The revitalization of Front Street took another step forward a couple of weeks ago with the opening of Front Street Cafe at the corner of Front & Thompson. We visited the new place a few days ago and came away impressed with the present and eager to return once the business is fully up and running.
The business is open from very early in the morning until very late at night, a combination of cafe and bar that we don't see very often in Philadelphia. That being said, one example of this concept, the still newish La Colombe resto-distillery, is located just a few blocks away. Front Street Cafe is taking a slightly different approach, with the cafe bar facing customers when they first walk in the door and the booze bar on the other side of a wall. La Colombe is a more integrated experience, while Front Street seems to be segmenting the coffee and the alcohol, which gives it a more accessible feel in our estimation. When we visited, they were only serving coffee, pastries, and prepared items from the display case. Coming soon, they'll have a full kitchen up and running, and there's gonna be tacos (plus a bunch of other stuff).
Perhaps the most impressive thing about this new business is the care that the owners have taken in restoring the building they occupy.
The building had great bones, that's for sure. The cornice was intact. It's a miracle that the cylindrical bay at the corner survived over the years. But when you look at the current view of the building, it looks fantastic. They've painted the bricks on the first floor and created a new cornice above. Planters overflow out of the windows. They took the rear yard, formerly a truck parking area, and converted it into a garden. They took a vacant lot a few doors down on Front Street and built a new building with apartments. And we love the industrial-looking fire escape on the back of the building
Front Street keeps improving, which is great news for Fishtown and South Kensington. Walking under the El still isn't a wonderful experience, but as more buildings get built/renovated and more businesses spring up, it's getting better. With the most momentum Front Street has seen in decades, it stands to reason this will continue in the coming years.