Last year, “Café Renata,” a favorite BYO brunch spot for Penn students, shut its doors after kitchen towels, warm from the dryer, caught fire at 1 a.m. and set the restaurant ablaze. Just six months later, chef Yasser Aiq and manager Kate Aiq opened “Renata’s Kitchen.”
The new location, formerly a Subway, enabled more outdoor seating and a chance to revise the menu, something they had always wanted to do. “The canvas was a little cleaner than the one we had before,” said Executive Chef Yasser Aiq. “So we thought, ‘Let’s gamble on our ability to go the full length.’”
Yasser and Kate, who are married to one another, agree that dinner is their “rising star.” While “Café Renata” focused on brunch, the new “Renata’s Kitchen” has a full dinner menu, mostly consisting of Mediterranean–style small plates.
The couple strive to create a place where people feel at home; from the large world map hanging on the wall to the soft peach tiles of the floor, each piece of the eclectic décor means something. “We come from everywhere,” says Kate, referring to her hometown of New Jersey, her husband’s Palestinian and Israeli background and their shared home in West Philly. “I think the neighborhood vibe is a big part of what makes us feel so homey,” she said. “People feeling welcome and at home here is one of the most rewarding parts of our job. From the two little kids that practically knock me down giving me hugs every time they come in, to the Penn seniors psyching up for a job interview with some break- fast and even the bleary–eyed hung–over bros rolling in at 2:30 for eggs and bacon, I'm always reminded that being a happy part of these peoples' lives, even in the simple way we are, is why we reopened in the first place.”