The Barnes Foundation finds a New Location, a New Director, and a Brand New Chance for Success

In 1922, Dr. Albert Barnes formed an influential private art collection with the intention to share it with the community. He wanted other people besides the wealthy to be able to experience and enjoy the arts. When he moved to Lower Merion after starting a successful pharmaceutical company in Philadelphia, his art collection went with him. His gallery remains there as part of the Barnes Foundation and art school.

However, because the Barnes Foundation has been facing a constant financial struggle of survival at its current location, controversy has ensued over debates to move the collection to Philadelphia. Recently, courts overruled the stipulations of Barnes’ will that were meant to keep the art school the Foundation’s primary identity, which limited the viewing public and said that the collection must remain in its place in Merion.

With the gallery’s eminent move to Central Philadelphia and its appointment of a new director, the controversy continues on whether or not the Barnes Foundation can stay alive.

I think that the move to the Ben Franklin Parkway is a chance for the gallery to stay alive financially and aesthetically. The move is necessary to preserve and honor its pieces, which include numerous Impressionist and Post-Impressionist pieces of art, as well as African, Native American, and Chinese antiquities.

The Barnes Foundation has raised over $150 million to relocate the museum’s countless Renoir, Matisse, and Picasso pieces. The Merion location cannot bring in the number of visitors in order to sustain the collection. Currently only 1,200 people can visit the Barnes on certain hours and by advance notice.

After Kimberly Camp’s resignation from the Barnes Foundation, a new director was needed to grow with its new location. An international search was conducted to find the perfect candidate for director. With over 130 potentials, Joseph Neubauer was the head of this Search Committee and had his work cut out for him. After the search was narrowed, Derek Gillman stood out, and was chosen as the right man for the job. Gillman will be taking over at the Barnes Foundation in mid-October, as he transitions from his current position as President at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Although Gillman hails from England, he has spent seven years of local experience at the Academy. He has a Master of Arts degree from Oxford and a Master of Laws degree from the University of Anglia. Gillman has an extensive background in art management, and has served in many art institutions around the world. Although Gillman is leaving the Academy, he is leaving on good terms.

As a compromise, The Barnes Foundation’s Lower Merion location will still maintain the arboretum and offer horticulture classes; but the gallery’s move into Central Philadelphia will also relocate the foundation’s art classes. Dr. Albert Barnes’ sanctuary of art is one of the most prominent in the world. Its new location will hopefully increase attendance, funding, and hopefully maintain Barnes’ original vision even if it defied his wishes. If readers would like to support the Barnes Foundation, its new location and new director, they should visit the gallery’s current location in Lower Merion. Be sure to embrace Dr. Albert Barnes’ motto of using art as an educational tool.

Franklin Square mini-golf

With the recent re-opening of Franklin Square, Philadelphia received a refurbished fountain, two new playgrounds, a carousel and its very own mini golf course. If you find yourself bored one day, test your skills while seeing mini versions of Philly’s famous landmarks on this brand new course.

You’ll see Independence Hall, the art museum, the Liberty Bell and Boat House Row, complete with a mini Schuylkill River that doesn’t smell like stale yogurt. Each hole with a monument has a marker stone with a brief explanation of the Philly icon. You can even make a wish when you hit your ball through the Chinatown arch, or pretend to be Rocky running up the steps to the art museum.

Watch out for the Ben Franklin Bridge, though. If you don’t hit your ball hard enough you’ll get stuck on the bridge…in Jersey, and there is no easy way to get it back to Philly (I have the scars to prove it).

One downfall to the course is the lack of benches and shade, which make the hot days of summer seem even hotter when you’re standing in the sun waiting for your turn to putt. Luckily, Franklin Square is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., so just plan to have your fun mini-golfing at a time when the sun’s rays aren’t so strong.

The course is a clever representation of Philly, and not extremely challenging (unless you lack hand-eye coordination like myself). For $8 a game, it’s a fairly cheap activity to do with your friends if you’re bored one day in the city.

You can contact Ally Taylor at allison.taylor@villanova.edu.

College Students like it cheap and easy

College students are busy people. With classes, jobs, and a social life, it’s surprising we have time to eat, let alone go out for dinner. Thank goodness for the magic of delivery. It allows you to pick up the phone, tell them what you want, and then wait at the door with cash in your hand. Although it doesn’t seem like this process could be any simpler, now it is. Thanks to a few Philadelphia students, you won’t have to leave the comfort of your computer until the doorbell rings.

Eatnow.com and Campusfood.com are convenient alternatives to the jumble of stained menus stuck to your refrigerator. With a click of the mouse, you can search by campus areas for places that deliver to your location. There are also special discounts that users can take advantage of to keep their wallets full.

Eatnow.com was founded in 2005 by students from The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. It is available to over fifty schools in the United States. It offers an easy-to-read listing of restaurant hours, food quality ratings, price comparisons, approximate delivery times, acceptable payment methods, and information such as minimum delivery charges.

Campusfood.com was founded in 1997 by another University of Pennsylvania student. It is now the leading network of restaurants in the United States. It gives users the opportunity to see any available deals at first glance and order them with just one click. Campusfood.com also has a savings plan called Campusfood Cash. After you set up a free membership with the website, you’ll receive invitations to participate in special events offering the chance to earn cash and use it at participating restaurants on the site.

These websites allow for easier ordering despite the adding of a “middle man.” You won’t get a busy signal when you try to order a pizza during peak college eating times. You also don’t have to deal with misunderstandings over the phone because of the easy-to-read printouts from the website. With the easy “add toppings” button and areas to type in special instructions, you’re sure to get your order exactly the way you want it.

So next time, when you’re sitting at your computer cranking out page after page of history papers, don’t ignore your growling stomach. Don’t reach for your phone either. Stay exactly where you are, make a few clicks of the mouse, and get your food in no time flat.

Road to Wall Street: New Faces on the Block

Dogged determination, stealth-like focus—many rumors abound surrounding who and what you need to be to rise to success on Wall Street, arguably one of America’s most competitive and monochromatic industries. However, two African-American Wall Street hotshots—one up-and-coming; the other, a top executive—give their unique stories of what led them to America’s hottest block.

“I spoke ‘ebonics,’” said Kathleen Colin, the first Vice President of Institutional Sales at top brokerage firm ICAP.

Upon initially meeting Colin, a stylishly picturesque woman, it’s hard to imagine her as the product of an urban upbringing. “And [I] was not really ashamed,” she added.

Today, however, as a top executive at the world’s largest interdealer broker—with a daily average transaction volume in excess of $1 trillion—it’s clear that Colin has come a long way from her humble Midwest beginnings.

Colin largely attributes higher education in helping her rise to her current status. It was during her time at school that she was fortunate to find inspiration in a classmate at NYU to begin her stellar career.

“I wanted to emulate the life of a Brazilian woman I went to New York University’s Stern Graduate Business School with—Allison Huskinson,” Colin said. “She was beautiful, bright, witty and, most importantly, a woman of color at a very prestigious Wall Street firm—thus a dream with a direction was born.”

“Never downplay the power of influence—I did not know one thing about Wall Street—but I did know that she was confident and part of the ‘inner circle,’ and I wanted in!” she added.

While Colin’s rise was a mix of inspiration, acute business savvy and intelligence, she is frank in admitting to a trial-by-fire acclimation process as a newcomer to Wall Street.

“Mentors and role models are few and far between, thus knowing what and how to do [in regards to industry etiquette] and what not to do is tough and may make the difference as to how one may advance,” she said.

Brandon Whittaker, another African-American Wall Street newcomer from the Midwest, also avoids advising newcomers to strongly depend on finding mentors—only the “self-motivated” survive.

“I’ve found that no one will push you to work hard, so you have to do it yourself, or you’ll find yourself left in the dust at the end,” Whittaker said. “[Employers] really look for self-motivated people.”

Whittaker found his way to Wall Street by process of elimination.

“I was sitting in my dorm room…and it hit me that I only had one more year of school before it was all over,” he said. “I started thinking about my life—where I want to live, what makes me happy in life, my career, etc. Before setting out on my career path, I wanted to make sure that I tried out as many things as possible.”

While their respective paths to Wall Street have some similarities, Colin acknowledges some unique challenges that still confront her career as a minority, female executive.

“Good diversity is a very new concept on Wall Street, so the understanding and sensitivity to minority female issues is very minimal,” she said.

Even with these challenges, Colin is open in advising all who want to follow in her footsteps. Her primary advice: get an education.

“If investment management is your choice, get a CFA; wealth management, get a CFP; if it’s sales and trading, get an AMEX,” she said. “In other words, enhance your qualifications always.”

Whittaker, however, recommends that those with high aspirations of success on Wall Street shouldn’t focus on their limitations, but instead use their work ethic and resources to help them rise.

“What’s important is that you work hard to get up to speed and use the resources around you—intranet, analysts, peers—to the fullest,” he said.

While Wall Street’s monochromatic makeup is evolving, the formula for success according to these two has not changed: work hard, be self-motivated, and advance your education whenever possible.

You can contact Malcom Harris at harrismj85@gmail.com.

Talking About Tokyo: The Cuteness Factor

In Tokyo, there are countless opportunities for memorable group activities, and I’ve enjoyed every one of them. These activities may include, but certainly aren’t limited to, all-night karaoke in Shibuya, bar-hopping in Roppongi and sightseeing in Sumida. But after six weeks of group-friendly functions, I have found myself craving the solo adventure.

So I set out as a party-of-one, with a bilingual dictionary in my back pocket and headphones in my ears. My first priority was shopping, something of an extreme sport here in Tokyo, at least in the Shibuya area.

One of Tokyo’s largest shopping districts, Shibuya is home to one of Japan’s largest train stations and one of the world’s largest “scramble crossings.” Boasting a four-way cross-walk, navigating Shibuya by foot means dodging a veritable parade of pedestrians. You’ll encounter bustling businessmen on their lunch hour, scrambling street vendors shoving fliers in your face and, above all else, a stampede of serious shoppers coming at you from every direction.

What better a place to begin my adventure? My ultimate goal was to get off the smoldering hot streets, spend some yen and get back to the hotel with my limbs and credit intact. Aside from a few flying elbows, a couple of freshly stomped-on toes and a brow beaded with sweat, I made out fine. I really didn’t even break my budget, at least not to the extent that I could have, when the opportunity presented itself.

One thing that could tip the scales in favor of major bankruptcy is what I call the “Cuteness Factor,” which makes me fear losing financial control and breaking into my emergency stash of cash. Everything Japan has to offer in the way of culture-driven consumerism is colorful, cute and a little confusing to me. I am totally befuddled as to why I am compelled to buy this much stationery and that many toys and trinkets.

I’ll tell you why. It’s the Cuteness Factor—a factor that forces shiny, animated objects into my shopping basket without my control or consent. I just don’t know how it has come to this point whereby I am at the complete mercy of capitalist consumerism.

I really don’t know how the average post-bubble preteen can afford all this cuteness either. Take the Harajuku area, for example. Just across the road from high-end fashion boutiques and seemingly endless row of bric-a-brac shops, stands visual proof of the Cuteness Factor at work, the Harajuku girls themselves: powder-puff-pop-culture-driven preteens whose sole purpose is posing for tourists’ photographs.

Raging from pierced punk to gothic princess fashions, these girls literally hang out on the Harajuku bridge day in and day out mugging for cameras. In an all-too-obvious display of cuteness-driven vanity, it doesn’t seem to phase many that the average Harajuku ensemble runs upwards of 35,000 yen, or $350.

So, does the flash of a camera justify the costly expenditures of being cute? Just ask Blythe, but chances are, you don’t even remember her. Manufactured and marketed in 1972, Blythe was the doe-eyed doll created by the Kenner toy company. With the mere pull on a string, Blythe’s eyes could change color and gaze. One minute she could be sitting with blue eyes front-and-center, the next, she could be glancing slightly to the left with pink orbs the size of marbles. However, the Blythe doll flopped and was shelved for over twenty years.

In 1999, photographer Gina Garan rescued Blythe from the Land of Misfit Toys. Introducing her to the limelight with her book This is Blythe, Garan traveled the world with her doll, documenting photographs of her with several scenic backdrops in various exotic locations.

In present-day Japan, Blythe has finally found a place she can call home. For one reason, and one reason only, Blythe has crossed cultural boundaries and national borders to be a hot seller in the city of Tokyo. Of course, this reason can be attributed to the Cuteness Factor.

Best known to stand there and look pretty, like the girls of Harajuku fame, the Blythe phenomenon has really taken off here in Japan. To think, an American-made, long-forgotten doll of decades past is now selling in Tokyo for over 18,000 yen, or $180. Originally they cost about $35, go figure.

Now, before I further entice you to explore the routes to cultural consumerism here in Japan, there is one important task you must complete: make a budget—one that balances purpose, necessity, cost, and, of course, cuteness. Don’t budge for the initial overwhelming power of the Cuteness Factor, no matter how alluring the aesthetic.

You might also want to consider spatial reality, something I think I may have gravely overestimated. Just ask yourself this question: how much more can I really squeeze into this suitcase? You certainly don’t want all that cuteness busting through the seams.

In just a few short days, I myself will be a force to be reckoned with when it comes to this daunting task. I will make my limited space work, somehow. I will make it all fit, with no nook or cranny left vacant. Otherwise, it looks as if all my too-cute toys will be enjoying my window seat back to Philly, while I’m stuck in storage.

You can contact Jackie Jardin at jackyjar@temple.edu.

Performing for a Cause

Robin Dunn feels that theater is a fun and interactive way to breakdown social barriers and teach the community about important issues and stereotypes.

As acting director of Full Circle Theater, a project of Temple University’s Center for Intergenerational Learning, Dunn works with people of all ages. The organization uses improvisational theater to help its audiences, which include schools, senior centers, non-profit organizations, and parenting centers. Its productions explore issues such as including men’s and women’s health, diversity and ageism.

“Full Circle Theater was originally intended to bring youth and seniors together,” said Dunn. “Programs were created to build community between seniors and youth with similar interests. Teens think seniors are so different, but we’re trying to bridge that gap.”

“Today, though, we also have many members of the troupe in their 20s, 30s and 40s, as well,” she added.

The organization, which was established in 1984, offers approximately 200 performances and workshops per year. Clients contact the group to teach about important social issues through its unique improvisational performances.

“Clients call and tell us their particular issues, and we create a performance around their needs,” Dunn said.

To become a member of the troupe, members must take an eight-week training class. It teaches participants about improvisational theater techniques, including various role play and theater games. The cost of the class is $225, but scholarships are available for seniors and students. At the end of the eight weeks, participants are invited to audition for the troupe and are invited to join based on their performance.

Members of Full Circle attend a weekly, three-hour workshop on Tuesday nights, where they prepare for performances. The troupe operates on a September through June schedule, with time off for holidays and winter vacation. There are approximately 20-30 performances per month, and only five or six in the summer. Members typically partake only in two or three performances a month, and receive a small stipend. The group is quite flexible, and takes work and other obligations into consideration.

Performances are usually in Philadelphia and its surrounding suburbs, but occasionally there are performances in New York or other states, including some overnight performances, with transportation provided.

“When it comes to certain issues, you don’t want to be lectured to,” Dunn said. “Theater is a fun way to learn, keep the audience’s interest and keep them on their toes.”

According to Dunn, the troupe not only benefits the community, but also its members.

“It keeps everyone active no matter what age you are, and it’s a fun and safe escape,” she said.

Not only does Dunn run the administrative aspects of the troupe, she is also a former actor for the theater.

“I heard about the organization from a friend, and decided to try it out myself,” she said. “I loved being a part of the group; it really felt like family.”

Although Dunn no longer participates in performances due to work obligations, she is grateful to be given the opportunity to be involved with the group in an administrative capacity. She says that if other members have to leave the group due to other obligations, they will always be welcomed back with open arms.

Criniti: Like Mama used to make

There’s nothing quite like a great Italian meal. Fortunately, South Philly has so many Italian restaurants you could probably eat at a different one every night of the year. It’s been my experience that they’re pretty much all great, but some are much better than others. Criniti Pizzeria & Restaurant is one of those places.

Located in an old funeral home on S. Broad St., Criniti has a décor that’s a little different from most restaurants. Tables crowd the interior, but you can definitely tell that you’re in a building that once housed dead people. However, the ambiance is not enough to detract from the abundance of great food. The building’s real problem is its limited number of tables. Criniti doesn’t take reservations, so be warned—you may have to wait a while before being seated on a busy night.

When you finally are seated, get ready for a real treat. Every meal begins with hot, doughy bread (some of the best around) and complementary mushrooms soaked in olive oil. Resist the urge to fill yourself up on bread and the delicious appetizers, however— the entrée portions at Criniti are massive.

Don’t expect anything fancy, either, because Criniti is about as anti-trendy as possible. Eating there is like going to mama’s house for dinner. This is good, old-fashioned Italian cooking at its best. The tomato sauce is first rate, and everything else, from the mussels to the manicotti, is perfect. The menu features classic Italian favorites and plenty of variety to keep even the pickiest diner happy. Prices aren’t bad either, generally ranging around $10 – $15 for a large plate of food.

Criniti is one of the great spots in South Philly. There are people who swear by this restaurant, and I must admit that I’ve become one of them. It’s a great place to bring your family, too. The staff is always friendly and the service is spot-on.

You should be aware that the kitchen closes early on occasion and Criniti accepts cash only (something that can be frustrating for patrons), so be sure to call and swing by an ATM before visiting.

The bottom line: large portions of reasonably priced, classic Italian cooking and friendly service is the name of the game at Criniti. If that sounds like what you look for in a restaurant, then this is one you should definitely add to your “must try” list. Chances are you’ll be back again and again.

You can contact Zack Engel at a-e@campusphilly.org.

Criniti Pizzeria & Restaurant

2611 S. Broad St.

(215) 465-7750

SEPTA Routes: BSL, C

Talking about Tokyo: Peace, Quiet and Public Nudity

For nearly three weeks in Tokyo, I’ve been hitting the usual nightspots, overly-crowded shopping areas, and restaurants. To relieve the otherwise monotonous routine of ramen for lunch, with possibly more ramen for dinner, I’ve been searching high and low for a little taste of home. Though I have yet to find any cheesesteaks or curly fries, I’ve made due quite fine with deli sandwiches and the occasional seafood salad. But I have come to the conclusion that the kind folks at the 24 Fresh Express grocery market are getting sick of me and my cravings for egg salad sandwiches and Diet Coke.

Now, breakfast has never really been included in my usual routine back home, at least not in the typical sense of the word. A slice of cold pizza or a handful of chocolate chip cookies as I’m running out the door to catch the train doesn’t really qualify as breakfast to most people, I’d imagine. But it never bothered me.

Well, not until now, anyway. For some reason, I find myself desperately clinging to the hope that maybe, just maybe, Tokyo has imported some Philly scrapple or even some tiny sausage links. But all I can really do is shrug my shoulders, eat my sushi and make the best of it. When in Rome…or Tokyo, in this case. Apparently the Japanese don’t do breakfast meats. They do sushi at dawn, cold soba noodles at noon, and some more noodles at dinner.

That is when they catch a break long enough to even have meals. With 12-hour work days, a shop-til-you-drop spendthrift attitude and a household to maintain, I can’t imagine why it’s considered rude to eat while walking here. I suppose the Japanese firmly believe that there are 24 useable hours in each day and it’s better to skip the sushi than risk the reputation of walking with their mouths full.

There is, however, a respite from the daily grind, a temporary escape that the Japanese allot themselves to recover from the pressure of this on-the-go Tokyo lifestyle. Surrounded by lush greenery and buried deep in the mountainside, the Hakone region offers a temporary excursion. Hakone is renowned for its serene natural surroundings and relaxing pastime activities, especially the onsen, or hot springs.

Known to native Japanese to provide rest and relaxation, the heated public bathhouse of the onsen is infused with natural minerals and is widely regarded as physically therapeutic. As for myself, a trip to the Hakone region couldn’t have come at a better time, when I’m just beginning to grow weary of the urban lifestyle and tired of the food.

There was only one problem with my retreat. The onsen is a public bath, not a swim meet. There was no talk of bathing suits, just bathing. So the natural assumption would be that this involved nudity. Therein lies the problem for me, a big one.

You may be thinking, I thought it was, “When in Tokyo…” However, I draw the line for silently conforming at public nudity. Having noodles twice a day is one thing, but being naked in front of strangers is a completely different—perhaps relating back to bad experiences in the locker room at my Catholic high school getting ready for gym class.

Now, flash forward to present day Japan, where bathing in the onsen is supposedly a relaxing experience—a relaxing experience that involves me being noticeably larger than the average woman and in the nude. No Catholic schoolgirl uniform, no gym clothes, nothing.

For some reason unknown to me, I couldn’t help but think to myself of those little pep talks given to a poor soul with stage fright: just imagine everyone else is in their underwear. And I have to laugh, because this is quite possibly the only instance in which that old adage doesn’t apply. Even if everyone else was in their underwear, I’d still be parading around in the nude. Add to the fact that pretty much all of the Japanese women here have delicate features and petite frames, while I, in fact, do not.

So during the interim of falling asleep and admiring the scenery on the bus ride to Hakone, I did some serious soul-searching. Should I really be this terrified when this is supposed to be a relaxing, peaceful experience? Could I return to Philly in three weeks with the possibility of regret? Could I let this irrational fear of ridicule discount an otherwise remote opportunity?

I eventually answered my own questions. I couldn’t let this relatively ridiculous anxiety temporarily disable my better judgment. Who knows when or if I’ll be returning to Japan to ever experience an onsen again? I simply couldn’t chance missing the experience. So I bit the bullet, had a few shots of sake and bared all.

With as much courage as I could possibly muster, I hit the public shower for the pre-onsen bathing, a crucial must for the sake of hygiene. It was actually a pretty ordinary showering experience, with one small exception. I was right in the middle of the lather, rinse, repeat routine and bam. Blame it on the soap or a bit of the jitters, but I managed to slide right off the bathing stool, twice. Yes, imagine a solo game of naked slip ’n’ slide. Ouch, my pride.

But once I slid myself under the steaming torrents of the onsen, it was all worth it. All my self-induced anxiety was exactly that, a mere creation of my own personal issues with weight and body image. After all, we were all adults here. It wasn’t a contest to see who looked best in their birthday suit; it was just us gals sitting back in the hot springs, relaxing to the sounds of a nearby waterfall, surrounded my mountains, and covered by the night sky.

I’m not exactly sure why I got all worked up over what turned out to be the hands-down best experience of my life. I am sure of one thing, though. I would do it again in a heartbeat, but with a lot less anxiety—and perhaps a little less soap.

You can contact Jackie Jardin at jackyjar@temple.edu.

Empress Garden

Chinese restaurants are a dime a dozen in Philly. There’s at least one (probably a lot more) in every neighborhood; and they often seem indistinguishable from another, partially because most Chinese joints serve pretty much the same food.

So how do you pick the best of the bunch? I guess picking the Chinese place you like the best is mostly a personal thing. My Chinese restaurant of choice is Empress Garden.

Located on 10th St., just north of the Chinatown arch, Empress Garden is crammed into a tiny storefront that fits only about ten tables. The clientele consists mostly of locals and their families, and the restaurant is always maintained by the same two or three people. The decor is shabby and rather plain, but it has an oddly authentic and inviting quality to it.

Because Empress Garden doesn’t take reservations and has few seats, you may have to hang around in a narrow reception area for a couple of minutes for a table, but the wait is never very long. The food at Empress Garden is shuttled quickly from the kitchen to the table and the waitress/hostess (there’s only one) does a good job of moving the meal along without making you feel rushed. Despite her problems with English, she’s very friendly and makes you feel right at home with a warm smile.

Empress Garden serves typical Chinese fare such as crispy orange beef and shrimp with lobster sauce. While I can’t say the food is that much better than some other Chinese restaurants in the area, it’s certainly just as good. I strongly recommend the beef slices with spicy garlic sauce (anything with garlic sauce is good in my opinion) and the pricey, but delicious, lobster Szechuan, a whole lobster cooked in the shell with spicy sauce.

The soups are also right on the money. The wonton is some of the best I’ve had and the hot-and-sour has just the right degree of spice to it. If it’s a particularly hot day, don’t forget to try the various homemade ice drinks, which resemble smoothies. Pineapple is my favorite, but they also have an assortment of melon and fruit flavors.

To top it all off, Empress Garden is cheap, especially if you take advantage of the “family style dinner” options which give you a choice of several entrees, soup, and fried rice. If you’re dining solo, a plate of food is usually around the $8 mark.

This small gem of a restaurant is not to be missed when exploring Philly’s Chinatown. Friendly service, small-but-cozy atmosphere, and great food that’s easy on your wallet, make Empress Garden my favorite Chinese restaurant in the city.

You can contact Zack Engel at a-e@campusphilly.org.

Empress Garden 106 N. 10th St. (215) 592-0739 SEPTA Routes: MFL, 48, 61, 23

Something for the Whole Family

Philadelphia offers a wide range of cuisines and restaurants, but there is also something to be said about its suburbs and their equally promising bistros outside the city lines. Whether you live in the suburbs and don’t want to go all the way to the city for a good meal, or live in the city and want to get away from the busy atmosphere for a night, here’s one suggestion that’s sure to leave you happy.

Christopher’s Family Restaurant is located right off Lancaster Ave. A two-minute walk from the R5 Wayne station, this place caters to all ages. Don’t let the kiddie birthday parties deter you; this restaurant has much more to offer than yellow balloons and a kids’ menu.

With daily specials including half-off wine bottles and Friday Night Quizzo, Christopher’s is perfect for the college crowd looking to have a relatively inexpensive meal in a casual, inviting atmosphere.

The menu boasts classic American favorites, some with a spicy, new twist. With appetizers, pizzas, salads, pastas, entrees and yes, a kids’ menu, everyone is sure to find something enjoyable. There are also a few options for vegetarians on the menu as well (I recommend the baby-spinach salad sans bacon or the three-cheese stuffed enchiladas).

For starters, the potato skins are a personal favorite. Although occasionally they are a little burnt, the scallions on top add great flavoring to the potatoes and sour cream. If you’re looking for something other than the basic calamari, nachos or chicken wings, try the BBQ shrimp.

The entrees feature the basic chicken, beef and fish dishes, but with added spicy twists, like the honey mustard and horseradish-glazed salmon. Christopher’s mixes a few unique dishes, such as jambalaya, into the menu as well. Instead of garlic mashed potatoes, you should try the wasabi mashed potatoes. And yes, they make a killer grilled cheese for the kids.

On this occasion, we opted for small salads (they’re also available in entrée-size portions). I ordered my personal favorite: the baby spinach salad with goat cheese, pear and bacon (for the meat eaters) topped with a honey mustard dressing. It is absolute perfection.

My companion’s buffalo chicken salad was not as satisfying. The fried chicken strips looked questionable and the bleu cheese dressing tasted like mayonnaise.

The fettuccine Alfredo with roasted vegetables tasted better than the same dish I ordered from a ‘good’ Italian restaurant. It had a thick, creamy sauce and lots of fresh vegetables.

My companion ordered the chicken pot pie but was not pleased with his selection. Perhaps spoiled by homemade cooking, he found the Christopher’s version to be too bland and lacking hearty portions of chicken.

I don’t recommend bothering with Christopher’s desserts. The options are few and not very satisfying. We sampled the chocolate brownie with ice cream (which cost $1 extra for the smallest scoop I’ve ever seen), and the result was not worth the price. Instead, take a walk across the street to Coldstone Creamery, or around the corner to Gryphon Café, to work off some calories en route to these conveniently located masters of the art of sweets.

Although it’s not completely consistent in quality, Christopher’s in Wayne is a great place to go if you’re looking for a decent, cheap place to eat on the Main Line, or if you just want to take a break from city life. I swear that the spinach salad alone is worth the trip.

You can contact Ally Taylor at allison.taylor@villanova.edu.

Christopher’s 108 N. Wayne Ave. Wayne, PA (610) 687-6558 SEPTA Routes: R5