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Root: Two restaurant vets plan 'the whole experience' in Fishtown

Chef Nick Kennedy and Starr alumnus Greg Root are building a restaurant off Girard Avenue next to Frankford Hall.

Fishtown is developing a certain maturity of late.

There's La Colombe's flagship location; Kensington Quarters' melding of butcher shop and refined dining; a wine bar (Fishtown Social) about to open; and the ambitious, soon-to-open Wm. Mulherin's Sons, the new home of chef Chris Painter, planned for Front Street.

Here's another restaurant with a sterling pedigree and grown-up intentions:

Root, a stylish offering from two pedigreed restaurant veterans - Greg Root, who on Jan. 29 left his job as director of restaurants for Starr (there for 13 years), and chef Nick Kennedy, whose resume includes line cook at the Inn at Washington, sous chef at Jean Georges, executive sous chef at Del Posto, and most recently corporate chef de cuisine for Scott Conant Restaurant Ventures (e.g. the Scarpetta restaurants). He moved to Fishtown last year with his young family.

They're looking for a mid-March opening next to Frankford Hall at 1206 Frankford Ave.

"It means more than just my last name," Root said. "There's the wine correlation."

"Also the start of us getting together," Kennedy added quickly. "Hopefully we'll also have other things to be excited about. This is the first."

The guys and their wives met at Frankford Hall last summer, realized that they had the same goals, and found a third partner in Nathalie Richan, who owns Cafe La Maude in Northern Liberties.

They describe Root's cuisine as fresh takes on Italian, Spanish and American food, pairable with their bar program, which will include six to eight reds and six to eight whites by the glass, three or four sparkling, a rose or two, and two or three dessert wines. The by-the-bottle list will start at $45 and feature a dozen or so whites and roses, 15 to 20 reds, and four to six sparkling. They'll also specialize in gin-and-tonics, alongside a few classic cocktails. No beer on draft, though crafts in bottles.

Menu, still in flux, will include pan con tomate, robiola grilled cheese with truffles, artisanal cheeses and charcuterie, potato gnocchi, and braised short ribs.

"We'll do a complete dining experience," said Kennedy, dispelling rumors on the street that Root would be a wine bar, per se, or small-plate specialist.

"This won't be overly complicated," he said. "If you want to come in [and eat light], that'll be fine."

They plan to run 4 to 11 p.m. daily, keeping the bar open late. Brunch and then lunch will go online shortly after opening.

Richard Stokes Architecture is working with a wide dining room, rather than a deep one (similar in scale to on Rittenhouse Square). Stokes is aiming for what Root and Kennedy call a "stylish modern sensibility" in the 55 to 60 seats, including bar.

Root and Kennedy intend a "lively" vibe and what they call inviting, "unstuffy" service, "yet relaxed with a strong focus on hospitality." Root's wife, Danee, part of the James Beard-honored service team at Vetri, will work there.

"This is a great place," Root said of Fishtown. "It's growing, the neighborhood is welcoming, and it's becoming a destination."