Stephen Starr, owner of Starr Restaurants, began working in the restaurant industry at the age of 21 when he opened his first club in an Old City diner, Grand Mom Minnie's, which served food during the day and comedy at night. Next he opened Stars, a cabaret/restaurant that featured acts who were just starting out such as Jerry Seinfeld, Richard Belzer and Pat Benetar.
Continuing to promote live entertainment, Starr opened a larger venue, the Ripley Music Hall, which showcased new talent such as U2, The Eurythmics, Cyndi Lauper and Bruce Springsteen, who were still very small at the time. Eventually he began The Concert Company to bring large-scale stadium acts to Philadelphia. Starr was responsible for memorable shows including: Madonna, Lionel Ritchie, George Michael and others. In 1990, when Electric Factory Concerts bought him out, he used the profit to open several new venues including: Shake, Burger and Roll, a kitschy diner; The Bank, a trendy dance club which later became District Nightclub; and Cafe Republic, a Russian-themed caviar and vodka bar.
Founded in 1995 by Stephen Starr, STARR Restaurants is one of the fastest growing multi-concept restaurant companies in the country. Starr Restaurants in Philadelphia include Alma de Cuba, Barclay Prime, Buddakan, Butcher and Singer, Continental, Continental Mid-Town, El Rey, El Vez, Jones, Morimoto, Parc, Pizzeria Stella, Pod, The Dandelion and seasonal food-stand SquareBurger. Morimoto and Buddakan are two highly popular restaurants in New York City's thriving Meatpacking District. Starr Restaurants expanded to Atlantic City, NJ, with Buddakan and Continental restaurants at the Pier Shops at Caesars in 2006 and to Fort Lauderdale, opening Steak 954 at the W Fort Lauderdale in 2009. Makoto at the Bal Harbour Shops is opening in January 2011. STARR Events is the group's full-service catering and special events division, managing projects including Granite Hill at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Rat's Restaurant at Grounds For Sculpture.
With more than 20 years in the hospitality and entertainment industries, Starr likens the experience of dining out to that of attending a theater production, where the players, props, backdrops, lighting and rapport are integral components of an overall dramatic effect. When this atmospheric drama is paired with edgy, delicious cuisine, dining out at a STARR Restaurant becomes entertainment for all of the senses.
Stephen Starr has earned numerous awards and accolades, and was named “Restaurateur of the Year” by Bon Appétit magazine in 2005 and Zagat Survey New York City in 2007. Starr also received the TimeOut New York Readers’ Choice Award for “Best New Out-of-Town Restaurateur” in 2007.