Front Street Cafe is a haven combining industrial decor and natural wood in a 2 story, high-ceiling cafe and restaurant with outdoor patio and bar opening April 1, 2016. This spot is serving up breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a fresh menu that is 85% plant based and most items can be made gluten free- ingredients are locally sourced and organic.
Arielle first noticed Front Street Cafe being built underneath the Girard Septa Station when she moved to Northern Liberties in Summer 2015. Front Street Cafe officially opened in September 2015 and the full restaurant and bar followed in November. Lee Larkin is the owner of the building and designed the unique space to preserve the original details and utilize 90% of building materials reclaimed, recycled, and re-purposed from other buildings in the area being demolished.
Nicole Barclay owns the restaurant, is a longtime resident of the Fishtown and Northern Liberties area, and is a licensed herbalist and avid foodie. Nicole has allergies to dairy and gluten while Lee cannot eat red meat. Both Lee and Nicole were frustrated at the limited choices of restaurants in the Philadelphia area catering to those with food allergies or dietary restrictions. They came up with the concept of having healthy and gluten free/vegan choices and partnered with Operator/Chef Andrew Petruzelli (XIX at the Bellevue, Grand Hyatt DC, Knock) and Executive Chef Chris Rubenstein (Horizons, M.A.K.E., Los Angeles, Ipanema Cafe, Richmond) to create a menu that would satisfy everyone.
Images via Front Street Cafe
When you walk in the door your immediately greeted by their coffee bar serving up Non GMO and organic smoothies, juices, pastries, and more. Front Street Cafe offers over 30 choices in all organic fresh squeezed juices, teas and coffee and have incorporated some of these juices into their specialty cocktail menu.
One of most popular fresh organic juices is the “Firefly” – a blend of carrot, pineapple, lemon, orange, ginger & turmeric, helping to provide a strong immune system with anti-inflammatory benefits. They have tons of smoothie options, such as the Açaí berry smoothie, made with mixed berries, açaí, banana and orange.
Lean Green Hotcakes are a breakfast favorite. They are a special mix of organic buckwheat, rice flour & coconut oil blended with kale giving it a vibrant green color. The hotcakes are topped with house made granola, cashew cream and served with organic maple syrup and fresh berries.
Want something like the Açaí Smoothie but in breakfast form? Try the Açaí Bowl – açaí banana whip, coconut, nuts, seeds, and granola, topped with fresh fruit. It’s probably one of the most healthy things we’ve ever eaten, and we walked away feeling great and ready to start the day. Another breakfast favorite of ours are the sausage tacos, made with scrambled eggs, turkey sausage, kale, cojita cheese, pickled red onions, salsa verde, and chipotle salsa.
On the lunch menu Front Street Cafe takes the Veggie burger to a whole new level using a special blend of smoked mushrooms and quinoa served on a fresh vegan brioche bun. The chili is a great option for a hearty lunch (and be sure to check with your server for their soup of the day) – the portion size will be sure to fill you up, and won’t leave you needing a nap (like some other lunch places do). It’s a bowl of hearty lentils with a gluten-free cornbread, and trust us when we say that you won’t even know the cornbread is gluten-free. It’s dense without being too thick, it’s crumbly, and it tasted just like cornbread should. We’d also recommend the Grilled Tofu sandwich. The tofu is made in a sweet and savory marinade, with garlic hummus, arugula, roasted tomato, and caramelized onions, on a brioche bun.
For dinner the Pecan Roasted Honshimeji Mushrooms served on a crispy butternut polenta with garlic griddled spinach and tomato-saffron broth has been a big hit. The roasted butternut squash is folded into the polenta, which gives it a sweeter flavor to help balance the earthiness of the mushroom and the savory nature of the saffron tomato broth.
One of our absolute favorite things at Front Street Cafe is their buffalo cauliflower. It’s so good, one time when we went, we ended up ordering two more servings for the table. It tastes just like buffalo wings, and you’ll almost forget you’re eating a vegetable instead of chicken.
Other dinner appetizer favorites include the Vegan Loaded Potato Wedges, “Christmas Brussels Sprouts”, and Vegan “Fishtown Queso” (made with cashew cheese, instead of regular whiz). We’d pass on the Brisket Sliders served on a pretzel roll that were a bit unexciting.
For something lighter Front Street Cafe offers up some delicious salad options, we tried the Tostada Grain Bowl, with smoked black beans, avocado, tomatoes, cilantro, pickled jalapeños, greens, quinoa and rice with charred lime, chipotle salsa, and a cilantro creme dressing. You can also opt for a poached eggs on top.
For the main course, we’d recommend the Matzo Chicken – this dish tastes exactly like grandma’s matzo-ball soup. It’s stuffed with a green pea matzo meal, and unlike any chicken dish we’ve ever eaten before. It really is incredible, and our hats are off to the chef for this amazing dish.
Front Street Cafe is also serving up desserts, made fresh that day. They have plenty of vegan dessert options as well. Our favorite so far has been the Blueberry Empanadas. They tasted just like mini blueberry pies, and were served hot with a dollop of vanilla ice cream (although we may have wanted an extra scoop of ice cream!)
Delivery options will begin sometime this year, so keep an eye out. They will also be opening their large outdoor patio in the beginning of April, so be sure to check this spot out on a Sunny day to take advantage of the outdoor space.
The Front Street Cafe has been hosting “First Friday” art openings featuring a different local Philadelphia Artist every month and also hosts a Trunk show/baazar on the 4th Sunday of every month called the “Front Street Flea” where local artisans and craftspeople set up to sell their wares. Additionally, the cafe will have a public assembly license by mid April and then will be showcasing local musicians several nights a week!
-Arielle and Lea
Cover Image via Front Street Cafe
We’d like to thank Lee Larkin and everyone at Front Street Cafe for taking the time to talk to us, and let us try your delicious food.