Strolling through Center City it is commonplace to see a variety of diverse restaurants. Mexican, Japanese and American restaurants are all available within close proximity to each other. If a customer is in the mood to eat out, they don’t have a shortage of options. The Continental, an American restaurant with a location on Chestnut St. serves as a popular option for both lunch and dinner. The restaurant sports trendy dim lighting and has a modern feel. The menu has items ranging from barbecue chicken quesadillas to a s’mores dessert. If that is not your taste, you can walk a few blocks to S 13 St. and be greeted with the restaurant, El Vez, a Mexican restaurant famous for its guacamole and features a variety of Mexican dishes and margaritas.
While living in a city with diverse food options might be a trait of Philadelphia, it might surprise some that both restaurants are have the same owner, Stephen Starr. In fact Starr is owns over 20 restaurants in the Philadelphia area. In addition to owning restaurants in Philadelphia, he also owns restaurants in New York City, Atlantic City, Washington D.C. and various locations throughout Florida. In fact El Vez has a location in New York City and The Continental has a location in Atlantic City.
Both of these restaurants along with Starr’s numerous others have unique décor and atmospheres. For someone unfamiliar with Starr restaurants, it might be surprising to discover the restaurants have the same owner.
However when looking into to Starr’s background it should not be surprising at all. He was named, “Restaurateur of the Year” by Bon Appetit and Zagat. Travel + Leisure wrote, “Starr creates complete environments with an artistic, almost cerebral approach.” USA Today deemed him, “The ‘It’ guy of the city’s food scene.”
Not only does he receive national attention, but local attention as well. In 2011 his restaurant Butcher & Singer ranked 19th in Philadelphia magazine’s, “50 Best Places to Eat Right Now.” His restaurants are often a part of Center City District’s Restaurant Week with special three course dinners for $35 providing opportunities to reach more customers because many of his restaurants are four or five star dining options.
Starr takes pride in having his restaurants each have a unique feel to them. He said, “As soon as you enter Buddakan, it transports you to a magical new world … You could be in an exotic Asian land or in a sophisticated metropolis like New York or Hong Kong.” Not only do his restaurants receive national recognition, but they also maintain a distinct ambiance despite their mutual ownership.
Stephen Starr is offering more than food options with his business ventures. It is projected that in 2024 restaurants in Pennsylvania will employ 565,000 people. That is a 5% job growth from the 538,000 already employed in the state. However this success has not shielded Starr from all downfalls. His restaurant, Route 6, his 2 ½ seafood venture closed this year. It is safe to say that closing will not have a big effect on Starr in the future. He said, “We’ll regroup and come back stronger than ever.”