As you travel north on Broad Street, you’ll come across several flourishing communities such as West Oak Lane, East Oak Lane, Olney and Fern Rock. These communities consist of thriving, independent restaurants, community service organizations, and spacious homes surrounded by lush green lawns that give the neighborhood a trendy yet suburban ambiance.
During the 1960s, uptown Philadelphia experienced a decline in commerce. However, by the early 1980s, vacant businesses that once prospered in areas like Stenton and Ogontz avenues were finally revamped with the help of the Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corporation (OARC). After the renovation of businesses along Stenton and Ogontz avenues, OARC was able to generate new business within the West Oak Lane community.
At 7152 Ogontz Ave. is Relish, a soul food favorite in the West Oak Lane that has been offering items like turkey wings, fried chicken and mango salmon for more than 8 years.
Kelly Brown, the host and reservations manager at Relish, said that the staff prides themselves on their ability to provide that southern hospitality without traveling to south to get it.
“We realize that everybody is not going to be satisfied,” she said, “but we go hard to make sure that everyone is not only satisfied but accommodated. You can get good food anywhere but it’s the service that makes people want to come back.”
Unlike other restaurants in West Oak Lane, Relish sets the tone with live musical entertainment from Wednesday through Sunday and offers open mic night with musical performances from Jaz Jordan and her band.
A Taste of Jamaica
Sitting directly across the street from Relish is A Taste of Jamaica, where you can enjoy Jamaican platters with a Southern flare. A Taste of Jamaica opened in 2015 and is located on 7169 Ogontz Ave.
“My dad always said the best advertising you could possibly have is a satisfied customer,” said Carolyn Beale, who owns the restaurant with Cheryl Kerr.
The combination of soul food and Jamaican cuisine offers a variety options for customers to chose from such as jerk salmon, corn bread, candied yams, pigeon peas and rice, and cabbage.
“People have been so fantastic,” said Beale. “They have been so supportive so far. They say, ‘Thanks for opening up. Thanks for coming here.’”
Near the corner of 73rd Street and Ogontz Avenue is Victoria’s Kitchen, another soul food favorite that’s been in business for almost 8 years.
Victoria Tyson, West Oak Lane native and owner of Victoria’s Kitchen says that she felt like she could successfully impact the neighborhood by opening her own establishment.
“First thing we bring to our community is jobs,” said Tyson. “I employ black people to help black families and help black communities, so that’s the first thing. The second thing is good food. I do a lot of farm stuff and I don’t do any cans or frozen food or any microwaves. We don’t have none of that. I bring fresh food, not garbage.”
Their menu consists of a variety of upscale dishes and traditional soul food favorites from stuffed tilapia with crab cakes, fried chicken, mac-and-cheese, to shrimp quinoa stir-fry and shrimp alfredo.
What differentiates Victoria’s Kitchen from other soul food restaurants in West Oak Lane is their customized catering services. According to their website, Victoria’s Kitchen services all kinds of events such as corporate meetings, weddings, graduations, family reunions, and more.
Joseppi’s Water Ice
Joseppi’s Water Ice is located on 18th Street and Stenton Avenue in West Oak Lane. Owner Herman Townsville opened Joseppi’s in 2012.
“Ice cream makes people happy,” said Townsville. “So does water ice. It makes people happy. It brings a smile on the kid’s face, plus I give a job to the youngsters.”
Joseppi’s opens on a seasonal basis, from April to September, and offers mouthwatering homemade water ice and ice-cream flavors ranging from snickers, coffee, banana and granny apple to the more typical choices like cherry, strawberry, chocolate and blue raspberry.
Located at 6830 Ogontz Ave., The Breakfast Boutique offers the residents of West Oak Lane a Center City dining experience without having to leave the neighborhood.
The dining area is intimate but has enough seats to host a maximum of 30 people. Soothing jazz music and thick lush plants add to the overall Breakfast Boutique ambiance.
The Breakfast Boutique specializes in breakfast, brunch and lunch entrees for an affordable price. For breakfast, they serve common favorites like Western omelettes with home fries, toast and a bright red strawberry for decor, as well as Red Velvet Waffles topped with marinated strawberries, homemade cream cheese icing and whipped cream.
-Text and images by Victoria Batista and Delialah Burns.