Move over Walnut: Chestnut is on the come–up. Walnut Street has always been important for Penn’s campus. With off and on campus housing, popular dining options and retail stores, the stretch of Walnut Street from 34th to 40th Streets is an integral part of life at Penn. However, just one street over, new housing options and dining options are a breath of fresh air on a street that was once considered uneventful.
Chestnut has always been home to some of Penn’s favorites—Wawa, Distrito and Pattaya, to name a few—but new openings and rebrandings are stepping up Chestnut’s restaurant game. Earlier this semester, Ochatto Hot Pot, a style of dining where items are cooked at the table in a boiling pot of stew, opened on 38th and Chestnut Streets, right next to International House of Philadelphia.
Just one block down, occupying the retail space of the fairly new apartment building at 3939 Chestnut, is Jane G Dim Sum House. The new Dim Sum restaurant received a lot of buzz from Philadelphia press and food critics and has been a hit with Penn students as well. Offering not only great food, but also an extensive happy hour and drink menu, Jane G’s is a competitive new spot.
Finally, Caffe Bene (a Korean coffee chain) opened its doors in Fall 2016 in the retail space underneath the swanky new 3737 Chestnut apartment building. The high ceilings, cute layout and delectable pastries make this space beautiful for studying or just spending time with friends. Their sweet and instagrammable waffles are a great treat to share with a friend or enjoy with a cup of coffee.
Besides all of these new openings, there are more proposed additions to Chestnut Street’s landscape. Saigon Cafe, a Pho (Vietnamese noodle) restaurant, is being transformed into a Xian style Chinese restaurant. The new menu has been posted outside, but the opening date for the renovated restaurant is not posted. On the other, more extravagant end, Hamilton Court apartments is gearing up to open up five new restaurants on its property. Scheduled to open are Steve’s Prince of Steaks, a cheesesteak restaurant, Bon Chon, a Korean fried chicken chain, Halal Guys, Tea Do, a bubble tea house, and I-CE NY, a rolled ice cream shop. These restaurant additions come after Hamilton Court renovated most of its apartment units with updated kitchens and bathrooms.
In general, Chestnut Street’s additions to University City in terms of housing and food have made the landscape more popular. College sophomore Andreas Nolan lives in one of the newer buildings on Chestnut Street and appreciates the availability of more affordable housing options and locations compared to similar units on Walnut Street.
“I think I’ve been really lucky to live in a new apartment that doesn’t have any inherited problems that haven’t really been addressed by other tenants, and our landlord has been really quick to address every issue that has come up. Everything in the apartment is super modern, and I feel like I could’ve easily been charged more rent for what I have.”
As the landscape of University City Changes rapidly, there are fears of further gentrification and encroachment into surrounding neighborhoods. Chestnut Street had been part of Penn’s landscape for quite some time now, but the new expansion growth only leave us to wonder what will happen to the area of Market and 40th Street, which remains largely untouched by gentrification. While the future is uncertain, we should all enjoy the new editions to our community in University City, and hope that everyone, not only Penn students, can take part.