Presenting: Best of the River Wards 2013! - Part I

You voted, we listened. Here are the 2013 win­ners of the Best of the River Wards, Part I. Click through the pho­tos be­low to see snap­shots of each win­ner. See Part II for the rest of the win­ners.

  • Staff members at Mugshot Diner, with manager Andy Likogiannis at back right. STAR PHOTO / MIKALA JAMISON

  • Kids make art at last year’s Lehigh Avenue Arts Festival, which raises money for Portside students. STAR PHOTO / SAM NEWHOUSE

  • The guys of Coffee House Too, with co-owners Derick Warren (in yellow) and Sal Licastri, second from left. MIKALA JAMISON / STAR PHOTO

  • Bernadette Wilk outside the Mercer Cafe. MIKALA JAMISON / STAR PHOTO

  • Nativity B.V.M. School, which is the proposed location of a Catholic Health Care Services senior housing project. STAR FILE PHOTO

  • The hairstylists and makeup artists of Salon Blush, with owner Alanna Ralph third from right. MIKALA JAMISON / STAR PHOTO

  • Organizers and attendees of Second Saturdays at last weekend’s event, with 6ABC anchor Cecily Tynan, at left. PHOTO COURTESY OF SECOND SATURDAYS

  • From left: Scott, Taylor and Lloyd Coudriet, co-owners of Lloyd. MIKALA JAMISON / STAR PHOTO

  • Kraftwork at 541 E. Girard Ave. MIKALA JAMISON / STAR PHOTO

  • The William Penn statue at Penn Treaty Park. MIKALA JAMISON / STAR PHOTO

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 mug­ 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 port­sidearts­cen­

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 cof­fee­, or call 267-324-5888. 

Run­ners up: Tied between The Lola Bean, 1325 Frank­ford Ave., and Hinge Caf&ea­cute;, 2652 E. Somer­set St.

Best Serv­er

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 mer­cer­cafe­

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.

Best Salon

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.

Learn more about Salon Blush at ilovesalon­ or call 215-634-1606.

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. 

Check out pen­ntreaty­ for more about the park, and for more about River City Fest­iv­al.

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.face­­mondsecond­sat­urdays.

Run­ner up: Trenton Av­en­ue Arts Fest­iv­al, trentonavearts­

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 lloydwhis­key­

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 kraft­work­, or call 215-739-1700. 

Run­ner up: Mem­ph­is Tap­room, 2331 E. Cum­ber­land St.

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