Think 1950s ice cream parlor meets millennial coffee shop. The Wes Anderson–like ambiance elevated our casual brunch date to a fun occasion as my friend and I took in the spacious eatery, delicate glass lamps dangling over our heads. Lush green vinyl booths and blonde wooden tables dotted with tiny succulents led to a hand–painted mural on the back wall, all of which gave the space a fresh yet timeless feel. The massive glass windows overlooking Baltimore Avenue filled the room with soft natural lighting, perfect for that inevitable photo of our food.
Trolley Car Station, true to its namesake, is a new, two–story restaurant located right above the SEPTA trolley portal at 40th and Baltimore. Serving up comfort food with a twist, the restaurant has been eight years in the making. Part of the city’s efforts to beautify 40th Street Portal, Trolley Car Station is the the third installment of Ken Weinstein's restaurants, and
“We’re doing a soft opening,” our waitress said while seating us at a booth by the window, meaning the kitchen and wait staff are in the process of getting trained before their grand opening on September 27. She handed us our menus, on which we found diner staples like burgers, pancakes, and hash browns alongside trendy brunch fare: avocado toast, shakshuka, and Argentinian steak and eggs. While we were there for brunch, Trolley Car Station also serves lunch and dinner.
At the enthusiastic recommendation of our waitress, we decided to split the Korean shrimp and grits. The food arrived, steaming hot and beautifully plated in a white ceramic dish: perfectly cooked shrimp nestled in a bed of buttery grits and garlicky spinach. Each bite of succulent shrimp, coated in creamy, salty grits kept us coming back for more. A scarlet drizzle of gojuchang, a thick, spicy Korean chili paste, left a mouthwatering umami aftertaste that elevated the classic Southern comfort food.
Craving something sweet to finish, we tried to order the lemon tart. Unfortunately they were all out, and instead offered us the fruit cobbler topped with whipped cream (not vanilla ice cream— that was all out too). Ordering dessert tacked on at least 20 more minutes as service was unfortunately on the slower side, despite the restaurant not seeming that busy.
Dessert was worth the wait. We dug into the generous portion of peach cobbler piled high with whipped cream. The caramelized peaches were perfection—juicy and tart with a melt in your mouth finish. Oh, and the cream…each pillowy, decadent spoonful contained a hint of vanilla and something that just can’t replicated from a can. However, the cobbler topping, cold and crunchy oat clusters interspersed with whole almonds, felt like an afterthought. It resembled granola poured straight from the bag. "Is that Kirkland brand or Nature Valley?” my friend asked, picking a chunk of topping off her spoon.
Overall, while Trolley Car Station still has a few kinks to work out before their grand opening, I cannot wait to go back. The beautiful space, creative menu, and proximity to campus can’t be beat.
TL;DR: Add Trolley Car Station to your brunch hit list. Fresh hipster upgrade to your classic diner.
Sunday–Thursday: 7 a.m.–10 p.m.
Friday–Saturday: 7 a.m.–12 a.m.