Twenty Weeks, Twenty Stories: High Street Hospitality Group

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Center City District Restaurant Week, we’ll be spending time celebrating the chefs and restaurateurs—and some of their favorite recipes—as we get closer to the event.

This week, we’re excited to share some stories and insights from Ellen Yin of High Street Hospitality Group. Known as a leader in the city’s culinary scene as the visionary behind several concepts, including, Fork, and High Street Philly, restaurateur and co-founder Yin was recently named 2023’s Outstanding Restaurateur at the James Beard Awards.

Q&A with Ellen Yin at High Street Hospitality Group

What inspired your journey to enter the restaurant industry?

I got my start in restaurants, like many people in the industry, during high school at a French restaurant in my hometown. I loved it and always dreamed of opening a restaurant. After college, I held jobs in many different industries, but I always was drawn back to the restaurant industry. When I think back now, I realize that it was first place as a young adult that I felt I truly belonged. Initially what appealed the most was the creativity, caring for people and connecting with guests and team members, but over time that has evolved into bringing my own perspective to equity and sustainability in the industry. 

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What inspired your restaurant?

All our restaurants are connected by the desire to support local farmers and artisans including Fork, our flagship in Old City. It opened at a time when seasonally inspired menus had not become a requirement.  

We partnered with + bar in 2014 because we wanted to be part of the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood, and the corner of 18th & Walnut is probably one of the most iconic corners of Center City.  I always loved the design of and it reminded me of a Parisian boite: A neighborhood restaurant where you could have a delicious bite or glass of wine and see and be seen by your friends and neighbors.

When we took over, we inherited an amazing wine and beverage program which we continue to steward through Frank Kinyon, our Wine Director, and Harry Jamison who oversees the cocktail program. However, we have been so fortunate to have amazing kitchen talent there.  Chef Eli Collins’ seasonally focused French-inspired food is always craveable whether you are having a full meal or just a light bite.

What has been the proudest moment of your journey as a restaurateur?

Seeing people grow within the team is always the most satisfying part of this career, especially if they grow and develop the same passion I have for this industry.  But I am also so proud of what our alumni have achieved outside of High Street Hospitality Group, and if we had some small part in contributing to their success, I am happy.  

Of course, being named Outstanding Restaurateur at the 2023 James Beard Awards was an amazing achievement, but the most rewarding moment was to have my leadership team with me, to see so many Philadelphia chefs and teams be recognized and to confirm what Philadelphians already know, that Philadelphia is a world class restaurant scene.  

Can you tell us about the recipe your team shared, including the story behind it, its inspiration, and why you chose to submit it?

The Octopus Lyonnaise Salad is a fan-favorite on the menu. Chef Eli Collins' take on the traditional French Lyonnaise Salad (frisee, lardons, soft egg) is made heartier and a bit more intriguing with the addition of octopus and trout roe. 

Click here to view the recipe.

What inspired your work with Sisterly Love Collective and the Wonton Project?

Connecting food and community has always been at the heart of High Street Hospitality Group. Sisterly Love Collective emanated from the pandemic during which women in the industry, especially women of color, were more significantly negatively impacted than their male counterparts.  SLC and other women-driven initiatives proved the power of collaboration to elevate our voices and to help women grow their businesses, their independence, and their futures. 

The Wonton Project came from a need to support the AAPI community in 2021, but has also created space to embrace and celebrate my own heritage through adapting my mother’s wonton recipe.

How have you seen Center City evolve?

When we opened Fork in 1997, Philadelphia wasn’t even on the map as a culinary city. Since then, Philly has skyrocketed as one of the best cities for dining and took home three James Beard awards this year – more than any other city. It has been exciting to see the other restaurants, now Philly staples, enter the scene.

Celebrate Twenty Years of Restaurant Week

We thank our friends at High Street Hospitality Group, especially Ellen Yin, for sharing these stories! Learn more about their restaurants on their website

Stay tuned as we continue to share more of these stories as we celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Center City District Restaurant Week, and check out all of the amazing restaurant options in Center City!

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