Northern Liberties is growing. The trendy, formerly industrial community has seen tremendous growth over the last decade, welcoming new residents and — as COVID-19 cases continue to trend downward — a slew of new businesses.
One of them, Pera Turkish Cuisine, is set for a grand opening from April 1 to 3, just in time for Northern Liberties Restaurant Week. The Turkish restaurant is one of 12 new restaurants coming to the neighborhood’s restaurant corridor.
The restaurant will provide traditional, affordable Turkish cuisine with a modern twist. Kris Kennedy, executive director of the North Liberties Business Improvement District, congratulated owners Mehmet Ergin and Eric Tunc on opening their first restaurant, which is located at 944 N. 2nd St., replacing Greek seafood BYOB DiMitris, which lived on the corner of 2nd and W. Laurel Streets.
“It’s not easy filling DiMitris’ shoes, but Pera is the perfect fit,” Kennedy said. “We couldn’t be more delighted to add Turkish to the list of cuisines from around the world that you can find here in Northern Liberties. Their food is accessible and easy to share, so it’s the perfect spot for gathering with family and friends of all ages.”
Ergin and Tunc met in Philadelphia after moving to the city about 10 years ago. Though they are both from Turkey, the two didn’t meet until they both rented an apartment from a Turkish landlord in Point Breeze, where they lived for one year. They eventually went to school together, and worked alongside one another in hospitality.
Just before the pandemic began, the two decided to become business partners and open up their first restaurant together. The pandemic delayed their plans, but after two years, the chefs are excited for Pera’s grand opening.
Ergin and Tunc believe that Philly is missing a casual spot for Turkish cuisine, and they hope that Pera can fill that void. They want to draw people in who have never tried Turkish food before, and hope to become a place where people can dine in multiple times per month.
“We had been looking for a restaurant space for two years and one day we drove by and saw the former DiMitris space,” Tunc said. “We really liked that corner, the corridor, Restaurant Row, and the space inside. We just knew it was for us and we had to jump on the opportunity to call Northern Liberties home for our new restaurant.”
Pera, like DiMitris, is a BYO that seats 36 people inside. The owners may open a sidewalk cafe on 2nd and Laurel as well, though the plans have not been finalized.
The menu includes soups, salads, appetizers, sandwiches, wraps, kebabs, gyros, seafood, and other traditional Turkish dishes. The full menu is available here, but Ergin and Tunc each recommend their personal favorites.
Chef Ergin recommends Hunkar begendi, otherwise known as “Sultan’s Delight,” which is made with slow-cooked lamb shank and smoked eggplant. Tunc recommends Kunefe, made with shredded phyllo dough, mozzarella cheese, grilled and serviced hot with sugar on top, and buttery fried veal liver served with sliced onion and traditional Turkish spices.
Pera soft-opened earlier in February, but will have its grand opening at the beginning of Northern Liberties Restaurant Week. For the duration of the 10-day experience, Pera has a separate $25 three-course lunch and dinner menu, with appetizers, main dishes, and desserts, including baklava.
Pera will bring a dozen new jobs to Northern Liberties, alongside a dozen additional businesses and restaurants set to open over the next several weeks and months. The community is expected to double in population in the next two years, according to NLBID and Keller Williams Philadelphia.
As of September 2021, there were 4,600 new residential units in the neighborhood, as well as nearly 185,000 square feet of commercial space either available or under construction. NLBID estimated that 5,000 to 10,000 new residents will move to the neighborhood in the next two years.