Though you’d never know it from a 60-mph drive-by on I-76 westbound, the old Pencoyd Iron Works in Bala Cynwyd sits on a magnificent property on the banks of the Schuylkill. Beams and all manner of steelwork, including trusses and a crane hook, ring the buildings and frame the bridges over the river toward Manayunk.
And now, as part of a redevelopment of the 11-acre property off of Righters Ferry Road that created a Residence Inn by Marriott, this slice of the Main Line has a pair of restaurants from chef Nicholas Elmi and his business partner, Fia Berisha.
The first, a ground-floor cafe called The Landing Kitchen, opens Thursday and will serve from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday. (Dinner is forthcoming.) Its more formal sibling, Lark, described as a coastal Mediterranean restaurant, is being readied to open in April on the seventh floor.
Elmi, the Top Chef winner whose restaurant holdings are Laurel and In the Valley, side by side on East Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia, was looking for more to do in mid-2019 when he heard about the project from Donna Galvin and the Penn Group, which also owns the UA movie theater on the Philadelphia side of the Pencoyd Bridge. Berisha, who did the restaurant design, was just leaving her post as director of operations for the restaurants Elements, Mistral, and Aether.
The pandemic did hold up the hotel’s opening, but it gave Elmi and Berisha time to get the restaurant in place. Enormous garage doors and an open floor plan yield fine ventilation.
They’ve retained Michael Millon, last at A Mano in Fairmount, as chef of both restaurants.
A former steel plant never smelt so delicious. Menu includes sweet and savory toasts, sandwiches, grain bowls, salads, and vegetable-forward plates. On the more indulgent side is a burger whose double-stacked aged-beef patties and special sauce are served on a Merzbacher’s sweet potato roll.
The property has an enormous riverside patio that Elmi told me would host all kinds of family-friendly activities, such as movie nights.