Restaurant owners and business partners Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook agreed that their respective b’nai mitzvah were pretty boring.
At Lilah, CookNSolo’s newest restaurant and first large venue and catering business, they hope their guests’ simchas will be anything but.
Lilah boasts more than 7,000 square feet of space that will be able to accommodate up to 250 seated guests in an industrial-style dining area, especially designed for weddings, b’nai mitzvah and other larger-scale events.
The venue at 1601 N. Front St. will open April 2022 and also will house the second location of their vegan and kosher falafel shop Goldie.
Despite working together for 16 years, Cook and Solomonov hadn’t considered catering as a viable business option; it seemed so different from running a restaurant.
When they saw guests proposing, celebrating birthdays and engagements and holding small receptions at some of their other restaurants, Cook and Solomonov began to reconsider.
Those occasions represent bright spots in a difficult industry.
“We’re trying to provide people with special moments,” Cook said. “When they choose our restaurant to celebrate these important milestones in their lives, that’s like gold for us.”
By opening a venue in a larger space in Fishtown (the former headquarters of Honeygrow, the fast-casual food chain), CookNSolo can more easily accommodate guests who wish to hold special events at their restaurants.
Solomonov believes that a catering venue will be able to add diversity to the ways in which they get to serve their guests. From “a five-minute interaction with doughnuts and coffee” at Federal Donuts to “a drawn-out meal at Zahav,” “we want to be able to do it all,” he said.
Lilah, the Hebrew word for “night,” encompasses the feeling of jubilee that Cook and Solomonov hope to achieve at their new venue.
“Night is when the magic happens,” Cook said. “The sun goes down, and that’s when these special moments occur.”
CookNSolo’s Director of Events Neira Jackson hopes that Lilah will provide guests with an opportunity to use a venue that is more personable than a hotel ballroom. With exposed brick walls and an “airy” layout, Lilah will offer a modern take on an event space, she said.
CookNSolo have had the idea for Lilah since 2019, but COVID-19 restrictions challenged Cook and Solomonov to reconsider how they wanted to run their business moving forward.
“We got a chance to really stop and reprioritize the things that were important to us as a restaurant group,” Solomonov said.
Zahav is now closed two days a week, and staff are paid a starting wage of $16 per hour.
“We’re a better company, actually,” Solomonov said. “I feel like the style in which we serve, the way that we’ve prioritized guest experience and the team’s experience has really lined up nicely.”
“It’s OK to step out of the box, it’s OK to try new things,” Jackson added. “That’s the one thing that COVID did — it made us push our boundaries.”
Though Lilah’s small team of chefs is still developing dishes, CookNSolo plans on creating an extensive, customizable tasting menu with both new fare and returning favorites, such as pomegranate lamb shoulder with crispy Persian wedding rice.
Guests can expect a carving station, pita sandwich station and dessert buffet, along with traditional salatim, or salads, and inventive dishes such as foie gras baklava.
“We’re really excited for this new chapter,” Cook said. “And to be this core part of this community: Philadelphia at-large, Philadelphia dining and the Jewish community.”
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