Fishtown, whose dining scene has soared especially in the last five years, is in line to get a huge, new destination.
It's a market/restaurant/outdoor garden called Suraya (say it "sir-AY-ah"), and it's going into a former machine shop at 1526-30 Frankford Ave., between Jefferson and Oxford Streets. And it's enormous – stretching from Frankford Avenue all the way back to Front Street.
Theme is the Levant – the eastern Mediterranean area encompassed by Lebanon, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Israel, Palestine, and Egypt. It's an area that Beirut-bred co-owner Nathalie Richan (of Café La Maude in Northern Liberties) knows well. Her partners are Greg Root and chef Nick Kennedy, who own the sultry Root down the street.
The market, on the Frankford Avenue side, will open first, likely in late summer. It will include an all-day cafe and a small a la carte menu (including the Lebanese breakfast staple manousheh), plus counters selling prepared foods, spices, olives, and books. Stumptown will be served at the coffee bar, and beer, wine and cocktails will be available.
Step through the market into the 125-seat dining room, which is targeted to open in early fall. Tables will be set up across from an open kitchen – fronted by a 20-seat dining counter – boasting a 12-foot charcoal grill and Woodstone oven. Menu will include mezze. They're going for a vibrant feel and eat-with-your-hands etiquette. "Of course we'll have forks and knives," Root said.
Further in is the 4,000-square-foot garden, landscaped by Groundswell Design. Its bar's beverage of choice will be arak, the anise spirit. The garden's back gate will be Front Street.
Suraya was Suraya Harouni, grandmother of Richan and her brother, the Fishtown developer Roland Kassis. She was the matriarch – the oldest sister of a big family of sisters.
"She kept the family together during war, and she loved everybody. Race, religion did not matter," Richan said.
"She fed everybody."