Take a Look Inside Stephen Starr’s New Baja Mexican Concept, LMNO in Fishtown
Acclaimed restaurateur Stephen Starr is set to open LMNO – a new Baja Mexican concept located in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood. Marking Stephen Starr’s return to his hometown of Philadelphia, where STARR Restaurants currently operates 16 existing eateries, LMNO features an authentic Baja-inspired menu centered around a custom live-fire grill. LMNO is one of STARR’s most boldly realized concepts, comprised of a restaurant, an art gallery, a bookstore, and an intimate music venue – all under one roof. The space will act as a venue for artists, musicians, and creators to showcase work alongside a rich, authentic culinary and beverage experience.
LMNO is the long-anticipated brainchild of Stephen Starr and designed by Serge Becker, the visionary behind New York City’s most dynamic restaurant and nightlife concepts such as The Box, La Esquina, Miss Lily’s, and more. The 6,000 sq ft space will feature over 200 seats dispersed across multiple spaces — the verdant garden room, the sprawling outdoor veranda, and a curated bookshop in partnership with New York City’s Dashwood Books that converts into a private dining area. LMNO also features a seductive and intimate listening lounge designed with audiophiles in mind. The largest main dining space is the grill room which centers around the physical and spiritual heart of LMNO – its custom live-fire grill, and the conduit through which Executive Chef Francisco Ramirez channels Mexico’s distinct culinary soul. With bountiful outdoor space and ample greenery, a skylight soaks the interior in natural light designed to present LMNO’s fresh fare in a similarly bright and clean environment.
“LMNO isn’t like anything else. It’s a dynamic space that, beyond a laid back, authentic dining experience, lends itself to live music, art exhibits, DJ sets, workshops, cooking classes, and anything collaborative” said Stephen Starr, “Fishtown has bred world-renowned artists and makers, and now creatives from around the world will be showcased back in Fishtown under LMNO’s roof.”
LMNO follows in the tradition of Baja fusion cuisine by merging hallmarks of traditional Mexican cuisine, with delightful twists of flavor and style pulled from a range of coastal regions. Starr consulted with Chef Javier Plascencia, a noted ambassador of Mexican cuisine who’s known as the “soul of Baja” on the menu development. Like so many aspects of the region’s culinary identity, LMNO’s menu is rife with happy contradictions: light, but rich; cooked slow, then fast; clean, yet also messy; simple paired alongside complex.
A substantial selection of aguachiles, ceviches, and coctels are made with the freshest raw product emboldened by a range of supporting flavors; from refreshing melon, citrus, and tomatillo to earthy-rich olives, chiles, and burnt salsa (salsa tatemada).
The tacos, which come assembled on either corn tortillas made from house-made masa or authentic flour tortillas in the custom of northern Mexico, are quickly turned out with traditional carne asada, chicken thigh, or shrimp. Meanwhile, a central figure of the large custom grill, two slow-rotating trompos gently cook chile-marinated pork with pineapple. Suadero, a little-utilized cut with great marbling is slow-confited, then crisped on the plancha, only to be doused in a hefty pasilla oaxaca mole. The requisite beer-battered fish taco is perfectly minimal: topped with dressed cabbage, pico de gallo, and avocado.
A list of “house specials” includes large format dishes easily shared. Pesacdo zarandeado, whole sustainably raised Pacific snapper, is grilled and served with hot tortillas and its own freshly cut crudité. Similarly served is grilled ribeye aguachile, which is sliced and laid out in a tangy bath of citrus juices, peppers, Worcestershire, and soy. Chamorro in Adobo (braised lamb shank) and the storied Lobster Puerto Nuevo hit the table as a sort of DIY-taco party.
The LMNO cocktail menu puts extensive agave and craft spirit offerings in the spotlight. Built with customization in mind by Director of Beverage Operations Mark Murphy, bright and bold cocktails can be crafted with any spirit. The “Our Daily Veg” cocktail is prepared with a fresh blend of cucumber, green bell pepper, poblano, tomatillo, and cactus juices, along with a choice of spirit. Tequila, mezcal, and even gin fit right in with this veggie-centric refresher. The LMNO Margarita, a menu staple, is made simple, fresh, and bright with 100% agave tequila, fresh squeezed lime juice, and a lime-infused sea salt. The selections of Micheladas follow suit, with styles from traditional to over-the-top, to be paired with any draft, bottled, and canned beer.
Nodding to Fishtown’s artistic roots, the restaurant’s interior reflects a DIY aesthetic that merges lo-fi sensibilities with a vibrant, freestyle approach to color and curation.
“Philadelphia’s young creatives have long rooted themselves in the Fishtown neighborhood, so the aesthetic reflects that.” Said Serge Becker, “Sunny, bright afternoons turn slowly into moody evenings where anything can happen, and we tried to accomplish that by working with a combination of natural light and simple but effective LED installations.” LMNO features vintage 70’s and 80’s furniture, and rotating photography exhibitions curated by David Strettell. The inaugural show features a selection of Bill Bernstein’s iconic 70’s Disco images, taken at the legendary clubs of the era; Paradise Garage, the Loft, GG Barnum’s, Studio 54, Xenon, Ice Palace etc.
The bookshop, in partnership with Dashwood Books, offers hand-selected rare and out-of-print art and photography books curated by Dashwood founder David Strettell. Also available for purchase will be a custom zine which corresponds with the restaurant’s current photography exhibit. As part of its programming, the shop will also host signings and curated events alongside current exhibits.
A finely curated 200-hour soundtrack created by LMNO Creative Director, Jason Carroll, promises songs will rarely be heard more than once. The playlist is deliberate and diverse, covering everything from Arthur Russell to Burna Boy. The restaurant will also feature a lineup of Philadelphia’s premiere DJs on the weekend during dinner and brunch to encourage an appropriately vibrant and creative energy at all times. Most notably, DJ sets will take place in the intimate listening room. Stacked with classic vinyl, this unique listening space touts a Two Channel analogue sound system featuring a pair of legendary Klipsch La Scala speakers. The La Scala’s are also flanked by 4 vintage JBL4312 studio monitors. All of these components are connected to the iconic Bozak 4 channel rotary mixer resulting in a listening experience unmatched in Philadelphia.