He was on the way to Hahnemann for an interview at what should have been his dream job, but Anthony Logan couldn’t take his mind off an abandoned building. He spotted it along North Broad Street from the backseat of a cab. Something about the proximity to City Hall gave him the crazy idea that he could be successful there and perhaps fulfill the wacky prediction of his godfather that he’d one day be a restaurateur.
Fourteen years, several hospital jobs and countless weekends spent gutting the insides of 820 N. Broad St. later, Logan is the proud owner of Flambo, a Trinidadian restaurant he operates with his son, Kevin. It opened last December and has steadily been picking up business and rave reviews, drawing neighborhood residents and tourists from as far away as California who’ve seen Flambo’s exceptional Yelp score. After nearly a year in business, the restaurant still boasts a five-star rating, with customers coming for the scratch-made curried shrimp, oxtail, roti and wings.
For North Broad, Flambo provides a change of pace. Its casual atmosphere contrasts with Marc Vetri’s upscale restaurants and the numerous fast food joints that dot the street. For Logan, it’s a long-awaited project and a promise to himself finally made good.
“I knew for a very long time I wanted to be my own boss,” he said, “and do something dynamic and have some control.”
$170,000 cash and help from his son
North Broad has lately become a trendy area, the resurgence largely beginning with the opening of Vetri’s Osteria and Eric Blumenfeld’s 640 Lofts building in the mid-2000s. But they weren’t the only ones who saw the promise of the corridor.
Logan’s interview at Hahnemann, when he first spotted his future business, happened in 2003. He got the job as the hospital’s director of operations and decided to call the number he spotted on the for sale sign posted on the abandoned building. The owners were asking $250,000. He ended up getting it for $170,000 in cash.
The building was an old recording studio that still had tattered posters of Prince hanging on the walls. Logan started renovating it in his spare time. The work was rarely free of surprises. One day while knocking down a wall, the entire ceiling collapsed him, leaving him covered in black soot.
His medical career was thriving. Logan had come to the United States in the 1980s as a teenager, residing in Queens before moving to Lansdale to raise his family. He worked at Hahnemann as a director of operations and then spent time in Virginia in hospital administration. Yet he kept thinking about taking a risk, acting on the crazy advice from his godfather shortly after he’d left Trinidad and Tobago for the U.S. His godfather told him if he opened a restaurant he would be “absolutely successful.”
It’s not like Logan was from a family of cooks. In a tiny village in Saint Patrick County, he grew up the son of an electrician and homemaker. But the idea stayed with him, and by 2016, he was ready to act on the dream. He enlisted a former employee who was an X-ray technician, Martha Oleary, to help redesign his empty building and persuaded Kevin to put nursing school on hold.
“I figured,” Kevin said, “it’s my dad and I. I can’t let him do this by himself.”
Curry straight from Trinidad
Flambo opened in December 2016. The sprawling dining room features about a dozen black-clothed tables and a corner bar. Above is another dining area customers can reserve for private parties. Modern Caribbean music plays in the background, and decorative fish adorn the walls. Logan got the name Flambo for a slang term used in Trinidad and Tobago for a makeshift lamp used during power outages and made from a kerosene-soaked rag stuffed into a jar.
“I wanted it to be like you’re off the plane in Trinidad.” Logan said. “This is what you would get — the humbleness, the love of the island, the real people.”
Logan hews so closely to the his native island’s style that he actually buys the curry in Trinidad. He, Kevin and Oleary have visited a few times in the last year and load up on cases for the return flight.
That curry is a staple of the Trinidadian diet — which has Indian, Spanish and other influences — and is found in many of the dishes on Flambo’s menu, including shrimp, chicken and goat. Other favorites are the red snapper, various types of roti and the oxtail. Philly has a few similar Caribbean and Jamaican restaurants within such close distance of Center City (Caribbean Delight and Reef, for instance), but Flambo stands out as the rare one specializing in Trinidadian fare.
Logan, 47, cooks all the food, and his son, 26, works behind the bar. They live above Flambo and never miss any of the action. That’s how they want it. They converse with as many diners as possible, taking notes on what’s working and what isn’t.
Logan says that’s how it is in Trinidad and Tobago. At too many Caribbean restaurants, here and in New York, he says, the fare is served from a takeout window in a Styrofoam box with little interaction. He’s hoping to continue replicating the authentic feel for a long time on North Broad.
“I stay true to what my culture is,” he said. “I’m not just somebody who said, ‘I want a restaurant.’”