Happy Skeletons and Happy Bellies in the Future for Fairmount

Back in July, we wondered what might come to replace Illuminare at 2321 Fairmount Ave. One astute commenter suggested Mexican, and how right they were.

For, it’s ¡Ándale! ¡Ándale! ¡Arriba! ¡Arriba! for Fairmount, which has been patiently waiting for better south-of-the-border dining options. By January, La Calaca Feliz, or “the happy skeleton,” will offer interpretations of contemporary modern Mexican cuisine along with a variety of tequilas and margaritas.

Both owner Brian Sirhal and partner and executive chef Tim Spinner learned trade stylings from Jose Garces. Their new business, a just shy of 100-seat, full-bar operation will feature a “Day of the Dead” inspired decorative motif and murals by Alison Dilworth. Dilworth also painted murals at Cantina Feliz in Fort Washington, the duo’s first location, as well as Sassafras Bar in Old City.

Sirhal, who got his start in Manhattan’s Rosa Mexicano, said there will be some minor interior renovations. Those includes plans to cut-off some of the current outdoor Illuminare eating garden, and enclose it in something resembling a greenhouse to create “outdoor seating” in cold weather months.

Though La Calaca Feliz can come into the former restaurant by right, Sirhal said they plan to appear before the Fairmount Civic Association (FCA).

“What’s good about this is people thought Illuminare was just going to close for the summer,” said Matt Wanamaker, a member of the FCA zoning committee. “Now already [the location has] a new bio… For that to happen so quickly, shows there is a rising demand for good food in Fairmount.”

“I would like to say the clouds are parting [on the restaurant scene] in Fairmount,” said Wanamaker

And it’s true. With Isabel coming at 2601 Pennsylvania Ave. and La Calaca Feliz on the horizon, the chips and salsa will be flowing in Fairmount soon enough.

–Lou Mancinelli