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Coming Soon: Rex 1516

Coming Soon: Rex 1516

South Street West is experiencing a food and drink boom, and Southern-style comfort food and whiskey bar Rex 1516 is poised to be the next opening in the neighborhood. A project from Jet Wine Bar proprietors Jill Weber and Evan Malone, the newcomer will join recent additions to the area like the BYO Thai Sawatdee, mod-delivery spot Quick Fixx, lauded Indian fusion Tashan and the forthcoming transformation of the Tritone into The Cambridge from Chris Fetfatzes and Heather Annechiarico of Hawthornes.

Fresh off Jet Wine Bar’s one-year anniversary, Weber and Malone stepped up to take over the vacant spot because they love the ‘hood, and want it to continue growing. Weber is insistent the area deserves a better, more distinctive name, suggesting “Royal” as a good moniker, after the historic, mural-covered (but sadly decrepit) famous theater just up the block.

“Faded mansion,” will be the look of the dining room at Rex. “I want the bar to look just like the on in The Shining,” Weber riffs excitedly, pausing to assure us, “But not as scary.” Wood from old Frank Furness-designed buildings fronts the bar, which will be topped with white marble and backed with an antique mirror framed by two large reclaimed wood columns. A series of tables and banquettes will fill the rest of the room, and outdoor seating during warmer months will double the number of patrons who can partake in the Creole-inspired fare.

On the drink menu, bourbon and brown liquors will be a focus, differentiating the selection from wine-centric Jet across the street. Cocktails will be developed by general manager Heather Rodkey (formerly at Rouge and Adsum). Classic Mint Juleps will surely be on the list, joining a good selection of craft beers in bottles and on tap. Wines by the glass will be mostly North American (as opposed to the eclectic international options at Jet) and the bottle list will be shared between the two spots, allowing for a wide range of choices.

Chef Regis Jansen will helm the kitchen, which is well-outfitted (a slew of equipment was left over from the spot’s brief incarnation as Philly Kitchen Share), putting out comfort food faves created with local ingredients. In fact, a good-sized garden is planned for the large backyard, which will provide both herbs and small veggies. In addition to dinner, Rex will serve both lunch and breakfast. Expect items like crawfish pie, a fried tomato sandwich with jalapeno mayo and vegan meatloaf.

A recent tour showed a room awaiting finishing touches like fixtures, wall paper and furniture. The faux tin-stamped ceiling is in place (decoratively patterned paper gleams like metal but has none of the sound issues), and the makings of the dozen-seat bar are apparent. Malone is founder and president of University City’s NextFab Studio, so he is directing much of the design. Weber is hopeful all permitting and construction will be complete in time for a January opening, but you can be sure to get a peak when Rex sponsors our next First Friday art show, happening from 5–9 PM on February 3 (RSVP here).
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