Peter Hwang of SouthGate was born into the restaurant industry, but didn’t immediately pursue a career in it.
“I grew up in the back of a fried chicken shop in Center City and now find myself again, in the back of a fried chicken shop in Center City,” he says. “While I studied computer and information systems in school and started out doing data analysis, I found out the cubicle life wasn't for me, so I got back into the family business of restaurants.”
What Hwang loves about this restaurant industry is being able to make an impact.
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“It’s challenging, always changing and rewarding every single time you know that someone chose to dine with us and enjoyed themselves,” he says.
When he’s not busy running SouthGate, Hwang enjoys spending time with his wife and young son as well as exploring Philly’s food scene. In this edition of Eat like an Insider, he tells us about a lowkey date spot with the best burgers as well as the most Instagrammable restaurant in the city.
Best late-night meal?
Royal Izakaya (780 S. 2nd St.). Whether you’re sitting at the sushi counter for Jesse Ito's excellent omakase or pulling up a stool at the bar in the dark, loud, anime-filled dining room, you won't feel out of place by yourself. Excellent bartenders, fantastic Japanese beer and sake selections, or Jesse's impressive counter-side manner will put you at ease.
Best meal under $10?
Stargazy’s (1838 E. Passyunk Ave.) traditional beef and onion pie and mash. It’s simple, but so good. Anything from Stockyard would be another great choice.
Best hidden food gem?
Cafe Y Chocolate (2100 Norwood St.). This place is a bit off the beaten path, but it might not seem hidden with lines out the door at noon on the weekends. It’s a fantastic place for brunch if you want something a little different from the normal brunch spot.
Best place to dine alone?
SouthGate (1801 Lombard St.). Gratuitous plug but I'm a guy who loves beer, whiskey, hearty food and friendly bartenders who have interesting points of view. And I made sure we’ve got those things in spades at SouthGate.
Place you take out-of-towners?
Philadelphia has a fantastic food scene. We're not New York, and we're pretty proud of that. A lot of the best places in town are often converted rowhomes or tiny holes in the wall — great food no fuss. But if you're taking someone out to dinner from New York, LA, or San Francisco then Double Knot (120 S. 13th St.) is a great spot. It’s got amazing design by Kate Rohrer and awesome luxe izakaya-style food from Michael Schulson and Kevin Yanaga.
Go-to date spot?
Village Whiskey (118 S. 20th St.). My wife and I have a bit of a tradition where we'd come here for Valentine's Day and we'd have a nice section of the bar to ourselves since most couples tend to be somewhere a stuffy or “date-y”. I'm a lucky guy. I can still remember the first time we had the whiskey king burger here. Had to pick our jaws up off the floor.
Best place to catch up with friends?
Pub and Kitchen (1946 Lombard St.). This place has good food, great bartenders and an excellent selection of beer and whiskey. Their bar is always bustling, so it's a good place to bring friends whether it’s to chat with the bartenders or stake out a corner at the counters in the window.
Parc (227 S. 18th St.). It’s almost like someone cut and pasted Parc right out of a Paris tourism brochure — Rittenhouse Square Park location, iconic red awning, rows of sidewalk tables filled with beautiful people and street artists painting Parc's open air storefront onto canvases standing on each surrounding corner. Of course, the most Instagrammable restaurant would be from the guy (Stephen Starr) who agonizes every light fixture placement and sweats every single detail.