Acclaimed restaurateur Stephen Starr is set to open LMNO—a new Baja Mexican concept located in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood.
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 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.
Chilled spoke with Director of Beverage Operations, Mark Murphey to find out more.
Tell us a bit about your background in the industry.
I’ve been in the industry ever since I was old enough to work (my first job was selling pretzels). My jobs in restaurants have covered the full spectrum: busser, host, captain, dishwasher, line cook, baker, and of course, bartender. I’ve worked in more bars than I can remember, from full dives to high volume clubs, to nerdy cocktail bars. Over two decades in the industry, combined with a degree in education, allows me to develop spaces and programs with a big emphasis on building great teams.
Talk to us about LMINO- what kind of experience can guests expect when visiting?
First and foremost, the bartender team at LMNO is crushing it. Yes, they’re making high quality cocktails, but they’re doing it while maintaining a friendly, fun, and easy-going vibe. Guests can expect tasty drinks, an unexpected and awesome food menu, and an amazing staff to lead the way.
Tell us about the DIY concept.
Ever since I built the bar program for El Vez in New York City, my affinity for tequila and other agave spirits has taken the forefront. The first step for developing the menu here at LMNO was to build our extensive library of tequila, agave, and other craft spirits. After that, I decided I didn’t want to create a menu that was limited by the spirits we used. So, why not build the flavors and balance, but give the guest the opportunity to explore all the fun things we have on our shelves? Same style goes for our Micheladas, choose your style, and explore our beer list.
Talk to us about the beverage program.
The DIY cocktails are certainly the focus, but we of course have a house margarita which is super bright, balanced, and crushable. In addition, there is a frozen spiced mango margarita and, my personal favorite, a frozen red sangria. The cocktails, spirits, and beers are all rounded out by our wine offerings. The ‘by the glass’ and bottle options have a heavy focus on natural and Baja wines, providing some incredible wines you can’t find anywhere else in the city.
Give us 4-5 tips for opening a bar/running a successful bar.
There are as many factors for success as there are versions of success. Here are my four priorities (in no particular order).
- Organization – This applies to everything. First is the actual space: the layout of the bar, equipment, storage, bottles, glassware, coolers, supplies, syrups, juices, etc., is vital to how quickly and effectively your team can put out drinks and interact with the guests. Second is the product: knowing what you have, how you move through it, and all the costs associated it.
- Knowledgeable staff – It’s not just training a team to be as informed as possible about the things they serve, but to teach them how to talk and interact with guests in a way that makes ‘the unknown’ fun, easy, and accessible. There can be a fine line between informative and pretentious, and I always want to be on the side of being inclusive.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously – I like to say, “I take what I do very seriously, but not myself.” Bars are fun. They’re places that are solely built around a shared human experience and connection. This can be achieved with a beer and a shot, a glass of wine, a terrible cocktail or the best you’ve ever had. People first, always.
- Accessibility – this goes for every aspect: guests, staff, management, the menu, the space. If I ever make a bar that is just for myself, it will be in my home. Every time I create a menu, one of my primary goals is to be sure I (personally) don’t really want to order every drink on the menu. I want spirits, profiles, and ingredients to be broadly appealing. Same goes for the space. My favorite bars rarely have much to do with what is being served, but rather it is about being in a space with as many different people as there are bottles on the shelves
LMNO is the brainchild of Stephen Starr and Serge Becker. Located in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood, LMNO merges lo-fi sensibilities with a vibrant, eclectic atmosphere centered around a custom live-fire grill. Offering Baja-Mexican staples like fresh seafood, roasted meats in crispy tacos, fire roasted vegetables, and agave spirits, LMNO revels in refined simplicity. Lithe and lighthearted, timely and transportive, LMNO is not just somewhere you will want to eat — it’s a place you will want to be.
Founded in 1995 by Stephen Starr, Philadelphia-based STARR Restaurants is one of the largest multi-concept restaurant groups in the country. With 36 total properties in 5 markets, STARR continues to be an industry titan in merging culinary artistry with cutting-edge design; so much so that in 2017 Stephen Starr was presented with the “Outstanding Restaurateur” award by the James Beard Foundation. STARR Restaurants include Buddakan, Pod, Morimoto, El Vez, Continental Mid-Town, Barclay Prime, Parc, Butcher and Singer, Pizzeria Stella, El Rey, The Ranstead Room, The Dandelion, Talula’s Garden, Talula’s Daily, The Love, Frankford Hall, and Fette Sau in Philadelphia; as well as Buddakan, Upland, El Vez, Pastis, La Mercerie, The Clocktower, Electric Lemon and the critically acclaimed, James Beard Award winning Le Coucou in New York. STARR Restaurants expanded to Florida with Steak 954 at the W Hotel Fort Lauderdale and Makoto and Le Zoo in the Bal Harbour Shops. Several projects are in the pipeline for STARR Restaurants in 2022, most notably a second outpost of Pastis in Miami and Bankroll, an upscale sports bar, located in the historic Boyd Theater in Philadelphia.