He and several silent partners, including teammate Todd Herremans, have opened Prime Stache, an American bistro, at 110 Chestnut St. in Old City. The site, with the same owners but under different management, previously was a bar called 879.
Celek, 28, led a redecoration that included a marble-topped bar and reclaimed wood over a concrete floor. He rustled up a chef, Hee "Chino" Chang, who ran the kitchen at Redstone Grill in Marlton when Celek was a rookie and used to come in on Friday nights for feasts.
Prime Stache - the name is a pun on "stash" and the sign outside is simply a large mustache - is all-American, from beer and spirits and wines to the ingredients on the menu, which includes papparadelle and meatballs ($11), meatloaf ($13), cedar-plank salmon ($13), a chicken-club sandwich ($8), and fish tacos ($9). "Even the coffee," said the clean-shaven Celek. "Kona, from Hawaii." (Chang, born in South Korea, is the only import.)
Chang's menu is mainly small plates, opposed to full-size entrees. "When I go to a restaurant, I like to go with a group and try a lot of different dishes," said Celek. The menu is family-friendly, too.
It's open daily ar noon for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch and will stay open till 10 p.m. or later.
Celek freely concedes that he has no restaurant experience, even as a kid growing up in Cincinnati. But he's a regular at such places as Continental and Tequila's, and in his downtime has boned up on the business. "I want to know the industry," he said.
Back in 1976, lunch at La Famiglia (8 S. Front St.) was something like $10, which adjusted for inflation would be $40 now. So much for that. Giuseppe Sena, a son of the founder, is offering a two-course lunch for $17.95 Tuesday to Friday.
Yong Chi, owner of the Center City Korean cafes Giwa and Rice & Mix, is bottling the hot sauce used at Giwa. Under the name Yong's Kitchen, he is taking to market his version of go chu jang, the traditional paste made mainly with fermented soybean and red chili pepper. Chi's sauce is at once spicy and sweet. He has it made by a food company in Lancaster County and says it's the same recipe used in the restaurant, except that the bottled version includes apple cider vinegar as a natural preservative. It's $5.95 at Giwa.
Joe Brown's Melange @ Haddonfield, on Tanner Street for five years after a long run in Cherry Hill, was padlocked by the state of New Jersey. A New Jersey state spokesman said the business owed $71,875.08 in unpaid sales tax from 2008 and 2009. The business collected the money but failed to pass it along to Trenton, he said. The judgment was in place since 2009.