Center City’s flagging diner scene got a boost this week with the opening of the Chestnut Diner, a snazzy, two-story affair across from Liberty Place at 1614 Chestnut St. It occupies the former 4 Seasons Food Court, which closed last year.
The Chestnut, open 24 hours on weekends for now, joins the 24-hour Midtown III, that wood-paneled vestige of the 1970s two blocks away on 18th Street, and the more modern City Diner at Broad and South Streets, which also runs 24 hours on weekends.
Two others open 24/7 are on the fringes of downtown: the South Street Diner on South Street near Second in Queen Village and the Broad Street Diner at Broad and Ellsworth Streets.
For now, the Chestnut is easing into the round-the-clock game. It’s now open from 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Thursday, going 24 hours from 6:30 a.m. Friday till 11 p.m. Sunday.
New Jersey diner magnate Saban Ozdemir, who also owns the Route 130 in Delran and Golden Palace in Vineland, wants to build the Chestnut’s daytime business before flipping the 24-hour switch full time.
Philadelphia hasn’t been a hot spot for overnight dining since the days of Linton’s and Horn & Hardart’s, when downtown had a manufacturing industry, before the dawn of Wawa and Grubhub.
The 1600 block of Chestnut Street nowadays is mighty barren after midnight.
Neighborhood night owls still lament the forced closing of Little Pete’s, at 17th and Chancellor Streets, in 2017. It will be interesting to see the overall impact of the site’s replacement, a 203-room Hyatt Centric Hotel, due to open June 30. Additionally, W and Element Hotels, with a total of 750 guest rooms on the 1400 block of Chestnut, are on the way this spring.
Will hotel guests crave an offsite restaurant meal?
At least the Chestnut Diner looks nice. Ozdemir avoided the usual diner chrome, booths, and kitsch, installing black-painted wooden tables, crown molding, tray ceilings with tasteful chandeliers, and rustic stones accenting the walls. There’s a dessert case at the front door. A better sign is on the way.
Menu is appropriately phone book-size, with breakfast served all day. Prices are almost ridiculously low; a tasty patty melt served alongside a mountain of crispy fries with a side cup of chicken noodle soup (or Yankee bean, that day) is $7.99, and full-course dinners are mostly under $17.