If you've ever taken a break on the one-acre landscaped roof of the Cira South parking garage in University City, gazing across the Schuylkill at Center City from a hundred feet up, surely you've thought to yourself: What a fine spot this would be for an outdoor burger-and-beer bar. Et voilà …
Also this week, I’m on a roll here with sandwiches, stopping in Bryn Mawr at a chicken specialist that is all the rage with the gluten-free crowd, in Blue Bell at a bar whose menu seems to go on for days, and in Fishtown at a brewpub with a rather special happy-hour special.
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Sunset Social: City view, burgers, beers
Amid the city canyons, a rooftop is a special place. There's a reason that Attico and Assembly have become such draws under the sun and stars.
Now take the acre-plus landscaped expanse atop the Cira South parking garage on 30th Street near Chestnut. A hundred feet above the street, it affords a spectacular view of Center City across the Schuylkill, and there's a massive TV screen up there.
Hmmm, thought the powers at Brandywine Realty Trust, which owns the development. They drafted Branden McRill and Mel Fuechtmann of The Post and Walnut Street Cafe (at street level) to develop a food-and-fun concept up there.
And that gets rolling next week as Sunset Social (129 S. 30th St.), with a menu of burgers, beer, wine, and frozen cocktails served out of a cute building created from old shipping containers plus special events under a supersized tent. Regular hours (11 a.m. till late) start Monday, but you "first-nighters" can check it out Saturday, May 4, as a promoter is hosting a Derby party there.
This Week’s Openings
Blume | Center City
Bright and Instagrammable bar-restaurant takes over for Cinder at 1500 Locust St.
Brick & Brew | Malvern
Location #3 for this pub (after Media and Havertown) open at 400 E. King St. on May 6.
Dietz & Watson pop-up store | South Street
The meat-and-cheese company opens a temp store through July 28 to sell its apparel and branded merchandise (plus packaged snacks) at Fifth and South Streets. Ribbon-cutting is May 3; doors open May 4.
Elwood | Fishtown
Upscale Pennsylvania Dutch-inspired cooking in quaint surroundings at 1007 Frankford Ave.
Sunset Social | University City
This Week’s Closings
Devon Donut & Bagel Co. | Devon
First the Berwyn location and now the flagship.
Izumi | Passyunk Crossing
April 28 was the finale of this Japanese BYOB on East Passyunk Avenue across from the Singing Fountain. Get set for a new restaurant called River Twice.
La Divisa | Reading Terminal Market
Nick Macri has pulled the plug on his butcher shop at the market.
Pinevillle Tavern Fishtown | Kensington
Gone in 9 months. The original location in Pineville, Bucks County, remains.
Quincy's Original Lobster Rolls | Berwyn
The Main Line shop is now down to its Jersey Shore locations.
Rosa's Fresh | Center City
The "pay-it-forward" pizzeria just couldn't sustain itself.
St. Benjamin Brewing Co. | Kensington
May 4 is the last day of this brewery/restaurant on North Fifth Street.
Where we’re enjoying happy hour
Fishtown Brewpub, 1101 Frankford Ave.; 4-7 p.m. Tuesday-Friday
You're headed to the Fillmore or the Punchline and need to eat, have a beer or two, and park once. Bingo. Got your place. Happy hours are also a good deal at Jack Lyons' cozy corner brewpub in Fishtown, which offers 11 of its own beers plus a guest draft or cider. (Enjoy rosé wine? Brewer TJ Kaplan has come up with Brosé, a beer take that melds a classic saison with pilsner and Munich malt.)
Chef Dan "Choux" Clemens and crew turn out elevated food, including a fine burger — Hereford beef, Cooper Sharp, roasted tomato mayo, mesclun, and house-made pickles on a toasted brioche bun — that for happy hour is deeply discounted from $13 to just five bucks. Also priced at $5 are two hot dogs, prosciutto flatbread, wings, roasted beet hummus, and Whiz wit fries.
House drafts, well drinks, and wines are also half-off, and there’s a $5 cocktail.
Where we’re eating
The Phil’s Tavern, 931 Butler Pike, Blue Bell
See the huge menu and the huge portions of better-than-decent food and the huge collection of dining rooms, and you may ask yourself, "How can Phil's Tavern do it?"
Heck if I know. Since its major renovation in 1985, this low-lit destination off Skippack Pike is the Blue Bell/Ambler area's designated drop-in. Grandparents in town and you need a table for 12? Fridge on the fritz? Lunch after church with fussy kids? Drinks after work? Late-night sandwich at the bar? Affirmative.
When I'm skipping carbs, my go-to is the DJ's Caesar salad, which gets me two meatballs in sauce over Romaine lettuce with a scattering of roasted peppers and Parmesan cheese. (The kitchen never complains when I sub spinach for the lettuce.) It's actually two meals for my $13.99, and if you saw the meatballs, you'd understand. Each is nearly 4 inches in diameter and weighs in at 7 ounces.
Otherwise, the ribs and sandwiches, especially burgers (such as this regulation patty melt), come recommended. Service is unfailingly chipper, too.
Lovebird, 19 E. Oakland Ave., Doylestown, and 1086 E. Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr
From time immemorial, fried chicken has been judged primarily on its breading. (The Colonel touts his 11 herbs and spices and not the poultry encased within, right?)
We savor crunch, and that's what Lovebird in Doylestown, which Jules Thin Crust pizza founder John Ordway just brought to Bryn Mawr for his second chicken shop, delivers solidly.
But with a twist:
All of Lovebird's proteins — including buckets of chicken as well as the fried chicken breast, miso-garlic grilled chicken breast, and miso-garlic tofu built into sandwiches or topping the salads and bowls — are breaded in rice flour, and so are gluten-free. There's also gluten-free mac and cheese, which friends consider a godsend in feeding their sensitive kids. Same for the popcorn chicken, gluten-free down to the sauces.
The Lovebird sandwich shown ($8.50) benefits from a serious build: a layer of creamy, sweetish coleslaw, followed by pickles, the Amish-raised chicken, and a topper of Bibb lettuce, so you get all the flavors and textures.
Keep in mind that the brioche bun and the croutons in the salads are the only items with gluten in the house.
Cooperatively owned grocery stores are gaining popularity in the region, despite the challenges. It took Kensington Community Food Co-op years to get the doors open.
We've got the dish on Solomonov and Cook’s 3 new restaurants: K’Far, Merkaz, and Laser Wolf. Look for even more in the Sunday Inquirer.