Avram Hornik, who has built a career on restaurants and clubs in Center City and the Delaware riverfront over the last 24 years, is planning a long-rumored, indoor-outdoor restaurant/wine bar called Lola’s Garden in a prime spot on the Main Line, near where he grew up.
Hornik’s Four Corners Management has an agreement with Kimco Realty for the center courtyard of Suburban Square in Ardmore, taking the storefronts of the now-vacant Kate Spade and Jack Wills boutiques and a 2,000-square-foot outdoor area.
The design of the 260-seat project, with an anticipated opening next spring, is now under review by Lower Merion Township. The look borrows from his city projects, including Harper’s Garden and Morgan’s Pier.
A news release said Hornik himself would direct the project — “an eclectic garden setting that will feature lush greenery and flowers [complemented] by repurposed and recycled natural materials and found objects, with comfortable and community living room style seating and stylings. Even the inside dining spaces will have the look and feel as if you are in the great outdoors.”
Lola’s Garden’s cuisine will be American with a full bar, including 15 draft lines.
Lola’s Garden will be one of two full-service restaurants on the way to Suburban Square, now home of Not Your Average Joe’s as well as fast-casual concepts such as HipCityVeg, Oath Pizza, and a forthcoming Shake Shack. (Ruby’s Diner shut down last January, and Besito, a Mexican restaurant, closed last spring.) A liquor application on the window of a long-shuttered restaurant next door to Lola’s Garden, once known as Parlor and St. James, bears the name DanDan, a Chinese restaurant with locations in Center City and Wayne.
The Main Line is not only a homecoming for Hornik, 47, who was born in California but raised in Merion Station. The move helps brings his overall career path full circle.
In the early 1990s, Hornik, then a young Vassar College graduate, said he had approached Suburban Square’s previous management with an idea for an outdoor coffee kiosk with seating — coincidentally at the very same spot as Lola’s Garden. He was rebuffed. In those days, he said, shopping centers were built exclusively around commerce. Now, they are seen as community gathering spots.
Hornik took the idea to Old City, where in 1996 he and a partner opened Quarry Street Cafe, a mellow coffeehouse. He followed with Customs House Cafe before opening a string of bars, including Lucy’s Hat Shop, Butter/Proto Lounge, SoMa Lounge, Bar Noir, Drinker’s Tavern, Drinker’s Pub, Loie, and Noche, some of which pushed the patience of neighbors. He revived South Philadelphia’s Dolphin Tavern and Boot & Saddle and opened William Street Common, an indoor beer garden near the University of Pennsylvania, and Union Transfer, a live-music venue.
Then he shed most of the bars and settled primarily into venues aimed at a more mature clientele, including Morgan’s Pier, a warm-weather beer garden on the Delaware; Parks on Tap, a summertime beer garden with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation and the Fairmount Park Conservancy; Harper’s Garden and Rosy’s Taco Bar in Center City; Juno in Callowhill; and Craft Hall in Northern Liberties, which also houses Mainstay Independent Brewing Company and Lost Bread Co. Bakery. Concourse Dance Bar in Center City, which opened with a ball pit in spring 2018, is now closed pending renovations.