A taste of nostalgia has arrived near Washington Square in the form of Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran’s latest eatery, Bud & Marilyn’s. The restaurant’s atmosphere stands out from the pair’s other businesses—mismatched plates and wood paneling complete the look of a retro rec room, the inspiration for the design.
The venue opened Aug. 26 at 1234 Locust St. in Center City, and serves American classics like fried chicken, cheese curds and desserts that incorporate the lighter side of sweetness.
Despite their growing empire, Turney and Safran didn’t begin their working lives as restauranteurs and businesswomen.
Executive chef and co-owner Turney studied graphic design at Tyler School of Art and worked at different restaurants around the city before meeting Safran and beginning their business venture.
“It was probably my last year at Tyler and everything became computers,” Turney said. “I was like, ‘I’m not sitting in front of a computer all day.’ Val [Safran] was a Spanish teacher and hated it.”
Turney and Safran began to open businesses on 13th Street as both business and life partners—first a home goods boutique, then Mexican restaurant Lolita, followed by upscale market Grocery.
“We’re two white girls from the Midwest,” said co-owner Safran, 40. “We’ve never had an American restaurant—we’ve always had these other ones, whether it’s Mexican or Italian or Spanish. Going back to something that is what you grew up on, but updated … it was time.”
Bud & Marilyn’s is named for Turney’s grandparents, owners of the Midwest restaurant The Spot in Ripon, Wisconsin. The basement was a converted roller rink and bowling alley. Turney and Safran’s recreation of The Spot isn’t identical, but honors the original atmosphere.
“[The Spot] was meat and potatoes,” Turney said. “It’s nothing like my grandfather’s restaurant. The decor is homage to that restaurant but the menu is very different.”
Instead, the menu features Friday Fish Fry of beer-battered cod, a “Midwestern thing,” Turney said, paired with a special beer on tap by Yard called Bud’s Best Pale Ale. Dessert is a mix of pies, chocolate and Funfetti cake.
“A perfect piece of chocolate cake is the perfect ending to a meal,” Safran said. “The Funfetti has the really fun element. It makes you happy. I want to walk into my restaurant and see people who are happy to be there.”
Both Safran and Turney said that Bud & Marilyn’s has been bustling since the first dinner service.
Philadelphia resident Lindsay Curry, 28, dined at Bud & Marilyn’s on opening night Aug. 26 and raved about Turney’s menu pick: the Nashville Bun.
“I think the best thing we tried was the fried chicken slider,” Curry said. “The quality of the chicken was really amazing—nicely fried and not greasy. They had a pickled vegetable slaw and so many flavors going on in a teeny little slider.”
Between Turney and Safran’s comfort food and cozy modern mid-century interior design, the pair encourages visitors to come in and stay for awhile.
“We wanted to find things that remind us of the past,” Safran said. “Old records, old glassware, old photos. We have some different landscape photos that you would have seen in someone’s living room in the 1970s.”
“The barstools are from the same company as my grandfather’s,” Turney said. “I can imagine the company getting all of these orders and saying, ‘Oh, we’re back in style!’ and not knowing what’s going on.”
Bud & Marilyn’s is currently open for dinner every night from 5-11 p.m. Turney and Safran said they will soon open for lunch service on select days of the week and brunch on the weekends.
Madeline Presland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.