Stephen Starr is respected for owning over a dozen restaurants and a catering company. He started at the early age of 21, when he opened his first club in an Old City diner, called Grand Mom Minnie’s. After that he continued to open restaurants, performance venues and more. Many young singers and comedians performed at his various establishments and are now famous. Among them include Bruce Springsteen, Cyndi Lauper and Jerry Seinfeld. In 1990, Electric Factory Concerts bought Starr out and gave him the money he needed to open several new venues. In 1995, Starr founded STARR Restaurants, one of the largest multi-concept restaurant companies in the country, with restaurants in Philadelphia, Atlantic City, NJ, Washington D.C. and Florida. Starr believes that the dining experience is similar to attending a theater production, where the players, props, backdrops and lighting are critical factors of the experience. I have been to a few of his restaurants in Philadelphia and would recommend them in a heartbeat.
The first STARR restaurant I ever went to was Pod, and it was the summer before I started college two years ago. Pod offers contemporary Pan-Asian cuisine. Some of the items on their menu are different kinds of spring rolls, dumplings, stir fry, rice, edamame, seafood and the like. Their desserts are varied including blondies, macaroons, crispy rice treats and fruit skewers to name a few. The unique part about this restaurant is the interior. High style meets super-chic Asian fusion, as worded on their equally aesthetically pleasing website. Their “pods” are enclosed, circular spaces that are completely white. On the wall are different colored buttons. When pressed, the pod changes color to whatever the color button was. This restaurant has style and authentic food. I recommend a visit to 3636 Sansom Street if you have not been already!
El Vez is located at 121 South 13th Street, in the heart of Center City, Philadelphia. This restaurant is one of my personal favorites because I absolutely love Mexican food. The restaurant describes their food as “Mexican-American meets east L.A. in a Tijuana Taxi.” It tastes as intriguing as it sounds. I recommend this restaurant to anyone who likes this type of food. They have something to satisfy everyone in your party: nachos, burritos, enchiladas, tacos, soups, salads, and of course various guacamole and salsa options. The restaurant is creatively designed with eclectic shapes, colors, patterns, lights and pictures. To understand, you will just have to visit yourself!
Dandelion is another popular Starr restaurant. It’s located up the street from El Vez between 18th and Sansom Streets. This is a more upscale and sophisticated restaurant. The decorations and interior make you feel as if you went back in time a few decades. London’s culinary revolution came to Philadelphia and it is evident in the British food on the menu. Their menu includes a variety of options such as beef tartare, chicken and duck liver parfait, market oysters, beetroot cured salmon, crab risotto, rabbit pie, as well as salads, soups, sandwiches and other classics. I recommend going there during afternoon tea time!
The Continental restaurant and martini bar is located at 138 Market Street in Old City. However, there is a second location in Center City, The Continental Mid-Town, at 1801 Chestnut Street. While the core menus are similar, each location has a few dishes — such as the “Midtown Monkey” dessert option — that distinguish the locations. You will have a special experience no matter which one you go to. Their menu has options such as grilled Thai chicken skewers, spinach ravioli, beer battered shrimp and calamari, Asian shrimp po’ boys and more. I think this particular restaurant provides non-traditional options which are one reason I love dining there so much. If you are tired of the normal chicken fingers and wings, the Continental is the restaurant for you.
The various STARR restaurants in Philadelphia share one thing in common: great food with an amazing atmosphere. I can ensure you that no matter where your dining experience is, it will be a pleasant and unforgettable one.