Trolley Car Station just opened at West Philly’s revamped and renamed 40th Street Trolley Portal Gardens, with seats for 150 and breakfast, lunch, and dinner service. But opening chef Barbie Marshall, a two-time Hell’s Kitchen contestant, is already gone as executive chef. Marshall created the menu and hired the staff over the summer but left September 10, just a week in, citing other obligations with her catering and consulting business. The Trolley Car job, she says, wasn’t a good fit. Diners shouldn’t expect any disruption in service at the new restaurant.
The two-story eatery is part of the transformation of the concrete-heavy trolley station at 40th Street and Baltimore Avenue — one of the busiest aboveground rail stations in the city, serving an estimated 5,000 riders a day — into a more attractive and welcoming public space. Working with the city and SEPTA, University City District raised $2.1 million to add trees, flowers, more seating, a bike share station, better lighting, and the new restaurant.
The Trolley Car menu is heavy on comfort foods, like fried chicken and waffles with Lancaster County pepper cabbage. There’s international inspiration on the menu, too, seen in morning options like the Korean shrimp and grits and the Argentine steak and eggs. For lunch and dinner, there are barbecued chicken, steak, seafood, and seitan skewers served with sauces from around the world. Burgers come as beef, turkey, or black bean.
Philly-based Hurricane Woodwork built a long communal table out of cherry wood for the center of the first-floor dining room. Upstairs feels more like an old-fashioned ice cream parlor, with big green booths and hanging lamps.
Outside the restaurant, a large, landscaped seating area with colorful tables overlooks the trolley portal, where routes 11, 13, 34 and 36 stop. Easy access to public transportation is helpful, since the restaurant has a liquor license and is serving cocktails like a Pho-flavored combination of gin, star anise, lime, Thai basil, and jalapeno.
Trolley Car Station is a sister restaurant to Mt. Airy’s Trolley Car Diner and East Falls’ Trolley Car Cafe. It’s open Sunday to Thursday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 7 a.m. to midnight, with the kitchen closing an hour before the restaurant.
Update: September 10, 2018, 2:35 p.m.
This article was updated to include Barbie Marshall’s sudden departure from the restaurant.