by Tamara Anderson
The Wine Thief, a restaurant which was at 7152 Germantown in the center of the Mt. Airy business district, recently closed its doors, and last week Ken Weinstein, owner of the building, announced that a new lease has been signed for the property by Marvin Graaf, a Mt. Airy resident who also owns the Falls Taproom in East Falls. We were told he will be creating a new restaurant called The Cresheim Valley Grain Exchange and that after a renovation, it will open in about seven weeks, sooner if the liquor license comes through sooner.
“We will be bringing something original to the neighborhood,” said Graaf in an interview last week. “It will be a restaurant with a really good bar and cocktails, a modern take on American classics.”
Graaf’s grandparents moved from Italy with his mom about 40 years ago, and Marvin was born shortly after that. “Restaurants have always been in my family,” he said. “They owned pizza shops in Hazelton. When I need advice with cooking, I call my mom.” All of the current construction for the new restaurant is being designed and finished my Marvin. “My dad did construction and contracting work in and around the Poconos.”
Once he relocated to Philadelphia, Marvin discovered the Italian Market and worked at replicating the food from his youth. Italian-inspired dishes and sauces led him to start his own restaurant. Marvin’s first home was on Hortter Street, and his second house was on Mt. Airy Avenue. He drank his first legal beer at North by Northwest. After moving away, he is once again residing on Bryant Street directly behind the new restaurant location.
Marvin graduated from the Antonelli Institute for Graphic Design and Photography in Flourtown in 2003 and the Art Institute of Philadelphia in 2005. Both provided him with expertise in menu design and marketing. He has an eye for physical design and matches the restaurant atmosphere with the drink and food offerings. When you walk into the Cresheim Valley Grain Exchange, “You will think of industrial meets Center City with reclaimed wood and glass. Clean modern lines with rustic finishes.” The smell of wood permeates the new space as preparations continue for the upcoming opening.
The menu at the Grain Exchange will offer ingredients from local farms with “house-infused bourbon cocktails.” The cocktail list will be inspired and created by Marvin’s fiancée, Jessica Mellen.
Marvin opened the Falls Taproom at 3749 Midvale Ave. in 2009. This “gastropub” features 150 beers from all over the world with “16 rotary drafts” and “seasonal cocktails.” The dining offerings include shared plates like the beer cheddar fondue and starters like bison chili nachos.
Since it sounds as if the formula for Cresheim Cottage Grain Exchange will be very similar to that of the Falls Taproom, it seems reasonable to be curious about what customers of Falls Taproom have been saying in internet reviews. We found 117 customer reviews on yelp.com, the most popular restaurant review website, and the majority were three to five stars. The latest one, a four-star review posted by Anthony S. on April 8, reads as follows:
“The Falls Taproom is my gastropub of choice when I’m in NW Philly … granted there are very few of them up there. They have a great beer selection, including local taps and bottles from around the country. I also really enjoy the music selection. They play bands like the Fleet Foxes, so it’s great to hear some of my favorite tunes while munching and drinking.
“The food here is pretty good, too. I’m definitely a fan of the seitan wings. A small order, a side of fries and a beer is a fantastic meal. I like the Thai-chili sauce, but the buffalo is my backup in case I want something different. Not such a huge fan of the dipping sauce that comes with the fries. It’s a curry aioli that smells like pure celery seed. I’ve also had the squash salad here. I remember it being light, and it’s good if you’re in the mood for that.”
The latest two-star review, from Katie G. on April 9, said simply, “Great beer selection, both on tap and in bottles, but the food and service could use an upgrade. Go for the beer.”
Additional information about Cresheim Valley Grain Exchange will be available soon. More information about Falls Taproom at 215-849-1222 or fallstaproomphilly.com.