Frankford Ave. coming back to life

Rocket Cat Cafe, above, at Frankford Avenue and Norris Street the last nine years is well-established compared to many of its neighbors, like Little Baby’s, right bottom.

Friday night was not the ideal night to wait in line for ice cream. An early evening downpour had left the sticky air somehow heavier, and on Frankford Avenue, it didn’t quite wipe away the very distinct smell of trash day in Fishtown.

Even so, the line from Little Baby’s Ice Cream World Headquarters tumbled out the front door and up the street on their first night in business. No one seemed to be in a particular hurry — an enterprising pizza truck parked out front was happy to provide appetizers, and the line definitely beat stalking the Little Baby’s ice cream tricycles across the city.

“We were dying for Little Baby’s to open up. I’m an ice cream freak. I’d slap my grandmother for some of those flavors,” admits Daniela D’Ambrosio, chef and co-owner of The Pickled Heron, a French bistro across the street.

D’Ambrosio was, unfortunately, too busy to wait for a taste. Since opening earlier this year, The Pickled Heron has proved that white tablecloths and $20-plus entrees have a place on this stretch of Frankford Avenue, a considerable distance from where Stephen Starr’s Frankford Hall proved you could woo the masses. First Fridays are especially busy, as they have dabbled in the neighborhood’s art scene with an “On the Wall” section featuring work by local artists.

“It brings in people who wouldn’t usually know we’re here,” says D’Ambrosio. “The artist mentions we’re here to their friends who stop in; on First Fridays, people will stop in, then make a reservation to come back.”

While Alex Spinney’s oil paintings of over-size owls might feel out-of-place in an upscale Center City restaurant, it’s exactly the kind of mixed-use that Fishtown and East Kensington thrives on.

Around the corner from Little Baby’s at Gravy Gallery — a small nook carved out of motorcycle warehouse Liberty Vintage — the resident pit bull weaved his way through a crowd of bikers and gallery hoppers on Friday night, eyeing up cups of the ice cream of the hour. 

For Gravy co-founder Emma Stern, it’s what she hoped for from a First Friday opening when renting the space.

“The warehouse was appealing because it attracts such an eclectic mix of people,” she says. “Bikers, Fishtowners, artists, hipsters, musicians –  you name it.”

Artists wanted for ‘Gym’ work

Opening this fall on Frankford Avenue, the Philadelphia Sculpture Gym will give artist members access to table saws, welding equipment and storage space, as well as host classes and First Friday gallery openings.
“If you’re just coming out of art school, are new to the area or if you’re an experienced sculptor who just doesn’t have the funds for this type of equipment and space, there just isn’t a place like this,’ says sculptor Darla Jackson, who is opening the Gym with her husband and fellow sculptor, Justin Grant.


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