by Michael Burch
The old Centennial Café is gone and has been replaced by The Hungry Bear Café. Nestled quietly in West Fairmount Park, is a quaint new eatery called the Hungry Bear Café. The café is housed inside of Ohio House on Belmont Avenue near Montgomery Drive. Many residents of Philadelphia may not know the historical significance of Ohio House. The state of Ohio built it for the exhibition to showcase the state’s industrial capability and natural resources at that time. It is one of the few remaining structures that dates back to the Centennial Exposition of 1876 which was held in this area of Fairmount Park. Almost 10 million people attended the exhibition. The Ohio House is the only state building to survive into the 21st century.
Now fast forward 139 years and now patrons can have Lunch, brunch and dinner at the Hungry Bear Café at 4700 States Drive (215-877-3055). The Hungry Bear had a quiet opening in October. The new café is owned by “Chef” Derrick Cantwell who pulled up stakes from his old location of nearly, three years, in Fort Washington and relocated his entire operation for the more spacious Fairmount Park locale.
I recently sat down with Derrick Cantwell and his associate Kate Sowinski from the café. They explained that the Fort Washington location had a small kitchen and extremely limited parking for customers; this was a major drawback for the dining experience. All of that is different here in Fairmount Park, the parking is free and plentiful, and the kitchen space is larger which allows Chef Cantwell to create more elaborate American fare. Unlike in the old Centennial Café days, there is upstairs seating available for customers. In the spring they plan to use the extra land space they have outside to add patio seating. This will allow for seating an additional 30 people, with a great outdoor view of the park. Most entrees start in the $20 range and the café is open from Tuesday– Sunday, 9am – 8pm. Be on the lookout for more surprises coming from The Hungry Bear. Chef Cantwell plans to make The Hungry Bear a destination spot for all of Philadelphia. Visit soon; the food is GREAT!!