Philadelphia-based restaurant groups are in expansion mode.

Teddy Sourias and crew keep opening bars (including two spots this weekend at the new Piazza Pod Park in Northern Liberties). Michael Schulson and Nina Tinari are opening restaurants (recently Alpen Rose and, later this summer, an Italian called Via Locusta on the 1700 block of Locust with Osteria partner Jeff Michaud). Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran (Barbuzzo, Bud & Marilyn’s, Lolita, etc.) are expanding their empire off 13th Street with Loveluck at the spaceship building at Love Park. Michael Pasquarello (Cafe Lift, Prohibition) has at least one new joint in the works near his base at 13th and Spring Garden.

Now here come Jill Weber and Evan Malone of Sojourn Philly (Rex 1516, Jet Wine Bar, Cafe Ynez) with two major projects — one right in their South Street West backyard and another in Kensington:

  • Rex 1516 (at 1516 South St.) will move into the historic Royal Theater two doors away, at 1524-34 South St., where it will be known simply as Rex and continue to serve a refined Southern menu; target is spring 2020. Only the dramatic brick facade of the Royal —which opened a century ago and became a landmark in the city’s African American community (“American’s Finest Colored Photoplay House”) — still stands. Developers Robert Roskamp and Ori Feibush are erecting a residential building behind it, placing 54 apartments on South Street and seven homes on Kater Street. Feibush told me that the building is a year from completion, but the commercial space would be ready this fall for Weber, Malone, and Canno Design to start work. The new Rex, at nearly 6,000 square feet (making it among the larger restaurants in the area), will include a bar, private dining spaces, a café, and a bottle shop. It also will have a mezzanine overlooking the main floor and do live music on the weekends. (Here is a terrific backgrounder on the Royal, which closed in 1970 and fell into disrepair.)
  • Sor Ynez, a Mexican restaurant and a sibling of their Cafe Ynez on Washington Avenue, is coming to 1800 N. American St. (the corner of North American and Berks Streets) in the urban boomtown that is now Kensington, in early 2020. (Sor Ynez is inspired by Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, a Mexican nun, scholar, and feminist from the 1600s. Weber, an archaeologist by trade, loves history.) All-day menu will be vegetarian-focused (example: eggplant barbacoa on nopales tortillas), though meat will also be served. They’re aiming for a liquor license, and drinks will be built around fresh-pressed juices, such as guava, mango, tamarind, and hibiscus, which will be amplified by with cinnamon, coriander, and chilis. They’ve retained the design services of Miguel Antonio Horn, a Philadelphian; architect is Jackie Gusic of Inhabit LLC.

They also have hired the well-traveled chef Lucio Palazzo as culinary director.

The facade of the Royal Theater on the 1500 block of South Street. The restaurant Rex 1516 will expand west into a new interior.
COURTESY SOJOURN PHILLY
The facade of the Royal Theater on the 1500 block of South Street. The restaurant Rex 1516 will expand west into a new interior.