Owner of Starr Restaurants
Relying on intuition, experience and a preternatural knack for knowing what people want before they want it; Stephen Starr has played a major role in transforming Philadelphia into one of the most vibrant food cities in America. His approach has its roots in the art of performance, but there’s more to it than dazzle alone.
“People need different scenes to keep things fresh,” says Starr, who’s earned “Restaurateur of the Year” accolades from both Bon Appétit and Zagat. “We all want to be the first to try something new.” Simply track the diversity of Starr’s growth for proof of how this philosophy informs every opportunity he pursues.
A lifelong devotee of music and pop culture, Starr began his career at 21 with Grand Mom Minnie’s, serving food by day and comedy by night. He next opened Stars, a cabaret that hosted then emerging acts like Jerry Seinfeld and Pat Benatar; and later Ripley Music Hall, graced by the likes of U2 and Bruce Springsteen. He founded The Concert Company to bring large-scale stadium acts, including Madonna, Lionel Richie and George Michael, to Philadelphia. Electric Factory Concerts purchased his business in 1990, giving Starr the opportunity to explore restaurants full-time.
Founded in 1995 by Stephen Starr, Philadelphia-based STARR Restaurants is one of the largest multi-concept restaurant companies in the country, with 33 to-date. Philadelphia restaurants include Buddakan, Morimoto, The Continental, Barclay Prime, Continental Mid-Town, Fette Sau, El Vez, Jones, Alma de Cuba, Pod, Parc, The Dandelion, Talula’s Garden, Talula’s Daily, Butcher and Singer, Pizzeria Stella, El Rey, Granite Hill, il Pittore, and Serpico. Outposts of Morimoto and Buddakan are located in New York’s thriving Meatpacking District; Caffé Storico resides in the New-York Historical Society. El Vez recently opened in Battery Park City and newcomer Upland is on Park Ave South. Buddakan and The Continental opened in the Pier Shops at Caesars, Atlantic City in 2006, and the company traveled south to Florida with Steak 954 at the W Hotel Fort Lauderdale in 2009, Makoto in the Bal Harbour Shops in 2011 and Verde in the Perez Art Museum Miami in 2013. Washington D.C. also welcomed the critically acclaimed restaurant Le Diplomate in 2013. Several new spots are in the pipeline for 2015 including a Continental in Miami.
Stephen Starr and Simon Powles founded the Starr Restaurants Catering Group and Stephen STARR Events in 2008. The restaurant group’s full-service catering and special events division includes clients such as the New York Botanical Gardens, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, the New York Historical Society, the Rubin Museum Art in New York and the Grounds of Sculpture in Hamilton N.J. With delectable cuisine, stellar service, hip music and cool settings, Stephen STARR Events brings the experiences of the widely successful Starr Restaurants to the world of special events.
With more than 25 years in the hospitality and entertainment industries, Starr likens the experience of dining out to that of attending a theater production, where the players, props, backdrops, lighting and rapport are integral components of an overall dramatic effect. When this atmospheric drama is paired with edgy, delicious cuisine, dining out at a STARR Restaurant becomes entertainment for all of the senses.