Maybe ECCD got North Park Row right, after all – Something good happened in Erie, 10/2/2020

Without further ado, your Idiotville feel-good story of the week:

Just wait until you hear what glorious food Phoenix will rise from these ashes. | Photo from Christopher Millette, Erie Times-News.

Remember in May 2019, back when we could all go to restaurants? That may seem like the good old days for most, but that’s also when downtown Erie favorite Khao Thai received a surprise letter in their North Park Row mailbox: they’d be evicted in five months by their landlord, the Erie Downtown Development Corp., or ECCD.

They were floored, and devastated. When the ECCD purchased that North Park Row building among a swath of other downtown real estate it was obvious some changes were afoot, but kicking out a success like Khao Thai along with a couple other immigrant-owned businesses, for a city already ranked among the least friendly to minorities?

This was not a good look. Idiotville Podcast said as much at the time, but with an important caveat: that was only the first step (or misstep) of a long journey back to a thriving Erie downtown. We saw them take a big first swing (and a miss), now we want to see what comes next.

Fast forward a bit, and Khao Thai found a new and larger location where they thrived before the virus snuffed out that entire industry, at least temporarily. The ECCD continues to make headlines – tearing down everyone’s favorite drunken McDonald’s for the promise of a giant, mixed use building to be named later, among other moves.

Now, we finally see what will become of the North Park Row space vacated 17 months earlier, as the ECCD announced vendors for Flagship Food Hall. It’s going to be awesome.

One of its restaurants will be run by Natasha Pacely, an inspiring young woman who’s had experienced homelessness before digging out, spending time cooking at the Booker T. Washington Center, and graduating from Mercyhurst’s culinary curriculum.

Then there’s Lucky Louie’s, that Top 10 hot dog joint you love from Perry Highway, which will open a second location closer to the masses. You love hot dogs, so that will be perfect for you.

There’s the Shawarma Station, the Middle Eastern food truck you’ve seen downtown serving – you guessed it – shawarmas. What’s a shawarma, you say? So glad you asked: it’s basically the Middle Eastern version of a gyro. There’s smoked meat and spices and you’ll love it.

Then there’s the Taste & See Fruit & Veggie Bar, which will sell you all the smoothies, fruit, and veggies you’ll need to deal with the guilt of eating all that aforementioned meat. To be honest, I’ve forgotten all about smoothies (and vegetables) since the virus and have been drinking exclusively coffee and beer, so I’ll be looking very forward to this place.

But wait, there’s more! We’ll have brick oven pizza. Artisanal tacos. An authentic deli! What more could you want? Dessert? There will be a place in there serving ice cream from Penn State’s Berkey Creamery, the best ice cream on Earth!

While we all stare down the barrel of what promises to be a bleak winter of isolation, this will be the light at the end of my tunnel. Next summer we’ll all need to get out, and these will be new places to go. We’re going to get there.

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