“South Philly Barbacoa” would be the BYOB in Zagar’s warehouse

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.

Watkins magic garden1

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.

Watkins magic garden
The restaurant would be inside to the right of the clear garage door.

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.

The kitchen would go here.
The kitchen would go here.

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.

6 thoughts on ““South Philly Barbacoa” would be the BYOB in Zagar’s warehouse

  • January 8, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    I love the idea of anything going in this beautiful building, I am just confused as to where people will park. I hate the idea of more “2 hour” parking signs going up as more restaurants move into the area. This spot would make an awesome co-working or other co-op space.
    Whatever goes in there, I hope they do well!

  • January 9, 2014 at 7:56 pm

    While I like lamb will this be all that is offered?

    • January 10, 2014 at 10:47 am

      Not sure yet. It’s still very early. I’m guessing there will at least be a few other options, but he was very specific about this being the specialty.

  • January 10, 2014 at 11:21 am

    Where will they park?! WTF…. The same place people park for anything around here, they usually DON”T. They walk.

  • January 10, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    It will most likely be just lamb barbacoa and pancita. My wife Cristina Martinez will be the chef, not me. I am more of a liason between this oldschool rustic cooking style and the regulations and practices in the USA. She will probably offer other types of specials which would be cooked along with the barbacoa, such as cow’s head or mixiotes. For vegetarians, we will have nopales, and salsas, but mainly this would be a place to come on the weekend and eat lamb barbacoa and pancita. We think we only want to open Saturdays and Sundays in the morning/afternoon. Perhaps we may be able to be-friend the administration at Neumann-Goretti High School and use the parking lot they have, which is right next to the building?! It’s just a thought… Please come out to the civic association meeting to hear our presentation on the 22nd if you can! Getting the zoning cleared is the first and most important step right now, and nothing can go forward without that, and we need the support of the local community and civic association to be granted the variance. Thanks!!

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