“END HUNGER NOW! Eat Here!”
So said the sign that hung outside the new home-cooking eatery in the middle of a strip of new Mexican restaurants on 9th Street just below Washington Avenue last fall.
I figured that any restaurant with owners cheeky enough to put up a sign like that had to be an interesting place to eat, so I made a mental note to pay it a visit sometime.
So I finally got around to eating there this past week. The place that had the (now departed) sign is called Teri’s, and it’s a tribute to love and dedication that also happens to serve delicious food prepared by a creative chef-owner.
Catherine Eller opened Teri’s last fall with her father Fred and aunt Lucy in August of last year as a tribute to her mother Teri, who bought a former hosiery shop in the Italian Market’s then-dying lower reaches in 1994 with the dream of opening a new restaurant there.
Teri had owned a cafeteria in a Southwest Philadelphia industrial park, but Teri had long wanted to be in the Italian Market. Illness put her dream on indefinite hold, however. “When Mom died on June 27, 2006, it motivated Dad and me to open this place, because that was what she wanted,” said Catherine.
And in so doing, Catherine also returned to her roots. She learned to cook at her mother’s side in that cafeteria, then went off to college to earn a bachelor’s degree in English, then toiled in the corporate vineyards as a marketing account executive. “I couldn’t take the corporate life,” she said, which made opening the restaurant an even more logical decision for her.
Of course, that decision came with its own price: “Since the place opened, I’ve pretty much lost my social life,” she said. Catherine and her girlfriend, who also works in the restaurant business, must make time for each other on the one day both have off. But, she says, it’s still worth the sacrifice: “I’ve never worked so hard in my life. I’ve also never been so happy in my life.”
Catherine takes pride in her use of fresh ingredients and preparing everything from scratch. “The only thing here that’s not homemade are our French fries,” she noted.
Breakfast and brunch are her specialty: the chalkboard by the door touts Teri’s “Kick-Ass Omelette” (“Often Imitated, Never Republicated”), and cards on each table offer a guarantee of satisfaction: “If your omelette is not â€˜Kick-Ass,’ please feel free to kick the chef in the ass.”
“Everyone’s still waiting for my ass to get kicked,” she said. Her relatives were still waiting after I left, for my omelet was indeed “kick-ass”: three perfectly cooked eggs stuffed full of spinach, mushrooms, bacon, and Cheddar cheese. She also serves up some more inventive fare for Sunday brunch – like French toast stuffed with cashews and bananas or coated with Frosted Flakes.
The mix of food and personality has attracted a polyglot group of customers to Teri’s: “During the week, I get a lot of workers, but also a lot of artists and Gen-Xers,” she said. “For weekend brunch, it’s a higher-end clientele.”
Those higher-end diners might also find Teri’s new dinner menu appealing. Prepared by Culinary Institute of America-trained chef David Demnick, it features contemporary American fare at affordable prices. And Catherine guarantees diners won’t leave hungry: “I didn’t want you to come in here, order a steak, and afterward say, â€˜OK, I spent $60 on this, and now I have to go to McDonald’s to fill up.'”
Teri’s, 1126 South 9th Street. Breakfast and lunch 7 am-3 pm Monday and Tuesday, 7 am-2:30 pm Wednesday through Sunday; dinner 5 pm-9 pm daily.