Center City’s finer side grows despite tough economy

The perception of Philadelphia as a city of refined tastes hasn’t taken a hit during the national economic downturn, according to a new report by Center City’s leading business organization — it’s actually become stronger.

Fine dining options downtown have increased since 2006 at almost the exact same rate that takeout shops have declined, Center City District’s annual Retail Report found.

The finding surprised some restaurant observers at first glance, but CCD Chief Executive Paul Levy said Center City’s resilient job market coupled with the city’s “incredible reputation” as a restaurant town helps explain the figures.

Levy also said the trend has not just turned Center City’s scene into “food for rich people.”

“Prices have clearly risen in the core of downtown, but [smaller start-up businesses] start choosing the outer neighborhoods, showing huge growth in restaurants in Northern Liberties and Fairmount, along Passyunk Avenue,” he said.

Local food writer Felicia D’Ambrosio said she was shocked to see the numbers, but says they may also show a slight decline in the long-held interests of eaters.

“Maybe people are just tired of eating gastropub fare,” said D’Ambrosio, who works for Yelp. “People do want interesting cooking.”

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