Two years ago, Dia Sawan started toying with the notion of a club like no other he'd ever seen.
The owner of Byblos along Philadelphia's formidable Rittenhouse Row whose family formed a dynasty of the area's best Mediterranean restaurants (Cedars, Fez) had already made his hookah lounge and restaurant a sensation before that trend commenced.
Why not try to strike lightening twice.
That's why two years later, there's Vango Lounge & Sky Bar at 116 S. 18th Street - the boldest of Philadelphia's restaurant lounges starring some of the best names in the food and DJ business.
If the address seems familiar to Sawan watchers, it should: his intimate Byblos is below Vango at the same address.
But from its massive oak doors and portal windows below to its dramatic roof deck view of the city above, no one will ever confuse the two.
That's just the start.
At somewhere around 8,000 square feet, Vango is as massive a space as it was an undertaking to get just the right custom made elements from around the world to fill the big rooms. "That's why it took so long," says Sawan. "Everything had to be unique. No. Everything is really and truly unique, personal even." Perhaps that's why Sawan decided to oversee the vision of Vango with help from several prominent designers.
Along the walls of its second floor walkup, there's over 200 carved out spaces into which is an illuminated vodka bottle. If that sounds strange, it's meant to. Says Sawan: "We put up the bottles. The vodka companies gave us the product."
Smarter still is the crinkle-crushed-velvet along Vango's second-floor walls spectacularly speckled by a zillion inlaid lights. There's Nina Hazouri's plush custom-made and upholstered cushioned couches; set pieces tucked within private booths and below grand dramatic archways. "Everything is custom-made for Vango, says Sawan, pointing out even the littlest details.