Along a sleepy stretch of Grays Ferry Avenue in South Philadelphia, just below Devil’s Pocket and east of Forgotten Bottom, a former USPS sorting facility offers a wide variety of dining options in an area where pickings are otherwise slim.
At a series of take-out counters, you can choose from breakfast sandwiches, BBQ platters, burritos, tacos, pizza, and more.
Collectively, the to-go restaurants are an extension of catering company Chef’s Table, a business that evolved from one of Philly’s first gourmet markets, which operated a block-sized storefront on South Street for more than two decades.
Brothers Chrysanthos and Peter Georgiou, the business’s second-generation co-owners, and their partner Ed Barranco first opened the Grays Ferry location as a commissary. Later, they realized they could also open to the public, providing options for the neighborhood — many shop at the Fresh Grocer across the street — and the commuters who drive by daily on their way to the nearby on-ramps for I-76.
Chrys recalled seeing dozens of cars wrapped around Dunkin’ Donuts every morning as he headed to the catering facility, and had a lightbulb moment. “I thought ‘Why not get breakfast from us?’”
In 2021, Day Break Eggs opened for business at the site, with a fleet of brioche bun breakfast sandwiches. Many of them feature brisket, sausage, and pulled pork from Long Shot BBQ, all smoked 12 to 15 hours in a smoker brought up from Georgia.
The smoked meats can also be found at another counter: Texitos, which wraps them in burritos and tacos, presses them into quesadillas, or loads them onto nachos and fries. Rounding out the group is Pedroni’s, where the meats are available as toppings on 10-inch pizzas or larger Sicilian pies. Desserts across the four range from cinnamon sticks and churro chips to bacon apple fritters and cake-filled chocolate tacos.
The kitchens have become a “talent center” for the company, allowing the partners to retain more staff, they said. Chef’s Table is a second-chance employer and a collaborator with the Kintock Group, a local org that provides reentry services for job seekers.
From gourmet market to catering powerhouse
The growing popularity of the takeout brands has also brought greater exposure to the catering services of Chef’s Table.
Standing at the counter to place an order from any of the four provides a glimpse into the massive, 18,000 square-foot operation. A staff of approximately 80 works across multiple production lines. There’s a bakery towards the rear, a spacious walk-in freezer, and an adjoined warehouse storing seasonal props and decorations.
On any given day, they might be putting out 3,000 meals, with a roster of regular customers that includes Comcast, the University of Pennsylvania, the Sixers, and other corporate clients. “Social catering,” like weddings and bar mitzvahs, makes up about 30% of their business.
It’s a big change from the company’s origins.
When the business first opened its doors in 1985, it was on the 4,600-sq.-ft. ground floor of 231 South St., under the banner Chef’s Market. It was co-owned by Barranco, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, and George Georgiou, Chrys and Peter’s dad.
The partners had met at Koho in NYC, where Barranco was a chef and Georgiou a buyer, and decided to open what at the time was considered a high-end supermarket, complete with its own butcher shop, fish counter, produce section, and an inventory of imported products hard to find elsewhere.
It’s also where Chrys and Peter, now both in their 40s, grew up, “working there on weekends, helping our father and Ed with groceries, being cashiers.”
Throughout the late 1980’s and into the mid-90’s, the market built a solid reputation among Queen Village and Society Hill residents. But eventually, gourmet goods became much more widely available, and then a Whole Foods opened a few blocks away. Barranco and Georgiou realized a shift was needed.
In 2008, after 23 uninterrupted years — “we were open through every snowstorm, we were open Christmas day, we were open Thanksgiving Day,” Peter said — the market closed its doors for good.
Popular brands that build on one another
Rebranded as Chef’s Table, the focus was now catering, and business took off.
By 2018, the company had outgrown the South Street headquarters. They settled on the spacious Grays Ferry location because “we wanted something built for the future,” said Barranco, now 72.
Two years after the pandemic and with catering orders stronger than before, the to-go counters continue to do well, the brothers said, although there are still challenges. “It’s not like we’re at 18th and Walnut where you have a thousand people walking by a day,” Peter said.
Expansion is still on their minds — from a health-oriented concept they’ve been tinkering with, to potentially adding to their outdoor seating beyond the current four bench and table sets. They’ve also considered an offshoot location for Day Break Eggs with an eye towards college campuses.
“Now we have these brands that are out there, people are calling us for catering through Long Shot or Day Break that don’t even realize it’s Chef’s Table,” said Chrys.
For Barranco, they’re a point of pride: “It’s gonna be a part of our business forever.”
2900 Grays Ferry Ave. | 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday & Tuesday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday & Thursday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday | $2-$25