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Ardmore Native Finds His Place in South Philly’s Competitive Restaurant Scene

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Photo by Tessa Marie Images

Kevin Addis’ new Queen Village BYO, Mari, is a popular spot.

The place was decorated. The kitchen was ready. A crew was in place. Early in March, Kevin Addis had his new Queen Village BYO, Mari, prepped for an April launch. “Then corona came and made everything different,” he says.

Potentially catastrophic, actually. It was hard enough for established restaurants to find revenue streams during the ensuing lockdown. Some were able to make money through curbside pickup or other creative options. But that wasn’t the plan for Mari.

So Addis waited, finally opening Mari five months later with outdoor dining. “The response has been good,” he says.

Kevin Addis at work in Mari’s kitchen

Once a dishwasher at Havertown’s Lamplighter Tavern, the 36-year-old Ardmore native is now a budding restaurateur with a pair of successful Philadelphia ventures. “I think he’s got a lot of guts—he’s also got a lot of motivation,” says longtime friend Mike Corsetti, who owns a takeout barbecue business in New Jersey. “Kevin knows what he wants to do and how he wants to do it.”

In the weeks after Mari’s opening, Addis was in the kitchen of his cozy corner eatery at 3rd and Catherine streets cooking every night. He creates the menus to match the flavor profiles he feels diners want to experience—a nice array of dishes to appeal to a broad clientele. Though Mari offers a heavy dose of Italian-style seafood, there are also chicken and lamb dishes on the menu.

When things stabilize at Mari, Addis will head back to the kitchen of his other restaurant, Entree BYOB, on South Street. And just because he has a second spot doesn’t necessarily mean a third is on its way. “I’ve never had the goal of becoming a corporate chain or having a whole bunch of places,” he says.

Addis’s Main Line upbringing was interrupted when his family moved to central Pennsylvania, where he found a job as a dishwasher at the Hummingbird Room. There aren’t too many people from this area who know about the Hummingbird Room. It sits less than a half-hour northeast of State College, in Spring Mills, a town of fewer than 300 residents. Somehow, chef Eric Sarnow made his way from Center City’s dearly departed Le Bec-Fin to Centre County, where he conceived a five-star culinary oasis.

Already an ace at dishes due to his experience at the Lamplighter, Addis progressed to line cook at the Hummingbird. “That’s when I decided I wanted to be a chef,” he says.

After high school, he headed to Providence, R.I., to attend Johnson & Wales University, which is known for its culinary arts program. Graduating in 2007, Addis hung around Providence, working at a variety of restaurants, often as a sous chef. Addis returned home for a head chef position at the now-defunct Portofino in Philadelphia. In 2009, he and a friend moved to Boston to take over a branch of the Daily Catch, an iconic Sicilian-style seafood and pasta restaurant that began in the 1970s in the city’s North End. Four years later, he returned to Ardmore to launch Entrée, which he describes as “modern American with a French influence.”

It was a bold move for someone in his late 20s, but Addis’ quick rise to executive chef convinced him to take the leap. “Let’s say I was a cook, and I wanted to be a chef,” he says. “Years ago, the goal would be to become an executive chef. I reached that goal at a young age, and I didn’t want to stop. I wanted to make my own food and my own living. I didn’t want to work for someone else.”

Frutti di Mare, with littleneck clams, mussels, shrimp, scallops and lobster

Addis now works for himself—only. He doesn’t have partners. “I think that’s the way to go,” he says.

The early feedback on Mari has been strong. It also helps that people are eating out again. “He’s got a lot of creativity with his menu, and a lot of nice specials,” says Corsetti. “He puts the ingredients together for a full flavor in a dish.”

While Addis asserts that he isn’t interested in becoming a restaurant mogul, he probably didn’t expect to be in this position by age 36. And there are other considerations—like his wife, Martha, and year-old daughter, Zoe. In the rare moments when he has time to himself, he enjoys hiking and archery, the latter a pursuit he picked up from his dad. “He’s about being a good family man,” Corsetti says. “He likes to have fun, but when you’re young and in this business, there’s not a lot of time for fun.”

Hard work aside, Addis is savoring the challenge of owning two restaurants in a robust dining scene that has spit out many talented chefs whose concepts couldn’t handle the cutthroat environment. “You have to be really good, because there is a lot of competition, says Addis. “If one person has one bad meal, he can bad-mouth you all over town. You really have to know what you’re doing. It’s not a forgiving business.”