Stephen Starr’s New Philly Baja Spot Is Way More Than Just a Restaurant
LMNO offers Baja Mexican fare in a truly unique setting.
Stephen Starr grew his restaurant empire by one this week, extending his tally to 20 spots in Philly alone. But there’s something a little different about LMNO, a new Fishtown Mexican restaurant based on the food and beachy vibes of the Baja peninsula.
Beyond fire-grilled adobo lamb shank, tostadas, and tacos coming out of the kitchen and tequila and mezcal drinks sliding across the bar, LMNO also houses a bookstore, art gallery, and record listening lounge outfitted to host local DJs, making the space a rare all-in-one night-out option in Philly.
The kitchen is headed up by chef Francisco Ramirez, who started working as a dishwasher at age 16 and has worked his way up to the helm at Philly hotspots like Vetri Cucina and Starr’s hit French bistro, Parc. The menu is centered around a custom live-fire grill, which will kiss dishes like carne asada and grilled chicken thighs, tucked inside fresh blue corn tortillas. The Baja influence is also evident on the broader menu, which includes a selection of aguachiles and cocteles, which are casual, shareable seafood dishes that are common in that region of Mexico.
The director of beverage operations, Mark Murphy, designed the restaurant’s cocktail menu with a focus on agave spirits. Highlights include Our Daily Veg, a choose-your-own-spirit drink made with a fresh juice of cucumber, green bell pepper, poblano, tomatillo, and cactus juice. There’s also, of course, a signature margarita and selection of micheladas.
Starr, who opened his first restaurant in Philadelphia in 1995 and has gone on to open 36 properties across Philadelphia, New York, and several other markets, hasn’t opened a restaurant in Philadelphia since 2017. His return to his city of origin has been much anticipated since the restaurant was announced in 2020.
“We were about to open, and then COVID … boom,” he said. “We sat there with a finished restaurant and a lot of bills to pay ... There are things we’d like to do with the space that we can’t right now, but we will.”
The 6,000 square-foot space seats 200 in a playful setting with pops of color and black-and-white checkerboard tables that help channel a past era. But there’s much more to it beyond the dining room. Serge Becker—the New York-based nightlife aficionado who runs popular concepts including The Box, La Esquina, and Miss Lily’s—was brought in to design a restaurant with a garden room and outdoor veranda, plus entertainment features like a bookstore that has been curated in partnership with New York’s Dashwood Books, an art gallery, and a listening lounge meant to play host to a rotating lineup of the city’s DJs.
“I’ve admired [Becker’s] work a long time,” Starr said. “He’s got such a rich history in the art world, and I’ve always wanted to do something with him. In this case, the space came first, then the idea of Baja Mexican, and then Serge.”
Starr restaurants have been a fixture in Fishtown since their first concept, Frankford Hall, opened there in 2011. But this one seems particularly fitting, Becker says, “Philadelphia’s young creatives have long rooted themselves in the Fishtown neighborhood, so the aesthetic reflects that.”
LMNO is located at 1749 N. Front Street. It is open Wednesday through Sunday from 5 to 10 pm. Reservations can be made via Resy.