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Go to women-powered restaurants in Philly

This map shows women led restaurants, searchable by zip code. In Philly, there are tons to choose from; start with the places highlighted at Cherry Bombe’s event:

Triple Bottom Brewing, 915 Spring Garden Street, (267) 764-1994

Fiore, 757 South Front Street, (215) 339-0509

Fork Restaurant, 306 Market Street, (215) 625-9425

a.kitchen, 135 South 18th Street, (215) 215-825-7030

Barbuzzo, 110 South 13th Street, (215) 546-9300

Bud & Marylin’s, 1234 Locust Street, (215) 546-2220

Marcie Blaine Chocolates, 108 South 13th Street, (215) 546-8700

Jet Wine Bar, 1525 South Street, (215) 735-1116

Rex 1516, 1516 South Street, (267) 319-1366

Teaspoons & Petals

Primal Supply Meats,1538 E Passyunk Avenue and 1521 North 31st Street, (215) 595-2255

Lalo, The Bourse Food Hall

Saté Kampar, 1837 East Passyunk Avenue, (267) 324-3860

South Philly Barbacoa, 1140 South 9th Street, (215) 360-5282

Essen, 1437 East Passyunk Avenue, (215) 271-2299

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About Foodizen

Foodizen, a regular feature from The Citizen, delves into the nexus of food and culture in cities, as a way to tell us about the people, experiences, tastes and history of Philadelphia.

We know that food is about more than food. And food stories intersect with the roiling life of the city—its politics, diversity, education, its ideas of home, the environment and quality of life.

Through food, we can see how people strive for sustainability; survive food deserts; maintain urban farms; build restaurants with social consciences; use restaurants as centers for activism, welcome and good cheer.

We can see how people live—and what keeps them doing it.

Foodizen takes us into neighborhoods, far from the Center City foodie epicenter, not just for stories but also for community gatherings to explore some of the ideas that are continuously re-creating the city of Philadelphia.

See more of the series here:

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Recent podcast episodes include interviews with the authors behind Saltwater Table: Recipes from the Coastal South and Alpine Cooking: Recipes and Stories from Europe’s Grand Mountaintops; baker Sarah Owens; and Rachael Ray. Keep your eye out for the episode recorded here in Philly, coming soon.

A Woman’s Place …

… is running the kitchen, despite restaurants still being mostly male-dominated. Philly proves that’s true at an event with influential food magazine Cherry Bombe.

… is running the kitchen, despite restaurants still being mostly male-dominated. Philly proves that’s true at an event with influential food magazine Cherry Bombe.

It was a special night, when it seemed like the most important thing in the world of food was happening in Philadelphia. The occasion, on the first cold Monday night of December, was the last stop of Radio Cherry Bombe’s “Food For Thought” tour at Triple Bottom Brewing, to celebrate local women entrepreneurs in the food industry.

CitizenCastCherry Bombe, the women-focused indie magazine founded in 2013 by Kerry Diamond and Claudia Wu, has been hugely influential as popular food culture and food media gets over its bro-y-ness. Over the past half-decade, the print magazine has added podcasts and events like its annual Jubilee conference in New York, and this one. Diamond hosted the live recording at Triple Bottom, with a crowd of industry people and several dozen fans—who Cherry Bombe calls “the Bombesquad”—and started with shoutouts to Cristina Martinez’s Barbacoa and Tova du Plessis’ Essen, where she’d eaten earlier in the day.

Photo credit: Jillian Guyette

They were just two of the several women-owned food companies present or mentioned during the night that have been critical to transforming the city’s food culture over the last several years, and there could have been more: whether it’s Heather Marold Thomason’s butchery at Primal Supply Meats, Jillian Encarnacion and Resa Mueller’s exciting take on Filipino cuisine at Lalo, or Ange Branca’s wildly popular Saté Kampar and charitable Muhibbah dinner series. Philly has long been ahead of the curve when it comes to female food pioneers, from Judy Wicks at White Dog Cafe to Susanna Foo to Audrey Claire Taichman’s pioneering eponymous BYOB.

Radio Cherry Bombe’s evening program was a little all over the map. But it worked, likely because, in Philadelphia, women are leading so many different facets of food. Things began with tea expert Alexis Siemons, who consults on brands and menus, and teaches classes on tea. Siemons only spoke a few words on tea (for matcha at home: “use a bamboo whisk and it will create a beautiful frothy texture”; consider using tea to rehydrate dried mushrooms and fruit).

Mostly, she read an essay about her father’s “pre-eating” rituals of scanning Do Somethingrestaurant menus before a memorable family trip to Italy, something that inspired her journey into food and the idea that “maybe there’s a way to strike a balance, where we can be informed and still leave a little room for childlike surprise.” “Do you remember your first momentous meal?” Siemons asked. “Carry that remarkable sense of discovery with you and your heart will always be full.”

Next, Jill Weber, owner of Sojourn Philly restaurant group (including Jet Wine Bar and Rex 1516) told a story about how her work as a professional archaeologist in countries like Turkey, Syria, Armenia, and Iraq evolved into becoming a restaurateur (“embrace the chaos” being key to both).

Weber described her first excavation in Turkey as a 21-year-old, experiencing the bustling bazaar with “sesame rolls, mussels, dried apricot, rose petals, tamarind, tea, juice, coffee, everything you can imagine, everybody yelling.” At every stop in her journey, there was sharing and inclusion through food. “In every culture I’ve ever been in, I’ve been brought into the fold by women bringing me food,” she said. Pots of tea, eat pistachios, olives and bread in Turkey, meat patties in Kurdistan, huge plates of rice with almonds and raisins and roasted lambs and lamb brains in Syria.

She acknowledged her role as a privileged outsider in cultures that are stifling conservative toward women. In Syria, Weber said, “I was never excluded from male-dominated public life, and always invited into female-dominated private life, when the men absolutely were not.”

Years in these places inspired her to bring back the wines and spirits of places like Lebanon, Turkey and the Republic of Georgia to Philadelphia, creating connections between us and the rest of the world.

“A restaurant is a community place,” Fork’s Yin said. “A restaurant is a place to restore.”

The big names at Triple Bottom Brewery that night were Ellen Yin, owner of High Street Hospitality Group, including Fork, and Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran, whose Midtown Village restaurant empire will soon include seven spots. But they were paired on the Cherry Bombe panel with two relative newcomers, Justine Macneil, who recently opened Fiore, an Italian all-day café and restaurant in Queen Village with her husband Ed Crochet this year, and Tess Hart, the co-founder of Triple Bottom Brewery.

Read MoreTurney and Safran talked about the struggles of opening their latest and most-ambitious restaurant, Loveluck, in the former Love Park Welcome Center. They also talked about the challenges of maturing beyond the day-to-day grind and into more of a management role, and also the challenges of running a restaurant now as parents. Yin talked about the need for a restaurateur to be “resolute” or have “stubbornness.”

“You don’t have any choice,” she said. “I just keep pushing and plugging along.”

But it was the two younger business owners who really talked most about changing the food culture. Diamond asked Macneil, who worked as a pastry chef in New York at places like Mario Batali’s Del Posto, what it was like to work in a male-dominated kitchen culture. Macneil, however, said that pastry departments, even at male-dominated restaurants, were predominantly female. Later, as we tasted desserts from Cake Life, Lil’ Pop Shop, Weckerly’s, Fiore, and Barbuzzo, it underscored how pastry has often been a key entry point for women into the food industry.

Cake Life’s shortbread cookies. Photo credit: Jillian Guyette

“Everything on my mind is ‘How do I create a healthy kitchen culture,’” said Macneil. “We try our hardest to hire nice people.” She said she could teach someone how to bake, but, “I cannot teach being kind to each other or respectful of each other.”

Hart spoke even more broadly, saying she and husband Bill Popwell had opened Custom HaloTriple Bottom Brewery this past summer as a “space of community.” She reminded the audience that Philadelphia has the highest poverty rate of any big city in the U.S., while at the same time has the fastest-growing millennial population of any U.S. city. Diamond asked Hart about Triple Bottom’s stated fair-chance mission. “Some of our team members have experienced homelessness, some have experienced the justice system. And all of them, no matter what their experience is, get a chance to grow here,” Hart said. “We’re very intentional in creating a space where all of them can grow and thrive.”

The Bombesquad, Diamond told us, were “women who get shit done.” She added: “And a few men that get shit done.”

Perhaps the most gracious moment of the evening happened next, when Yin, the seasoned veteran, told Hart, whose business opened three months ago: “Tess, what you’re doing is amazing. I’m looking for people with initiative, whether they’ve been in prison, whether they’ve been homeless. I agree with you. They should be given a fair chance.”

“A restaurant is a community place,” Yin added. “A restaurant is a place to restore.”

This sense of community and mentorship, in the end, is crucial to all industries. But the Cherry Bombe gathering underscored how essential it is in food. When the program was over, Diamond implored people to network, to make a new contact. The Bombesquad, she told us, were “women who get shit done.” She added: “And a few men that get shit done.”

Jason Wilson is The Citizen’s 2019 Jeremy Nowak Fellow, funded by Spring Point Partners, in honor of our late chairman Jeremy Nowak. He is the author of three books, including the recent The Cider Revival, series editor of The Best American Travel Writing, and writes for the Washington Post, New York Times, New Yorker and many other publications. You can find him at jasonwilson.com.

Want more Philly food news? Check out these related articles: 

Header photo: From left: Kerry Diamond, Ellen Yin, Marcie Turney, Valerie Safran, Justine Macneil, and Tess Hart | Courtesy Jillian Guyette

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