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Welcome to the Weekend: Don’t Go Too Far

The weather outside is not your friend. There's plenty to be done indoors, however, so here are a few options we'd put on our jackets for:

Open House at the Training Station Gym in the Piazza - This weekend, you can get a tour of the gym on the third floor of the Rialto building, right below our office. Phil Clark, owner of Run Shoe Store and the Training Station, gave us the rundown this morning. The unobstructed Northern Liberties view through the full-length windows is the positive reinforcement that you need for your treadmill session. There will be plenty of elliptical machines and weight stations, as well as a rowing machine that simulates a real rowing experience with a water wheel. The gym will be open for actual workout sessions by the second week of February.

The Philly Auto Show kicks off tomorrow. You can get a look at the featured cars on their website. Cars are warm. We like that.

We're betting that there's a Philagrafika exhibition somewhere near you, with 300 artists at 80 venues. The celebration of print in contemporary art is your chance to see some very cool printmaking work. Then proceed immediately to a neighborhood bar for a beet salad and a warming beverage. Meet you back here on Monday.


Recap of Last Night's NLNA Meeting

spring garden underpass

In case you didn't brave it in the cold for last night's monthy meeting of the Northern Liberties Neighbors Association, we stopped by for the neighborhood briefing.

First up, RecycleBank gave a presentation on their recycling rewards program, which rolls out in Northern Liberties next week. The process is simple: you sign up through their website, slap an electronic tag on your recycling bin, and you receive points each time the truck picks up your load. Points can be redeemed for discounts at local businesses, Whole Foods, Target, and many others. You can also choose to donate your points to schools that are involved in a Green Schools program. For more information and to sign up, visit

Tim Bennett from Bennett Compost also stopped by to discuss his composting service for those interested in having their compost picked up for a $10 monthly fee. Materials are then moved to local green areas. He'll also consult with restaurants and other businesses that are ready to start composting. Check it out at

Want to work for the 2010 Census? If you'd like to make some extra money in your spare time, stop by a testing center and apply to be part of the team that helps get out the 2010 Census. You can find more details on their website:

And finally, last night's main discussion centered around a proposal request from artisans who'd like to re-design the I-95 Underpass on Spring Garden Street. The project's aim is to beautify and transform the much-needed area, which is such a major transportation hub for many of us. The streetscape will be improved with a green landscape and new lighting, but the NLNA and architecture firm DIGSAU is very open to designs from local artists. The chosen artist will receive funds to immediately start planning and developing the space, with the help of the Mural Arts Program and DIGSAU. The application will be available on Monday at and proposals will be accepted until March 1. 

Look for Phase I of the installation to be completed by October 2010, with the finalization of the project set for 2012. Applicants are encouraged to keep the neighborhood vibe in mind and to include modern, abstract artwork in their proposal. The Spring Garden Underpass is in dire need of some inspiration, and we're excited to see the results and the value that this adds to the neighborhood.

See you at next month's meeting!


The Darling’s Diner Story: The Cheesecake was Born

The thing that makes a local restaurant so special is their story. Darling's Diner and Famous Cheesecakes, located at N. 2nd and Germantown Avenue, at the Piazza in Northern Liberties is a great restaurant and has a great story. Ryan and Kara in the photograph (below) are an illustration in a simple snapshot of how Darling's serves up a delicious meal and a delightful atmosphere every day. The decor is a mash-up of Silk City meets Stephen Starr. But atmosphere and good food do not create themselves. So, we decided to find out what the story was behind all of Darling's good stuff, especially the cheesecake.

Harry Arnold admits he was born to be in the restaurant business. Thinking back at all of the years he had spent in the food service industry as a busboy, a server, a bartender, and reminiscing about pushing around his fair share of dessert carts, Harry happily admitted, "I really can't imagine myself doing anything else!"  Harry is the co-owner of Darling's Diner and Famous Cheesecakes. As we sat chatting in his diner over a piece of his insanely world-rocking chocolate mousse, Harry's confessions continued. "I had never cooked a thing in my life, but then one day I decided I wanted to try my hand at it."

The very first dish Harry ever tried to cook was cheesecake. By the fourth try, his chef friends knew he was on to something. "They really liked it!" As a waiter, in the back kitchens of Chickie and Pete's in South Philly, a restaurant that banned all desserts, he was turning his coworkers onto his secret cheesecake concoction. They loved his delicious recipes. Harry's friends and anyone who had the good fortune to taste one of his cakes wanted more. The more people tasted, the more they got hooked on his perfectly created recipes. Harry began to realize that he too was hooked. "I was addicted to the feeling I got when people said they loved my cooking." And so it was, Harry's career was born.

Breakfast at Darling's...retro grub for the modern set

Many people encouraged Harry to open a restaurant but his brother John was the man, the "pillar", who really stepped up to the plate as a business partner and investor. The two men opened a tiny 6 seat cafe with a chalkboard menu at 20th and Pine Streets in Philadelphia and within the first year of business they received the Best of Philly Award for desserts. A year later they opened a second store behind the Franklin Institute just off the Benjamin Franklin Parkway on 21st Street.

Business was cooking for a couple of years, though it was not always a sweet ride for Harry and John. Their big plans to move to a third location went sour when the stock market crashed and burned. John was devastated and Harry was in shock. But you know what they say, when one oven door closes, another opens and pretty soon they were planning the menus and hiring the staff for Darling's new location at the Piazza in Northern Liberties.

If you have not been to Darling's Diner yet, STOP what you are doing RIGHT NOW and go there! We mean it! What are you waiting for? We will see you there soon!

Darling's Diner at the Piazza is located at 1033 N. 2nd Street in Northern Liberties. For more info, visit their website at

Have you met Darling's chocolate cheesecake?


Philly's Ale House Ambassadors

Local 44's Frito Chili Pie

When you look at husband-and-wife owners of legend in Philadelphia, you now have to look at Brendan Hartranft and Leigh Maida. The savvy couple swiftly and successful stormed onto the bar scene in Philadelphia and strengthened it with three very different pubs in spread-out, intuitively-chosen locales.

Memphis Taproom, the first to open, seemed like a risk, placed just outside of Fishtown. The area was soon referred to as Port Fishington, a term that has been used unabashedly ever since. The craft beer called in the locals, the fried pickles kept them around, and the vegan desserts won over a stubborn few. There's nothing else quite like this taproom, such a far crawl from any other bar of its kind, that it simply works.

Time had hardly passed when the Hartranft-Maidas were working on bar #2, bringing the amazing beer/creative bar food formula to West Philly. They reached a younger crowd and won over the neighbors simultaneously, with Local 44. They also had a baby.

Success under their belts, the ambitious pair were not slowing down. Next up was Resurrection Ale House, set in Grays Ferry, a stretch of Naval Square that was quickly making a scene of its own. Here, the focus was on the food, though there was plenty of excellent beer to go around. If you've never had a roasted miatake mushroom with celery root puree at a bar before, now's your chance. When the Hartranft-Maidas move into a neighborhood, they give it what it needs. A hangout with personality, a well-thought-out menu with variety and flair, in a smartly-designed space, with a wide selection of some of the best beer around.


One Shot Coffee Makes the Switch to Stumptown

One Shot Coffee

One Shot owner Melissa Baruno was the only cafe around brewing Intelligentsia during the early days of the Liberties Walk latte joint. Now, the crowded neighborhood haunt is going through some changes. One of them is product. The other is location.

Baruno plans to expand the storefront into the building behind the current shop by May 1. Before that, she'll be brewing an exclusive blend developed with Stumptown owner Duane Sorenson, starting February 1.

"In addition to just making an awesome cup of coffee, this blend's complexity really works with our new menu, too, which will include pairings in the afternoon. There are just so many elements in Stumptown coffee for us to play with, it's really exciting," Baruno says.

The blend, known as #2, will replace Intelligentsia as their house cup. "It is well balanced and has plenty of sweetness for everyone to enjoy, but there is a lot going on in its mid-body and finish."

The new One Shot will have a retail section for customers to buy whole bean coffee. Single origin selections will be offered, along with unique pairings that Baruno is currently working on. The new building is being designed by Chris Sheffield of SL Design.

The new 60-seat coffeehouse will use two floors, with a full kitchen on the first for an expanded menu that includes breakfast, and a second floor with a long community table and library-style seating. Baruno will tend to an herb garden on the upstairs deck.

"I'm creating a whole new way of experiencing coffee by offering consumption of coffee at a bar setting," Baruno adds.

Espresso has always been our favorite shot. Stop by on Monday for free Stumptown coffee at One Shot from 7-10 a.m.

One Shot Coffee, 1040 N 2nd Street, 215-627-1620

Photo by Amber Lynn


Enchantment Under the Sea Dance at Fishtown's 2424 Studios

We're guessing you haven't made plans for February 13. So why not swing by Philebrity's version of an adult prom at 2424 Studios? It will certainly be one of the more interesting, unpredictable events to happen in the city that weekend.

If you haven't been, York Street's 2424 Studios is a recent renovation to the Fishtown landscape. Comprised of both affordable office space and studios, gorgeous event and gallery venues, and home to Office Philebrity, this is the new York Street.

Tickets are now on sale for the pre-V-day dance, with a performance by local lads and house band the Blood Feathers.


Kitchen Nightmares Invades Fishtown's Hot Potato Cafe

Last year, Gordon Ramsay's gotta-love-it restaurant makeover show, Kitchen Nightmares, took over Hot Potato Cafe on Girard Avenue in Fishtown. The episode, which kicks off the show's third season, is finally airing on Friday night at 9 p.m. on FOX. Check out the preview here.


Changes Ahead for Vino at the Piazza

According to the Insider, residents of the Piazza and Northern Liberties can expect some changes at the Italian restaurant formerly known as Vino.

It turns out that all the restaurant might need is some help from Italy, so it's getting some. Restaurateurs Fabio Auguadro and Andrea Scotacci are taking over the space on February 1st. The new name will be Apollinare (the same name of the Syrian saint).  Expect white tablecloths, new staff training, a chef trip to Italy, and the best part:

Bread and pasta made in-house.


There's even talk of ice cream made with liquid nitrogen. We can't wait.


Romancing the Walk, February 8-14

Valentine's Week in Liberties Walk will be a lengthy affair if you hit all the right spots. Starting on February 8, a bunch of your favorite Northern Liberties shops remind you why you love them, with tempting specials and events, all at 1040 N. 2nd Street. These are the businesses that shape the neighborhood and make living here a more intimate experience.

As an added touch, each participating store will be selling $5 raffles to benefit the American Heart Association's GO RED FOR WOMEN Campaign. The winner receives a romantic night for two at the Kimpton Palomar, a boutique LEED-certified hotel located downtown. The spankin' new hotel interior reminds us of Northern Liberties, a modern lobby with fun, original artwork. Stay there and make us jealous, but come back to us when you're done.

Heart-shaped pizza from Home Slice. Ladies night at the Velvet Lily. Free dog portraits and couples photos at the newly-opened Heather Fowler Photography Studio.  Not everyone lives for Valentine's Day, but who doesn't love champagne and dessert for $5 at Bar Ferdinand? That's a hot ten minutes right there.

Romancing the walk


Get Your “Me Time” at Genesis Nail Salon in Northern Liberties

Owner Hellen Chang is always happy to see you

Genesis Nail Salon opened up at 984 N 2nd Street in Northern Liberties many months ago. I walked by the nail salon countless times on my way to my office at the Piazza. It took me a while but I finally decided to make some "me time" and get my nails done.

When I walked in I saw several customers getting pedicures in those high-back self-massaging spa chairs that you always see at the mall, while others were getting their fingernails lacquered to perfection. For a moment I felt a bit out of place. I confess, I had not had a manicure in a very long time! I was a walk-in and did not even know if they would take me and my shabby nails.

"Hello. Come on in...," greeted the petite Korean woman, "... and go pick your nail color."

She pointed to the wall of every color OPI nail polish you can imagine. Hellen Chang is her name and she is the owner of Genesis Nail Salon. Hellen's friendly smile and warm welcome made me feel more relaxed immediately. I took my bottle of OPI Chick Flick Cherry and sat down at one of the several manicure stations while another staff member began my much needed manicure.

All I can say is WOW ! First there was the ultimate hand reflexology, followed by the deep heat shoulder massage, and that was all complimentary with a regular manicure !

Hellen and her incredibly skilled group salon specialists had me sipping Ginseng tea with honey (because Hellen explained that in Korea, Ginseng is used as a potent health tonic) and chatting up the other salon customers like I had known them for years. My manicure was absolutely flawless and lasted 3x longer than any other manicure I have ever had !

Genesis Nail Salon offers superior service and personal attention, hands down. Their menu includes several types of faux-nail options, waxing, chair massage, paraffin treatments, and they do parties and special events. Genesis Nail Salon is unisex, has internet service, several special offers, as well as gift certificates and discount membership cards. Stop by and get your me time.

Genesis Nail Salon, 984 N. 2nd St., 215-925-4540
Mon - Wed 10 - 7:30
Thurs - Fri 10 - 9
Sat 10 - 7:30
Sun 10 - 6


Phone: 215.253.6818