Convivial Corner Returns to Paradise Nextdoor — Not

NOV 2017 UPDATE: Remember that bar/restaurant that was supposed to open here? Change of plans.

Not so fast, Catfish. After another two years of languishing while Sherman & Cavaliere launched Foghorn Chicken farther up Ridge Ave instead, demolition has begun on this historic building. The owners deemed it so far damaged it’s not worth trying to renovate.

Word on the street is that this lot will be sold for new residential construction to meet this area’s high demand. Sorry, history. We’d rather replace all our local character with shiny new boxes for luxury home seekers.

FUN FACT: Anyone can nominate a building for historic preservation! The Catfish may be gone but NW Philly is full of architecture that deserves to be saved for posterity. Curbed Philly has a great guide on the whole process, including helpful links to get you started.

Although unfortunately East Falls Local has no resources to take the lead on historic preservation projects, if any history buffs want to take up this mantle, we would be thrilled to promote your efforts to our readers. You only get one history, people! We support holding onto our distinctive streetscapes for generations to come.

Original Post November 13, 2015

New bar/restaurant plans plus fascinating history at the border of East Falls and Allegheny West (in the neighborhood known as “Paradise”):

Voters at last night’s Ridge-Allegheny-Hunting Park Civic Association unanimously agreed to support the request of Mark Sherman & In Riva‘s Arthur Cavaliere for a variance to create multi-family units and a bar/restaurant in that big old building at the intersection of Scotts Lane with Allegheny and Ridge avenues near Laurel Hill cemetery.

RAH Association president Rose Cooper updated an audience of about 30 neighbors November 12th on plans to invigorate this prominent corner between East Falls and Allegheny West. Historically, there’s almost always been a bar/restaurant here — going all the way back to when this “Mills” area was churning with industry.

Most recently, in the 1980’s this corner was called “Falls Catfish Cafe” and offered a Cajun-influenced menu with dishes like catfish gumbo, warm duck salad,  andouille sausage, and other concoctions that didn’t seem to go over too well with a Daily News reviewer back then.

Fortunately, Mark Sherman and In Riva’s Arther Cavaliere’s new venture, “The Catfish,” seems way more grounded. Their restaurant’s menu (posted below) features classic pub favorites with In Riva’s signature seasonal, upscale twists.

The Catfish menu will offer burgers, fish & chips, composed sandwiches, plus healthy “big salads” with fresh local ingredients — and, yes, eggs all day (by popular demand).

It gets better:  The Catfish will have their own proprietary brew, Catfish Schuylkill Pale Ale, on tap!  Plus a full selection of draft & bottled beers, classic cocktails, new & Old World wines… This place was once the neighborhood watering hole, bridging the communities of Allegheny and East Falls. Cavaliere & Sherman want to bring that friendly local vibe back to the area, and revitalize this neglected corner once again.

Such a beautiful building! In addition to restoring the bar — yes, they are keeping as much of the original details as possible — Cavaliere & Sherman are renovating the structure’s upper floors into four one-bedroom apartments, with parking just one block away with Bobbi Quinn (under a long-term lease). PHOTOS FROM EARLY IN CONSTRUCTION HERE.

In total, The Catfish will have 30 seats at the bar, 59 seats with tables inside, and another 25 outside on the terrace. When finished, The Catfish hopes to host events, parties, and fundraisers while invigorating the neighborhood with value-oriented food in a family environment steeped in local history.

The Catfish will offer terrace-style seating along Scotts Lane, with plans to construct an outdoor patio along Alleghany Avenue slated for Summer 2016. We’ll update this post accordingly with new developments.

As promised, here’s the menu. Looks kinda high-falutin’ for pub fare to us, in the same way In Riva’s menu elevates pizza & rustic Italian with similarly bold, exciting ingredients. We are certainly curious, and looking forward to tucking in soon.

Green Goddess Salad (haricort verts, creamy dressing, avocado, idiazabal cheese, fines herbes)
“Wedge” Salad  (maytag blue, lardons, scallion, spicy walnut)
Beets and Turnips (dodonis feta, frisee, garlic almond)
Caesar  (spears, white anchovy, poached egg)

Steak Tartare (the traditional way, with fries)
Grilled Pork Belly (black pepper honey, pickled veggies)
Crabcake (with leeks, aioli, crispies)
Potato Pancakes (creme fraiche, caviar, dill)

Matzoh Ball Soup
Onion Soup Gratinee

Traditional Sandwiches:
Cheeseburger (American cheese, pickles)
Turkey Club (Nueske bacon, herb mayo, red leaf lettuce)
Grilled Ham and Cheese  (fondue, fried egg, Dijon)
Curry Chicken Salad  (green grape, garlic almond, bibb lettuce)

Omelette (fines herbes, raclette cheese, fries)
Fried chicken  (dijonaise, mashed potatoes)
Beef stew  (baby veggies, red wine, horseradish)
Catfish and chips  (remoulade, grilled lemon)

Finally — Who’s up for some History?  We’ve transcribed a neat clipping on the area we found in the Standard Press (a local paper) dated December 27, 1934:

John Redinger, Huge Scott. General Cadwalader and John Dobson Owned Bulk of Tract at Various Time — Once Transferred on an Election Wager

That section of land between Hunting Park avenue and the Norristown Branch of the Reading Railroad, and the Schuylkill river was once known as the property of the Redingers, Scotts, Cadwaladers, and most of it until within the past 20 years as belonging to the late John Dobson. In that time, it has been parceled out into smaller home and manufacturing lots.

Its old history is somewhat interesting.

John Redinger, a miller by trade, purchased the large tract of ground in the latter part of the 18th century. He erected a home on the northwest side of Scott’s lane, just below the Reading Company’s Norristown Division. The building still stands, with a datestone up to the peak which states “JR1814.”  Redinger carried on his flour mill on the lane and erected a number of small houses for the families of the workmen.

Huge Scott, a native of Ireland, came to the Falls of Schuylkill later in the same century, and shortly afterward acquired by purchase the greater part of Redinger’s holdings. Redinger moved over to the west side of the Schuylkill — at Cooksockey, a village which skirted the river between the Falls Bridge and the present Columbia avenue bridge that disappeared about 1869 when the Fairmount Park Commission took title to the property. While living there, Redinger adopted a lad named James Giles, who upon the death of Redinger inherited what was left of the property.

Scott enlarged the mill dam — on the Falls Creek, which existed until the erection of the Henry avenue Bridge over the Port Richmond and Norristown branches of the Reading lines — from which the water flowed through a long winding race to turn the water wheel of the mill on the lane.

The dam, while its size was decreased when the Port Richmond branch of the railroad was constructed, remained long after the water wheel had been abandoned to provide water for textile purposes.

On January 25th, 1839, after torrential rain and rapid thaw of ice and snow, Scott’s dam burst from the great volume of water that flowed into it from along what is now the Chestnut Hill Division of Pennsylvania Railroad in the lower portion of Germantown. Great destruction followed, both to the mills and the properties along Falls Creek. Incidentally, the latter at its lower end was long ago conducted into a sewer which empties into the Schuylkill at the foot of Ferry road.

Winpenny’s little mill which stood at Ridge avenue and Crawford street was flooded. Holes had to be chopped in the floors to rescue some of the mill hands who had been trapped in the lower stories. A stable and wagon shed belonging to John Burk, a contractor, was swept into the Schuylkill, including all of the horses and wagons.

Hugh Scott was an ardent follower of Henry Clay and was so certain that Clay would be elected President of the United States that he wagered the property along the Norristown branch of the railroad, along what is now known as “Dobson’s Lot,” against a large sum of money with General Cadwalader. Scott lost, but is said to have stood the loss with true sportsmanship.

In 1855, John Dobson made an appearance as a mill owner in the Falls and in partnership with James Lee of Manayunk obtained possession of the Foster –or Newman’s Mill, the name having been changed to “Dobson and Lee” began with the manufacture of yarn. The following year the mill was destroyed by fire as there was no insurance.

After the  fire, Dobson offered Lee to give or take $6,000 to make the mill a one-owner affair. Lee accepted the $6,000 and retired. Dobson rebuilt the mill, fitted up part of it as a residence and lived there until 1865, when he built his home on Allegheny avenue. The location was then known as Scott’s Hill, since demolished in the march of progress in that section and the land is covered with modern row-houses and stores.

At the breaking out of the Civil War, Dobson secured a sub-contract to furnish the Union Army with blankets, and his were the first to reach the army in the field. Afterward he obtained original contracts and began enlarging the plant, to which he kept adding until the time of his death.

Mr. Dobson had purchased two properties of Cadwalader and Scott, and his real estate holdings grew quite large. Those buildings which still remain in the possession of his heirs are fast being remodeled much to the credit of the owners and the improvement of the community in general.

— Standard Press, December 27, 1934




  1. No vegan or even veg options aside from salads? Great that this won’t be an empty building anymore, but I guess I’ll still be frequenting Falls Taproom.

  2. It’s wonderful that someone is revitalizing that corner of “The Lower End” where I grew up. The neighborhood known as Paradise began at around 29th and Allegheny and is where my father’s family lived. The article from 1934 provides interesting facts about East Falls but may I suggest that you proofread before you publish. I’m sure the owners of the Catfish would appreciate it if their restaurant name was spelled correctly. Thank you so much for your informative article!

    • Awwwww….. I only spelled their name wrong ONCE, right? Maybe twice, I dunno, still laughing that I spelled “voters” with an “o” like “motor” heheeh I am the WORST speller. Thank you for proofreading, if you could read every article & do this I would be most appreciative!! (seriously, we could use the help, this is a totally independent operation run by two craaaazy-busy people right now, thanks! Give a holler too please if you ever wanna write… )

  3. Thank you for transcribing this story … making it readable to my old eyes. Some very interesting facts came out – like the real name of what we knew as ‘shit creek’. Great read … again, thanks for finding it and sharing! Well Done!

  4. I have lived with my wife on 3400 block of west commissioner street since 2007. I bought thinking the area would get cleaned up and I have been waiting patiently. This is step in the right direction.

    Now we have (3) kids and are choosing to stay. I hope the bar does well I could use a close watering hole !!

  5. Can’t wait to see this completed! This corner really will be charming when it’s all fixed up. And I second the wish for more veg options!

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