If a restaurant in Fishtown shuts down and no one writes about it, is it really closed?
In the case of Tierce, the Frankford Avenue brunch spot from Helm chef Mike Griffiths and Kevin D’Egidio, the answer is basically yes.
Opened just over a year ago, the petite cafe has been dormant since Oct. 6, when a post on Instagram advised customers it was “temporarily closed to address staffing issues.” Set in the former home of BYOB Pickled Heron, Tierce was launched, the two partners told Philly Mag at the time, to remedy a lack of family-friendly breakfast options in the neighborhood, where they both live with their own young kids.
It was those little ones — Griffith’s are 1 and 4 years old, while D’Egidio has a 3 year old and a baby of 6 months — that led to the bruncherie’s demise, albeit in a heartwarming way.
“Sunday was my day to see them,” D’Egidio said. “But [with Tierce] I was leaving before they woke up and not getting home till they were in bed.”
“We got tired of working six-day weeks,” echoed Griffiths, explaining that finding someone trustworthy and talented enough to work the shop — which was small enough that staffers each handled multiple jobs, from cooking to busing tables — in their stead had proved difficult. The issue intensified when they decided to bring their acclaimed dinner concept to Center City.
Helm Rittenhouse, an offshoot of the bootstrapped original in Northern Liberties, opened in early August at 19th and Chestnut (previously Aldine) as a partnership with Avram Hornik of FCM Hospitality.
The corner spot is in one of the city’s most prominent neighborhoods, and despite its tricky second-floor location, the two chefs — who are themselves young, at 34 and 31 — are determined to make it work.
“We want to put everything we can into making that successful,” said Griffiths. “We have Jesse Cornell running the bar program now, and everything [is] finally falling into place down there.”
A recent Thursday night visit appeared to prove Griffiths correct. Sipping on a smooth Cornell-designed cocktail called “Take the Stairs” (Laird’s apple brandy, Carpano Antica, Luxardo, Campari, Angostura, fancy lemon), a patron surveying the windowed dining room found it very nearly full.
“Yeah, it’s been kinda busy,” Cornell confirmed. “But you should’ve seen the bar last night, it was bumping.”
So while things are going swimmingly at dinner, both in Rittenhouse (for which the chefs also closed their sophomore location, Helm South) and at the original near 5th and Girard, what of their daytime plans for Fishtown?
Up in the air, per Griffiths. “We aren’t sure what we’re going to do with the Tierce property right now,” he said.
The lease, however, is still in effect for another few years, so there’s the distinct possibility that these two chefs — Billy Penn Who’s Nexters who launched their first restaurant with just $10,000 and have never been afraid to take a risk — will decide to return, either with a similar concept or something entirely new.