine months of building and preparations on the ground floor of Fishtown’s sprawling 2424 Studios.
Its owner, Chris Voz, had another Mugshot Diner in New Jersey with the same name and unique theme — celebrity mug shots grace the walls of the diner, displaying the guilty portraits of everyone from Paris Hilton to Mr. Bean.
Once Voz sold the Jersey Mugshots and moved to Fishtown, business has been good, Likogiannis said. Voz also owns The Skybox, a 13,000-square-foot event rental space next door in 2424 Studios. This past weekend, The Macallan whiskey hosted a tasting event there, from Sept. 10-13.
“It was a good decision by Chris,” Likogiannis said. “This is an up and coming area. This town needed this.”
Mugshot is open nearly 24 hours every night, with some 30-minute closing periods.
Visit mugshotdiner.com or call 215-426-2424.
Runner up: Cedar Point Bar and Kitchen, 2370 E. Norris St.
Best Kid-Friendly Spot
Winner: Portside Arts Center, 2531 E. Lehigh Ave.
Kids love an abundance of options — they want more, more, more.
Thankfully, Portside Arts Center offers them everything they could dream of, at least when it comes to arts.
With classes like a robot camp, drawing, dance, acting, puppets and more, Portside brings in kids from all over the River Wards, according to founding director Kim Creighton.
“When [kids] walk into the arts center, they all have something in common,” Creighton said. “They’re the kids that like art. It’s not a playgroup or a daycare. It’s all about the art.”
What about, then, the kids that are a little hesitant about painting, mosaic or drawing?
“There’s something for every kid to enjoy,” Creighton said, and mentioned that there are also “Girl Power” classes for young ladies, a karaoke class, children’s yoga, and hip hop dance class.
Portside will soon take its arts offerings on the road with its mobile arts classroom, Portside ArtsMobile. A refurbished bus will bring a mobile arts classroom to River Wards schools that no longer have arts education classes.
The center, Creighton said, runs about 80 percent on donations and fundraisers like the annual Lehigh Avenue Arts Festival. This past Saturday, locals enjoyed the festival’s offerings while also contributing to Portside’s class scholarship fund. Last year’s festival raised $8,900 for Portside’s scholarship program.
“There’s a tag above the door here that says ‘Enter as strangers, leave as friends,’” Creighton said. “That’s basically what happens here at Portside.”
Call Portside at 215-427-1514, or check out portsideartscenter.org.
Runner up: A+W Playground, 2610 Westmoreland St.
Best Coffee Spot
Winner: Coffee House Too, 2514 E. York St.
Perhaps the best testament to the success of Fishtown’s Coffee House Too is that since last year — when it won this contest for “Best Coffee” — it’s even bigger, literally.
The cafe has expanded into an upstairs space, which was formerly an apartment. Starting around the beginning of October, the shop will offer a full-service eating area above its ground floor, where currently there are only a few tables outside.
“I want it to be a home away from home,” said co-owner Derick Warren of the expanded cafe, which will have daily dinner specials available.
Coffee House Too has also recently begun diving into its catering services — Warren said the shop offers its sandwiches, platters and other items to groups and events around the city.
“The best part of this has been the neighborhood,” Warren said of his expanded business. “From original Fishtowners, to newbies, to hipsters, they all love that their dogs are being loved, that they have a glass of wine or a mimosa while they wait—and all this for seven or eight bucks.”
That’s right — you can enjoy a nice adult beverage while you wait for your food, and let your dog chow on complimentary treats.
The shop is also going to begin donating ten cents from every large coffee purchase to local charities each month, starting in October, beginning with the Fishtown Athletic Club.
Co-owner Sal Licastri, Warren said, is like family, and the two have a great work chemistry that allows them to keep customers happy.
Warren also sung the praises of his staff — “They have to deal with my big mouth,” he said with a laugh.
“I love to see people having a good time,” Warren continued. “It’s not about me, it’s about the customer.”
Check out Coffee House Too online at coffeehouseco.com, or call 267-324-5888.
Runners up: Tied between The Lola Bean, 1325 Frankford Ave., and Hinge Café, 2652 E. Somerset St.
Bernadette Wilk, Mercer Cafe, 1619 E. Westmoreland St.
Bernadette Wilk, a 14-year employee of Port Richmond’s Mercer Cafe, said she was surprised that she took home the “Best Server” title.
But anyone she waits on at the cafe is perhaps less than shocked — Wilk is unfailingly sweet, knowledgeable, and quick at bringing customers the French toast, omelets and aninis they love.
“I’m just comfortable here,” said Wilk, who also works as an X-ray technician at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital. “Everyone knows each other from the neighborhood. I’m always talking to people.”
So how does she deal with tough customers?
“I just laugh off those ‘bad personalities’, or I’m just really friendly. But most people are so great,” she said.
Wilk easily listed off 10 or 15 names when asked if she has any regular customers she’s always pleased to see.
“Oh, the older Polish ladies, Agnes and Esther, the Toners, the Sullivans, Dot and Tom — there’s so many,” Wilk said with a laugh, and showed off a bulletin board on the cafe’s wall, crowded with pictures of staff and customers.
One thing’s clear — she loves her job.
“People think I’m crazy, since I work on the weekends. But I enjoy coming to work. I don’t think I’ll ever leave here.”
Call the cafe at 215-426-2153. Visit the cafe online at mercercafephilly.com.
Runner up: Maureen from Byrne’s Tavern, 3301 Richmond St.
Best Transformation Project
Winner: The Former Nativity B.V.M. School on Campbell Square
What Star readers overwhelmingly perceive as the best local transformation project is one that hasn’t happened yet — in fact, it may never happen.
But their votes are about hope.
The former Nativity B.V.M. School closed in 2008. Since then, it’s been a target of theft and vandalism, and with its location right on Campbell Square, neighbors aren’t pleased.
In 2009, Catholic Health Care Services, a branch of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, proposed the building be converted into housing for seniors. The neighborhood offered resounding support — except for one woman and her son, who appealed in court the Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment’s decision to grant the proposal the variances it needed. The state Court of Common Pleas had granted the variances as well, as had the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections.
Still, because of the appeal, the state Commonwealth Court reversed the order of the Court of Common Pleas in 2012. Since then, the building has only deteriorated.
Neighbors responded after Star published in January 2013 an article about the situation by organizing rallies of support, enlisting the help of local politicians, and perhaps most effectively, by gathering more than 900 signatures on a petition to the state Supreme Court to hear the Nativity B.V.M. case — a Supreme Court hearing was the last shot at moving the project forward.
The letters may have worked. CHCS notified Star earlier this month that the Supreme Court had agreed to hear the case. A hearing date is not yet determined.
State Rep. John Taylor has been a fervent supporter of the proposal for senior housing. He said at a recent meeting of the Port Richmond Community Group: “Anytime we can utilize these abandoned buildings, it’s a positive thing.”
Port Richmond locals are strong in their belief that the community needs this transformation project.
Theresa Costello, PRCG organizer, told Star in an earlier story: “We have a lot of older people here who would like to stay in Richmond with their family, friends, church…everything they’re used to.”
Keep up with this case by searching on Facebook for “Port Richmond (Past and Present) for the Transformation of Nativity.”
Runner up: Greensgrow Farms, 2503 E. Firth St.
Winner: Salon Blush, 2407 E. York St.
With its glittering walls, photos of 40s-style pinup girls, antique cameras on display and vintage furniture stylist stations, there’s a lot going on at Salon Blush.
Which is just the way owner Alanna Ralph likes it — she has more going on than ever.
Along with the salon itself, Ralph runs a photography studio specializing in pinup girl-style looks. That studio was next door to the salon, but now, Blush is equipped with a 4-room studio upstairs.
“We always try to mix it up,” Ralph said of her salon.
That’s for sure — Salon Blush is also offering Blush Boot Camp, a fitness and nutrition program that’s been operating out of the Samuel Recreation Center. A customized makeup line by Ralph, movie nights in the salon’s courtyard, and even karaoke are also on deck for the coming months.
As to why Salon Blush continues to pull in so many awards, Ralph said it’s all about the people.
“Everyone here has a really good heart. We look for something special and different when we hire people. Our clients don’t just go to one stylist, they know all these girls are good,” she said.
Ralph said her work has come to exceed her every expectation.
“I’m the happiest I’ve ever been,” she said.
Runner up: Marie’s Beauty Salon, 2569 E. Clearfield St.
Best River Wards Hangout Overall
Winner: Penn Treaty Park, Delaware and Columbia avenues
It’s not difficult to see why Penn Treaty Park is a crowd-pleasing spot — with its lush green grounds, towering trees, a playground for youngsters, benches for people watching, and a sprawling view of the Delaware River, the park truly offers something for everyone.
The park also has a rich history, outlined neatly by the Friends of Penn Treaty Park on the group’s website. Legend has it that Native Americans met William Penn at the site of the present-day park as part of “the only treaty made by the settlers with the Indians that was never sworn to, and the only one that was never broken,” according to writer Voltaire.
Now, the Friends of Penn Treaty Park hosts events throughout the year, like this past weekend’s Champagne in the Park fundraiser, or the upcoming sixth annual River City Festival, on October 5. River City Festival brings food, live music, craft vendors, Moon bounces and obstacles courses for kids, and more.
The park often brings neighbors together for outdoor movie nights on an inflatable screen, and serves as an ideal backdrop for performances by local theatre groups and even May’s first annual Pie in the Sky Kite Festival.
Penn Treaty Park’s current state of being, then, is much like its beginnings — a gathering place focused on community, and on peace.
Runner up: Mick’s Inn, 2526 E. Clearfield St.
Best River Wards-Based Public Event
Winner: Port Richmond’s Second Saturdays
What Star readers dubbed the best event in the River Wards this year might just be the “youngest” of any winner — Port Richmond only just hosted its second Second Saturday. August’s inaugural event drew some 800 neighbors.
This past weekend, festivalgoers from all over the city flocked to Richmond Street to partake in what just may be a big boon for the River Wards’ future as a family-friendly entertainment destination.
“We all are completely blown away after having only one event that the community voted for Port Richmond Second Saturdays as ‘Best River Wards-based Public Event,’” said Wayne Bullock, director of the event and owner of Sweets & Treats candy shop on Richmond Street. “It shows that the neighborhood embraces local street festivals and enhances the revitalization of Richmond Street.”
The festival is popular enough to draw local celebrities, too — local meteorologist from 6ABC, Cecily Tynan, stopped by this year’s event to chat with locals.
Next month’s event will take place Oct. 12, from 4 to 8 p.m., on Richmond Street between East Clearfield Street and Allegheny Avenue.
“We hope we can continue to make the neighborhood proud,” Bullock said.
Keep up with Second Saturdays at www.facebook.co
Runner up: Trenton Avenue Arts Festival, trentonaveartsfest.org.
Best Cocktail List
Winner: Lloyd Whiskey Bar, 529 E. Girard Ave.
It only took two simple facts for Llyod Coudriet to land on a focus for his Fishtown bar — he loves whiskey, and Lloyd is also the name of the ghostly bartender in Stephen King’s “The Shining.”
Naturally, then, Lloyd is a whiskey bar serving up cocktails with thematic names like the “Jack and Wendy” — Wild Turkey, vermouth, lemon, apricot preserves, fresh sage — or “The Overlook” — Rittenhouse Rye, Campari, sweet vermouth — as well as a variety of whiskeys and beers.
“We’re the only people in Fishtown doing serious craft cocktails,” said Scott Coudriet, Lloyd’s son. “We can make the best Manhattan you’ve ever had, but we can also serve you your regular beer.”
As far as Lloyd’s cocktail offerings, Scott said the “Jack and Wendy” is most popular, but the bar also offers rotating seasonal cocktails, as well as flavored bourbon smash cocktails — Scott mixed up a lackberry and sage smash when Star visited. The flavor changes daily.
Lloyd Coudriet, a former teacher at Penn Treaty Middle School, opened the bar with Scott and Taylor, Scott’s wife, nearly a year ago.
“We’re a community, people know we’re a family,” Taylor said.
With upwards of 70 whiskeys on Lloyd’s ever-changing menu — not to mention the bar’s signature $5 special, a shot of Old Grand Dad and a can of Miller High Life — Scott said the bar can be whatever the patrons make of it.
“We’re not stiff. The clientele is a meeting of old and new,” he said. “You can walk in here and see an old man with a classic Manhattan talking to a guy in a T-shirt with a PBR.”
Call Lloyd at 215-425-4600, or check out lloydwhiskeybar.com.
Runner up: El Camino Real, 1040 N. 2nd St.
Best Beer Selection
Winner: Kraftwork, 541 E. Girard Ave.
Any craft beer lover will tell you that it’s hard to get bored with beers in Philly — we have a whole week dedicated to the sudsy stuff, after all.
It’s just as difficult to get bored with your brews at Kraftwork, too. The nearly three-year-old Fishtown spot boasts an impressive 25 taps of rotating libations, not to mention bottles, special tap takeovers by guest breweries, and unique cocktails.
You can get a flight of any four beers for $10, but the hefty beer list makes choosing tough. Do you want a tripel? A porter? An IPA? Even a cider? Don’t fear, there’s something for every palate. Plus, Kraftwork keeps drinkers in the know by listing the next 25 beers on order — they’ve got to build the anticipation, naturally.
And if you’re finding yourself a bit peckish while enjoying your selection (as is typical), chow on pretzel bites, pierogies, the impressive Mediterranean board, irresistible garlic and herbs fries, and much more.
But despite the mouthwatering nosh, Kraftwork, decorated as it is with repurposed saws, blades and other artifacts of industry, is all about the beer. Its very sign is decorated with carvings of hop clusters.
All it takes is one look at the handfuls of five-star Yelp reviews to know Kraftwork is something well-appreciated by locals. As one reviewer put it simply, Kraftwork boasts a trifecta: “Awesome food, awesome beer selection, awesome staff.”
What more could you want?
Check out Kraftwork online at kraftworkbar.com, or call 215-739-1700.
Runner up: Memphis Taproom, 2331 E. Cumberland St.