In September of 2016, Elwood chef/owner Adam Diltz submitted his original zoning permit submission for a back patio outdoor dining area at his Fishtown restaurant. But due to an array of issues, including the review and negotiation process involved in zoning, a legal dispute with a neighbor that would result in a years-long lawsuit, COVID, and other regulatory hoops he had to jump through as a business owner in Philly, it wasn’t until his second application in September of 2021 that Elwood was approved for an outdoor permit with no objection.
And now, after nearly six years of headaches, and six-plus months of construction, Elwood has finally completed its outdoor patio, which now seats up to 18 people in the restaurant’s beautiful back area and garden at 1007 Frankford Avenue.
Elwood began serving customers in May of 2019, and once the COVID shutdown arrived, Diltz and his wife and Co-owner, Jenny Ko (who also submitted the original drawings for the outdoor space), made the call to submit for a new zoning permit for outdoor seating.
“Our outdoor seating in the original permit submission was eliminated as a proviso to allow the restaurant use in the old 18th Century building,” said Diltz. “Even though the Zoning Board of Approval permitted the new use during the hearing, the permit was challenged by a neighbor, who we were in legal dispute with for the next year and a half. Furthermore, during COVID, our location and proviso prevented us from having outdoor dining on Frankford Avenue as well as the back garden while other restaurants were able to pivot to outdoor dining to try and save their businesses. By the time COVID was in its second year, it was clear that we needed a permanent long-term option for outdoor dining in order to stay in business. Thankfully, our second submission went a lot smoother. Our neighbors in Fishtown showed up to our RCO (Fishtown Neighborhood Association) meeting and helped us get there.”
After finally having their permit in hand, construction took an entire fall and winter to complete, and now Diltz and Ko said they’re ready to really begin using the outdoor areas to their fullest with the warmer weather.
Doug Boice from Clay & Plenty built the entire backyard when Elwood first opened, and he is back on the project again the second time around. In the original build out, Doug provided local cedar planks that made the backyard fence and garbage enclosure, as well as the shelving enclosure that customers see when they first enter the restaurant. This time around, he provided locally harvested cedar for the trellis and the flagstones in the patio. He cut and set all the stones one by one over the course of the winter. As the landscape designer, he selected native plants and climate appropriate plants for the garden, including Tea Berries and Fennel Head Ferns, while also providing borages, thymes, and oreganos that will be used in various dishes. For the garden, Boice designed and built a simple water feature using salvaged materials like gears from old machines, and large steel tubes to form a planter. Ultimately, Elwood will also have honeysuckles trained on top of the trellis to form a green canopy.
“This is still a work in progress for at least another five years before we get the plants to do what we want, but we are so thrilled to have the patio open to our guests,” said Diltz. “It was a long time coming, and these things take time. While this entire process never should’ve taken anywhere nearly as long as it did, we also realize the delay may have been a blessing in disguise, as we were dealing with a very hot construction market, and it took us a long time to get a contractor who met our budget. It was tough work, but Doug was a good sport and a cheerful collaborator who helped make this dream a reality for both Jenny and myself.”
Elwood is a BYOB in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood which serves family-style entrees celebrating heirloom recipes drawn from Chef Adam Diltz’s country roots and Pennsylvania’s culinary history. Diltz was named a James Beard semifinalist for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic in 2022.