There’s no shortage of fast food options around Main Campus. In any one-mile radius, cheesesteaks and take-out Chinese offerings are abound. Yet this summer, the neighborhood has played host to two starkly different restaurants, to which both students and locals have taken a liking.
Aprons, at 1621 Cecil B. Moore Ave., boasts a menu of Southern home-style cooking and traditional Italian cuisine, and offers dine-in and take-out options.
Owners Leon and Mary Kelly closed Aprons’ former location on Germantown Avenue in 2008, and opened this location in the former Patterson’s Palace building on May 26.
“I came to see the building early last year,” Mary Kelly said. “I fell in love with the building and it just so happens that it became available and that’s how we came here.”
And though Mary Kelly, originally from Mississippi, and Leon Kelly of Trenton, N.J., opened Aprons in a neighborhood predominantly inhabited by college students, most of the restaurant’s customers are not students.
“As far as business goes, it’s not even so much the local community,” said Rodney Davis, a business partner of the Kellys. He said it attracts visitors from throughout the entire city.
However, Davis acknowledged that Aprons opened at a time when most students were away from campus for summer vacation. Now that the Temple community has returned, he and the Kellys are waiting to see what will happen.
Mary Kelly, who is the sole chef of the establishment, describes the cuisine as “comfort food.” The menu boasts options including Mississippi-style catfish, southern fried chicken, collard greens, crab cakes and classic Italian pasta dishes. According to Mary Kelly, though, the two most popular dishes are the braised beef short ribs and the Southern fried chicken and waffles, which is served with homemade sweet potato waffles.
Mary Kelly and Davis agreed that despite the central location and healthier options that Aprons offers, the prices may be a deterrent for students. The establishment does offer a more college-budget friendly option in the mornings, though, with a $1.99 breakfast special.
The restaurant also serves as a venue during the week. On Thursdays, Aprons opens its doors for spoken word events, with drink tickets for attendees.
Several blocks down Cecil B. Moore Avenue, there is Maple Buffet, an eat-in Chinese restaurant near Main Campus. The establishment offers a lunch buffet for $7.29, and a dinner buffet for $9.99, as well as take-out and à la carte options.
Owner Karen Chen opened Maple Buffet, located at 1521 Cecil B. Moore Ave. on July 11.
“Business has been picking up little by little,” Chen said.
With the abundance of Chinese take-out joints on and surrounding Main Campus, Chen still said there’s no apparent competition, as Maple Buffet offers a different dining experience. And the menu is broader, too, offering options including Japanese sushi and udon.
While these two restaurants have garnered local attention in recent months, owners are still unsure as to how students will respond now that the semester is in full swing.
Jasmine Shames, a transfer sophomore linguistics student, will be living at home this year and said as far as food options go, she’s glad.
Shames, who attended Alvernia University in Reading, Pa., last year, said she lived on Alvernia’s campus, and food options were dismal.
“I missed healthier decisions,” she said. “When I lived on my college campus, they had french fries and grilled cheese like, every day, and that was it.”
“I think the options [at Temple] are a lot better,” Shames added. “I’m really impressed.”
Corinne Miller, a French and education second-year senior, said she eats on Main Campus about twice a week, but is seeking more variety.
“I would like more salads and healthier menu options,” Miller said. “You can get salads at a few different places, but it’s all the same kind of garden salad.”
Miller said she usually just cooks at home because of the unhealthy options on Main Campus.
“I have a very specific diet,” Miller added. “I would eat out more if I didn’t restrict myself so much.”
Alexis Sachdev can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @lexsachdev.