High Street Hospitality Group is responsible for some of Philadelphia’s award-winning restaurants such as Fork Restaurant, a.kitchen + bar, High Street Philly, High Street on Hudson, and High Street Provisions. As a notable leader in the Philadelphia restaurant scene for more than two decades, the founder and co-owner of High Street Hospitality Group, Ellen Yin, has consistently earned praise for her work in the culinary industry.
Most recently, Ellen was recognized as an honoree in the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce’s 2020 Inspiring Excellence Awards and was included in the Philadelphia Business Journal’s Women of Distinction 2020. In addition, Fork was named one of the “20 Best Restaurants in Philadelphia” by Conde Nast Traveler in 2019, and the publication also named High Street Philly on their list of the “11 Best Brunch Places in Philadelphia.” A.kitchen was named a Wine Enthusiast “Top Wine Restaurant” in America in 2015 and 2016. James Beard Foundation named Fork an “Outstanding Restaurant Semifinalist” from 2014 to 2016. Travel + Leisure named High Street Philly one of the best new restaurants in the world in 2015. In addition, High Street on Hudson earned a coveted “Two Stars” review from The New York Times’ Pete Wells, and the New York Post called it the “best new restaurant of the year.” Food & Wine included it among their 10 best restaurants of the year, as well.
Check out our interview below to learn about Ellen’s entrepreneurial journey, her take on restaurant operations during COVID-19, and how financing from PIDC assisted her businesses during times of need.
Q: You own a few restaurants in the city through High Street Hospitality. What makes each one unique?
A: While each of our restaurants are unique and have their own voice, there are some common denominators that are important for us to maintain across each outpost. We always prioritize high quality and local sourcing to uphold our mission of feeding people good food.
The heartbeat of the High Street concepts is definitely grain, each with a slightly different but signature bakery program and offerings with pastries, sandwiches, pastas, loaves of bread, and beyond. A.kitchen in Rittenhouse boasts an award-winning beverage program. Our wine list has received recognition as one of the best wine restaurants in the country and a.bar’s craft cocktail program is considered one of the leaders in the industry. Those combined with the ever-changing seasonal menu by Chef Eli Collins, who is utterly skilled at making vegetable-based dishes feel indulgent and craveable, make a.kitchen a major asset to our group. After 24 years of constant evolution at Fork, the main throughline has, and will always be, showing off the abundance of local produce and the best of the season with Chef George Madosky’s clean and layered flavors.
Q: How did your journey in the hospitality industry start?
A: Like so many people in the industry, I got my start when I was in high school working at a neighborhood restaurant. In my case, the neighborhood restaurant happened to be a French restaurant considered by many at the time to be one of the best in New Jersey. I remember walking into the vestibule and seeing tons of glassware and thinking whether my clumsiness would survive this job. Quickly, I overcame that fear and fell in love with the diversity, pace, and energy of the restaurant scene. From that point forward, I’ve been singularly focused on making a mark on the hospitality industry by creating innovative, equitable, and sustainable concepts that keep the industry moving forward.
Q: In what ways did PIDC assist your business?
A: When I opened Fork, PCDC (Philadelphia Commercial Development Corporation)* financed our start-up capital. The low interest rates, commitment to economic development and job creation has always been a great appeal to me. I am so grateful for the support PIDC has provided to local businesses over the years, but especially so for PIDC’s help in the wake of COVID-19. *NOTE: PCDC was acquired by PIDC.
Q: How have you been able to grow such a successful group of restaurants?
A: I am quite proud of the growth we’ve experienced over the years. It all started with Fork in 1997. I had a fairly limited idea of what the future would hold. From the beginning, Fork attracted amazing talent, enabling it to become a destination. With each new chef, we added their spin to our ultimate mission of feeding people well. So many talented individuals have passed through our restaurants since then, going on to receive their own awards and accolades. I am quite proud of our family tree.
Q: What are your thoughts on the impact of COVID-19 on restaurant operations in the city?
A: While restaurants are getting creative and doing less with more, our industry stands to get crushed without further government assistance, especially given the spikes we’re seeing this fall and what that can mean once it is too cold in most markets, like ours, to utilize outdoor dining.
Q: You’ve accomplished many things over the past couple of decades. What has been the most rewarding for you?
A: The most rewarding part of my job is being able to give back to the local community. All throughout our 24 years of operation, we have prioritized giving back in any way we can. However, we were able to really amplify this effort by feeding over 10,000 meals to frontline workers as well local homeless populations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
PIDC congratulates Ellen on her many accomplishments in the hospitality industry and in the community.