The restaurant that is being proposed for the Watkins Street mosaic warehouse, which we told you about yesterday, would specialize in a type of lamb barbecue native to a small village in central Mexico. It would be called South Philly Barbacoa, according to this Facebook page.
Prospective owner Benjamin Miller, who has spent the last two and a half years supervising prep at Kanella at 10th and Spruce, will present an informational proposal Jan. 22 to the East Passyunk Civic Association’s zoning committee. Miller said the restaurant would only be open a couple days a week and that it would take up just a sliver of Isaiah Zagar’s cavernous warehouse at 1002 Watkins St.
Miller said his wife’s family has been preparing this type of pit barbecue, which comes served in tortillas, for three generations in a village called Capulhuac. That’s outside Toluca about an hour west of Mexico City. “The town where she comes from is known all over Mexico for this,” Miller said. “It’s basically their whole economy.”
The couple met while working in the kitchen at Mark Vetri’s Amis. Miller also was an assistant manager at Han Dynasty.
He said a small partition kitchen would be built with venting in an area to the right of the building’s entrance. At first, they would only have a handful of tables, adding more as business picks up. He also plans to do a lot of takeout.
As to why they would only be open a couple days a week, Miller said he would still be working at least four days a week. Preparing the lamb is very labor intensive and then it takes at least 10 hours to cook. He would make five or more lambs a week and sell that on the weekends.
“It’s really delicious, a real delicacy,” he said. “This is not your typical burritos and nachos kind of place.” He said you’ll be able to feed a family of five for less than $50.
Miller, who lives in South Philly, said he brought a partner down to Capulhuac last February and that he’s been scouting for space since. So why Zagar’s warehouse?
“Because we love Isaiah and because it’s so beautiful,” Miller said. “We live around there and love the inside of the building.” (Check out a ton of pictures of the inside here.)
We have a feeling this proposal might get a little opposition from near neighbors given the small size of the street, so if you want to see this happen, it would be wise to show your support at the meeting Jan. 22 at 7 p.m. It’s at the Neumann-Goretti library, 11th and Moore streets, second floor. Check here for more detailed instructions on how to find it.