Booker's: A 'neighborhood' restaurant for West Philadelphia

Chef Michael Thomas and owner Saba Tedla at Booker's, 5021 Baltimore Ave.

West Philadelphia has plenty of ethnic restaurants, Saba Tedla said, but it lacked what she calls a "neighborhood restaurant."

That is, moderate-priced American cuisine suitable for the family early in the evening, segueing into a bar later.

"If you have to decide when you're going out to eat that you have to go out of your neighborhood, that is depressing," said Tedla, who owns the popular Mediterranean restaurant Aksum on Baltimore Avenue near 47th Street. "We're underserved."

She bought a building about four blocks west - next to the seasonal Taco Angelino pop-up truck - and planned to develop it as a restaurant space for an outside operator.

When she could not find the right tenant, she opened it herself, with help from the well-traveled chef Michael Thomas (Bar Ferdinand, Growler's, Kraftwork, Honey's Sit 'N Eat).

Booker's Restaurant & Bar (5021 Baltimore Ave., 215-883- 0960), which opened this month, brings a bit of style to Cedar Park, now also home to Dock Street and the Mariposa Co-op. Seating options include booths on one side of the double storefront. The bar's brick rear wall and marble top are accented by pipe shelving. An enlargement of a 50-year-old black-and-white image by photographer John Mosley jazzes the rear seating area.

Tedla said she had considered naming the restaurant after her children but was moved by the story of Booker Wright, a Mississippi waiter murdered in 1965 after speaking out in a news documentary about racial tensions.

It opens daily at 5 p.m. with a menu of small and large plates, and a children's menu. Brunch is due to begin in April.