West Girard Avenue in Brewerytown is on its way to becoming another hot Philly restaurant strip.
Latest proof? Brunch specialist Green Eggs Cafe is opening a location there.
Set in the long-vacant corner space at 2800 W. Girard, this will be the fifth Philadelphia location for the breakfast and lunch BYOB, joining outposts in South Philly, the Gayborhood, Northern Liberties and Fishtown, as well as one in Miami.
Green Eggs co-owner Stephen Slaughter declined to offer details on the project, saying it would be announced soon, but it’s been an open secret in the neighborhood for ages.
“They were supposed to open last year,” said Josh Kim, chef-owner of Spot Burgers, which opened on the avenue just under three years ago. He’s heard the new Green Eggs’ opening is planned for mid to late September.
“We’re stoked,” Kim added. “Every time there’s a new business here, we just get a boost in our business.” To his friends in the restaurant industry, “I’m telling them all to get in now — they’re missing a huge opportunity here.”
The area is one of the most-rapidly developing in Philadelphia. Brewerytown’s gentrification has led to some clashes as newcomers swoop into the traditionally African-American enclave to build homes and retail, causing rising property values that’ve forced some longtime renters out of their homes.
The Green Eggs project is being developed by MM Partners, which has been working in the area since the turn of the millennium and has been hailed as one of the companies that takes pains to engage longtime residents.
Some operators of the newer restaurants, which include Rybrew, Crime & Punishment Brewing, 2637Brew, Novak’s, The Monkey & Elephant and Pizza Dads, believe tension in Brewerytown is on the decline overall, as business owners and neighbors adapt.
“It’s night and day” compared to four years ago, said Harry Saritsoglou, when he opened Uncle Nick’s Pizza at 2825 Girard Ave. “Every day you see the positive growth and transition.”
Saritsoglou — who happens to be a cousin of chef Bobby Saritsoglou, formerly of Opa and now launching Stina on Snyder Avenue — told the story of when he discovered the location. He’d pulled off the highway so his young son could go to the bathroom, then stopped at Rybrew for a sandwich.
“As I was sitting there, across the street I was watching this guy get evicted,” Saritsoglou said. He had just closed a pizzeria in Upper Darby, and was thinking about another, so he walked over to talk with the landlord. “All the people cursed me out!” he said, remembering how residents expressed their feelings about another white guy coming in.
Now, many of those same people are his regular clients. Uncle Nick’s does brisk business selling slices for $2 or $3.
That’s in contrast to Pizza Dads, the Pizza Brain offshoot that recently opened on the corner of 29th and Girard. Slices at Pizza Dads start around $5 and go up from there, said Kim of Spot Burgers, who noted that the owners are quickly learning how to fit in. He recalled a scuffle outside the pizzeria earlier this year.
“A group of girls wanted slices after school, and it turned into a fight, one of the owners got suckerpunched,” Kim said. “I don’t know how it escalated — maybe they came off as too haughty or bougie. When you come off that way in North Philly, that’s what you’re met with.”
So instead the schoolkids patronize Uncle Nick’s, across the street. Having the same type of fare available at multiple price points is healthy, Kim suggested.
“The corner diner across from where Green Eggs will be is nervous,” he said. Green Eggs is known for its uncanny ability to suck all the brunch-goers into its thrall, leading to long lines while nearby dining rooms sit empty. But for Sunnyside Diner, Kim doesn’t foresee it as a problem.
“They’ll have the $20 breakfast,” he has told the diner operators, “and you’ll have the $5 breakfast. You’ll be fine. They’ll bring more attention to the neighborhood.”
Saritsoglou is also thrilled about Green Eggs’ pending opening — even as he’s selling his business. Yep, Uncle Nick’s 2000-sq.-ft. space is up for grabs, along with its 16 years left on a 20-year lease at a low, locked-in rate. Why sell? Saritsoglou went back to school and got certified in HVAC, and he thinks that line of work will let him spend more time with his kids.
“It doesn’t matter what someone sells here, it could be pizza, could be anything,” he said. “As long as it’s affordable they’ll make money.”