Streeteries have come to signify a lot of different things to the people of Philadelphia. To diners, they’re beautifully decorated alcoves where we can eat safely and comfortably while watching the world go by. They’re a welcome reprieve during a year and a half that’s been so isolating.

To restaurants, streeteries have served as a lifeline. When indoor dining capacity was limited, these outdoor spaces added upward of 30 seats, allowing restaurants to keep their staff employed and their businesses afloat.

But these ornately decorated spaces didn’t just sprout up overnight. Many of them were built over the course of months as restaurateurs felt their way through an uncertain future. As the pandemic progressed, so did our city’s streeteries. Over time, tables and chairs evolved into constructed coverings with art installations. Some became so elaborate, they’ve been equipped with HVAC units to keep diners comfortable during all seasons. They were an expensive endeavor, though, costing anywhere between $20,000 to $50,000..

As the end of 2021 approaches, it’s unclear whether or not the city will extend streetery permits into next year. Saba Tedla, owner of Booker’s Restaurant & Bar in West Philly says she’s concerned that, after making such a large investment, streetery structures are only permitted until the end of December. “We’re banking on a guideline from the City Council and the city itself. We’re preparing ourselves for extension, but the city has to make that call,” she says.

Indoor dining capacity is back to 100%, and though the added revenue streams are helping offset pandemic losses, it’s still going to take some time for restaurants to make back their investment. “Over several months, we’ll start to make the money back, and that’s why we’re going to push for the city to keep this permit going for another couple of years,” says Nicole Marquis, owner of Bar Bombón. “One, it helps us recoup so much of the losses over the last year and a half, and then to recoup the cost that we put into building it.”

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Every streetery is an investment in the business and staff, but also in the artists they collaborated with. Streeteries are a sign of hope. They show that even when the odds weren’t in the hospitality industry’s favor, restaurateurs continued to find ways to welcome us and feed us. “No matter what’s going on in our world, there’s still creative outlets, and there’s still beauty and there’s always a solution – a beautiful solution to these issues,” says Maggie Huth, creative director of Rouge.

“Currently, the temporary outdoor/ROW dining program will continue through December 31, 2021. It is important to note that continuation of streeteries — and the entire outdoor dining program — is reliant upon City Council action,” wrote Kevin Lessard, deputy communications director for the City of Philadelphia, in an email. “The administration envisions streeteries and the expanded sidewalk dining program being incorporated into a permanent version of the outdoor dining initiative but with limitations regarding structures related to public safety and accessibility. The administration hopes to work with City Council, local business owners, and residents this fall to solidify the details regarding a permanent program that can be implemented in a safe, responsible, and equitable way.”

Streeteries are here until at least the end of the year, so let’s enjoy them. Here are some of the most beautiful streeteries in Philadelphia.


Bar Bombón

Nicole Marquis had a vision for the La Casita streetery at Bar Bombón. “I knew that I wanted to have a warm, sort of tropical vibe and for it to be reminiscent of old San Juan,” says Marquis, owner of Bar Bombón. The restaurant’s Latin spirit is very much influenced by her mother who was a schoolteacher at Edison High School in North Philadelphia. “She beautified her classroom, every inch of the wall was covered in color and in examples of Puerto Rican heritage, and it was just so festive,” says Marquis who wanted to do the same with Bar Bombón and with La Casita.

Working with the team from Stokes Architecture + Design, she conceptualized the vibrant green structure with semiprivate dining nooks, hanging light fixtures, pristine planters, hanging lights, and even a heater. It features a yellow bike with baskets overflowing with flowers, an arrangement designed by the woman-owned Maidencreek Co. The project has cost around $50,000 that Marquis said it was worth it to keep her restaurant going, and to keep her staff employed. “We just couldn’t face another shutdown or another delay again,” she says.

The investment was also worth it to create a gorgeous space that’s comfortable and engaging to customers. “I want people to feel like they had a wonderful experience just like they do when they’re inside of our location, and I want them to know that they have the option to sit outside now, if they feel more comfortable doing that,” says Marquis. “And you know, if you get a chance to stand in front of the flower bike, and take a photo and have a really nice memory, that’s great, too.”

📍133 S. 18th St., 📞 267-606-6612, 🌐 barbombon.com, 📷 @barbombon


Via Locusta

Via Locusta’s streetery is an elegant respite from an afternoon of shopping and boutique hopping through Rittenhouse Row. The soft mint green structure is built for comfort as well as safe social distancing. Clear partitions between each table create a barrier while also making the space feel open and bright, and an HVAC unit installed in the structure allows for heating and air-conditioning to keep diners comfortable regardless of the weather. It’s the perfect spot to people-watch, grab a cocktail and a few bites, or indulge in a full Italian meal. For happy hour try the Hugo, a refreshing floral and citrusy spritz with elderflower, mint, and lemon, or if you’re going for dinner, try the savory pappardelle with pork ragu.

📍1723 Locust St., 📞 215-642-0020, 🌐 vialocusta.com, 📷 @vialocusta

Booker’s Restaurant & Bar

What started out as tables, chairs, and umbrellas outside of Bookers in West Philly has grown into a stylish pergola with draped fabric above that diffuses the sunlight while keeping the sidewalk eatery in the shade. Festive paper lanterns hang over a sidewalk lush with flowering plants and greenery. Whether you’re visiting for a sweet brunch of cheesecake French toast or a hearty dinner of blackened catfish, owner Saba Tedla’s goal for the outdoor eatery is centered on creating a comfortable space that adapts to the ever-changing situation. “You just have to reinvent yourself constantly,” says Tedla. “It’s like taking people away and being able to give people some imagination so they don’t have to focus on the weather and they can feel like they’re somewhere else.”

📍5021 Baltimore Ave., 📞 215-883-0960, 🌐 bookersrestaurantandbar.com, 📷 @bookers.westphilly

Kalaya

Every element of Kalaya is a very personal expression of Nok Suntaranon’s Thai heritage. So when it came to building her streetery, she knew she wanted to create a space that transported people to her childhood home in the Trang province. “I was thinking: What can I do to give back? The structure is there so let’s make it pleasant. We have now we have the platform,” says Suntaranon. “Let’s bring art and joy to our community, to our neighbors, to the neighborhood by using that structure as the platform for the art.”

Partnering with queer contemporary artist, Tiff Urquhart, they developed a series of murals. Since Urquhart’s inspiration is drawn from landscapes and the natural world, and she had traveled to Thailand, Suntaranon asked her to paint tropical flowers on each of Kalaya’s streetery structures. “For me, it reminds me of home. For her it is a reminder of her time in Thailand. For the neighbors, it is something colorful and beautiful to look at,” says Suntaranon.

📍764 S. Ninth St., 📞 215-385-3777, 🌐 kalaya.net/kalaya-thai-kitchen, 📷 @kalayaphilly

Flannel Cookin’ Country

Flannel Cookin’ Country brings a little bit of Southern comfort to East Passyunk Avenue. Everything from its imaginative Southern eats, like the country poutine made with fries, pimento cheese, and roast pork slathered in a redeye gravy, to the rustic décor evokes a sense of “comfortable country” as owner Marc Grika describes. So it was important to Grika that Flannel’s easygoing vibe be brought out to the streetery. “I use the same colors that we have inside. We also have a lot of wood inside,” says Grika. “It was meant to be that same comfortable feeling.”

Though the streetery is not covered like some, Grika uses umbrellas which makes the outdoor space feel more open, almost like picnic tables at a Southern barbecue joint. Box planters bring a bit of greenery in the space, and change according to the seasons. But the best part of Flannel’s streetery is the live musical performances that happen on Friday and Saturday nights. Bands set up in front of Flannel’s floor-to-ceiling windows and perform everything fromjazz to country music. “We have right now 12 different bands that rotate and we’re adding to it,” says Grika.

📍1819 E. Passyunk Ave., 📞 215-465-1000, 🌐 flannelrestaurant.com, 📷 @eatflannel

Laurel

Twinkling string lights zigzag across wood beam ceilings making Laurel’s streetery feel like a sophisticated eatery in the countryside. Planters with large parlor palms between each table give you a little bit of privacy, creating an ambiance that’s romantic and intimate. The space is as intentionally designed as the seasonal tasting menu. Wooden tables, walls, and floors give the streetery a sense of getting back to the land, which is reflected in dishes like the earthy brown butter roasted black bass and the gamey charcoal grilled quail.

📍1617 E. Passyunk Ave., 📞 215-271-8299, 🌐 restaurantlaurel.com, 📷 @laurelepx

The Garden at Rouge

Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, the Garden at Rouge was built slowly over the course of the pandemic. “It definitely took us a couple of phases to get to the point where we were under a tent with a platform,” says Maggie Huth, the creative director of Rouge. What started out as just a parking lane has now expanded into a large tent that encompasses both the parking lane and one traffic lane.

Rouge’s streetery designs have been a collaboration between Huth and the restaurant’s owner, Rob Wasserman. During the winter, the 15x7-foot tent was transformed into a ski lodge complete with Adirondack chairs draped in fuzzy blankets, antler chandeliers, and fire; pits. To keep with the seasons, they’ve swapped out the ski lodge with a more whimsical garden featuring twinkling lights shimmering through wisteria vines from the ceiling and plenty of greenery. The space is so exquisite, it won Best Streetery for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Philadelphia Flower Show Bloom Philly contest.

“Our goal was just to kind of create an escape that was safe and, and different from your home,” says Huth. With summer coming to a close, Rouge is now gearing up for some fun fall décor before bringing back their much-anticipated winter ski lodge.

📍205 S. 18th St., 📞 215-732-6622, 🌐 rouge98.com, 📷 @98rouge