LOGAN SQUARE — The Logan Square outpost of Philly’s Best, a local chain that serves Philly cheese steaks and other Philadelphia favorites, is closing after about 17 years of business.
Owner Dean Markellos said with his lease coming up for renewal soon, he has decided to close the tiny Logan Square restaurant at 2436 N. Milwaukee Ave. and focus on the other two locations, 907 W. Belmont Ave. and 769 W. Jackson Blvd., which he runs with his brother, Michael.
Markellos said the Logan Square restaurant no longer makes sense financially.
“There wasn’t a lot of profit to begin with … and costs are going to continue to go up,” Markellos said. “You’re always pulling little tricks out of your black bag, but at some point, it starts to overwhelm.”
Since opening about 17 years ago, Markellos said he’s watched the stretch of Milwaukee Avenue where the restaurant is located go from a reasonably busy commercial strip to a super popular bar district. In recent years, several bars have sprouted up along the stretch, making Milwaukee a nightlife destination.
“It’s become the new Wicker Park,” Markellos said of Milwaukee Avenue.
But the changing face of the neighborhood isn’t what killed the restaurant.
Markellos said he’s currently paying between $24-25 per square foot in rent, which is only $7 more per square foot than he paid in the early 2000s when he first moved in. In other words, a gentrification-fueled rent hike, while a theme in gentrifying Logan Square, isn’t the issue here.
“I don’t see that part. I see the increase in costs,” Markellos said, pointing to the rising cost of labor and food.
“We have a very good, loyal customer base. People like our food. Competition-wise, nobody else really has what we have.”
Fortunately for Logan Square customers, this doesn’t mean the end of Philly’s Best food — just the physical location. Both the Belmont and the Greektown locations will deliver to Logan Square, Markellos emphasized.
“People are still going to have their cheese steak,” he said.
The Logan Square restaurant has long been considered an affordable lunch and dinner option in a neighborhood that has quickly become a fine dining hot spot.
Tiny with counter service and just a few tables, the no-frills restaurant serves Philly cheese steaks and grinders starting at $7.99, pizza starting at $8.25, wings, salads and an array of sides. It’s situated on the second floor of a building it shares with an auto shop.
Markellos said it ultimately made more sense to focus on the more established locations and let the Logan Square location go.
“The city wants to raise everything. At some point you look at the numbers. Rent will always go up. Property taxes keep going up. … I’m going to be maintaining a place and making nothing,” he said.
Philly’s Best Logan Square will serve its final customers in the coming days. An exact closure date has yet to be determined, Markellos said.