Walnut Street Cafe opens officially Friday, June 30 in a visible, yet most unlikely location. It's on the street level of the FMC Tower at Cira Centre South, that new skyscraper south of 30th Street Station at one end of the Walnut Street Bridge over the Schuylkill. It's also, in effect, the hotel restaurant of the new AKA, on the upper floors.
Its management team – including partners Patrick Cappiello and Branden McRill, chef Daniel Eddy, and pastry chef Melissa Weller – is highly pedigreed, but – they emphasize – it offers something for everyone:
A morning cafe and breakfast restaurant. A lunch and dinner destination at various prices. A drop-in spot for pastries and coffee from Rival Bros. A wine bar with 50 varieties by the glass as well as half-bottles. And there's a frozen margarita machine for hurricanes and cinnamon and pineapple frozen pina coladas, as well as a daily themed "citywide special."
Walnut Street Cafe (2929 Walnut St., 215-867-8067) has stylish atmospherics including an airy, brass-accented interior that suggests both modern and retro. There's a balcony overlooking the cafe/wine bar, which overlooks the Schuylkill. There will be 40 outdoor seats.
Cappiello and McRill won a Michelin star at their current restaurant, New York's Rebelle, and the Wine Spectator's Grand Award at the now-shuttered Pearl & Ash. Before he began running the kitchen at Rebelle, Eddy worked in Paris at Spring with Daniel Rose – now in New York at Le Coucou. Weller is a veteran of Per Se and Roberta's. All except for Weller are shuttling, sometimes between lunch and dinner, between Philadelphia and New York; all have apartments here.
(Talk about the challenges of opening a restaurant. In late April, seeking relaxation with a visit to his hometown of Detroit, McRill tore the miniscus on his right knee while doing yoga. He had surgery and could not return to the work site until earlier this month.)
Cappiello describes Walnut Street Cafe as "a restaurant whose intent is to be as many things to as many people as it possibly can."
Weller's baking may be the secret weapon that keeps workers in the tower coming down frequently.
There's "the idea that the croissant that's baked off at 6 in the morning really shouldn't eaten at 6 o'clock at night," Eddy told me. "That's not what the ethos of the restaurant's about. As we have people here who are working early and they're here until the afternoon, they should have different reasons to come down. So start off the morning with a croissant. Three hours later, what do you really want to eat? Well, maybe I'm ready for something salty – let's put out the seasonal focaccia. This is the afternoon now – a chocolate-chip cookie."
"To do programming where, like, it gets into people's minds like, 'Oh, it's 10:30. This is about to come out, hot out the oven.' When I was living in France and seeing people queue up at the bakeries because they knew the baguettes were coming out every 10 minutes, that's the place you want to go to. The one that's coming fresh out the oven.
"There's a bakery in New York that I really enjoy called Arcade Bakery, and it's in the arcade of a building downtown in TriBeCa," Eddy said. "Roger, the guy who's the baker there – he put croissants out in the morning and then the baguettes would come out, then the same baguette dough would be turned into a pizza.
"I would go there and I would end up staying around. I'm like, 'Oh, man.' I would have, like, a piece of babka and I would have, like, a croissant and I'd look at my watch. I was like, 'Oh. It's 10:45. In 30 minutes, he's bringing out the pizza. Let me just hang out here, I'll have another coffee' and it sort of created this wonderful thing of like, you wanted to linger and you want to see what was coming there after."
Hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday and Monday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, and 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Here are menus: