David Braverman, who over the course of four decades drove the Le Bus name from vending on the Penn campus to a restaurant in Manayunk and then to an artisan-bakery empire, is planning another stop.
Braverman says he is about to sign a lease on the landmark property at Midvale and Ridge Avenues in East Falls that last was Johnny Manana's.
Le Bus Bistro, projected to open this summer, will serve homestyle American food at a moderate price in a homey atmosphere.
In a phone chat last week, Braverman said he had passed by Johnny Manana's after its closing last fall and said, "That's my place. I'm getting it."
Braverman, son of a restaurateur, launched Le Bus in November 1978, when — in one of the earlier examples of a hipster food truck — he parked a converted school bus named Max outside of the University of Pennsylvania's law school and started selling roast beef sandwiches, blueberry muffins, and coffee. He soon started doing his own baking.
In 1984, Braverman moved the business into a house at 3402 Sansom, across from the old parking spot, and opened other locations, including a restaurant on Main Street in Manayunk, which came along in 1991. (Max was donated to a program that feeds homeless people.)
But by 2003, with a new Le Bus commercial bakery demanding attention in King of Prussia, Braverman got out of the restaurant business. He sold the Manayunk eatery to Winnie Clowry, who renamed it Winnie's. (It's still popularly known as Winnie's Le Bus.)
Now at 67, Braverman said, "I need to get back into the restaurant business. Restaurants are so different from commercial baking. It's instant gratification. You feed people and they leave happy. The only time I hear from customers is when there's a complaint."