Michael Solomonov and Steve Cook have had to turn away large events at their popular restaurants, including Zahav, Abe Fisher, K’Far, and Laser Wolf.
On June 1, CookNSolo will get the keys to a vast building at 1601 N. Front St., where it will open a special-events venue called Lilah.
The building, which for five years housed the offices and test kitchen for the fast-casual chain Honeygrow, will allow CookNSolo to host weddings and parties for 250 people. (Honeygrow, now tightening its operations, has leased office space at 1429 Walnut St. in Center City and is close to leasing a cafe location in Fishtown, said founder Justin Rosenberg.)
Lilah — Hebrew for night and pronounced “LIE-lah” — also will house the fourth overall location of Goldie, CookNSolo’s vegan falafel shop, as well as the company’s commissary, now run out of Laser Wolf, which is four blocks away.
CookNSolo culinary director Caitlin McMillan and director of events Neira Jackson are partners in this venture, Cook and Solomonov said. They expect to add 30 to 50 employees.
Boxwood Architects, which has designed K’Far, Abe Fisher, Dizengoff, and several Federal Donuts locations, will oversee work on the space.
Bookings are expected to begin soon, with the first events to be held in spring 2022.
“We’ve had a lot of engagements at Zahav,” Cook said, of the Israeli-inspired, James Beard Award-winning destination that opened in 2008 at Society Hill Towers. But the excitement can go only so far. Zahav can accommodate 90 people at most for a full buyout; its two private dining rooms can handle 14 and 30 people.
The partners say they also receive many requests for catering work, but cooking and entertaining off-site is not ideal. “We have a specific way of doing things and we’re committed to the experience,” Cook said.
“This is the natural next step,” Solomonov said. They have been looking for space on and off for many years, Cook said, shopping in earnest since summer 2019.
Lilah will give the company “the chance to do this on a bigger scale,” Solomonov said. “It gets our juices flowing.”
CookNSolo’s deal for the space is with Pearl Properties, which bought the building from a partnership.
The neighborhood straddling Fishtown and Kensington now includes some of Philadelphia’s most popular restaurants, such as Suraya, Evil Genius Beer Co., Pizzeria Beddia, La Colombe, Wm. Mulherin’s Sons, and The International. This summer, Stephen Starr plans to open LMNO, a Mexican nightspot, a few blocks from Lilah.
Pearl’s Jim Pearlstein and Reed Slogoff have worked with CookNSolo on several properties, including K’Far, Dizengoff, Goldie, and Abe Fisher. Pearl also owns The Terrace on 18th, a building at 1776 Ben Franklin Parkway, which will accommodate a new Federal Donuts this summer.