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Triangle Tavern poised for a comeback

The dark, oldtime taproom is being left pretty much as it was, down to the bar itself. The kitchen received most of the renovation.

More than six years after it closed down, South Philadelphia's landmark Triangle Tavern - which since 1933 has held down the corner of 10th and Reed Streets where it meets Passyunk Avenue - is poised to reopen in five or six weeks.

Stephen Simons and David Frank - the guys behind Royal Tavern, Khyber Pass Pub, Cantina Los Caballitos, and Cantina Dos Segundos - are awaiting completion of more than a year's renovation that they expect few will notice.

That is, they decided leave the dark, oldtime taproom pretty much as it was, down to the bar itself. The kitchen received most of the renovation. (This time-capsule design approach has been working wonders lately - see Franky Bradley's, the Dolphin Tavern, and the Olde Bar.)

During the work, they went through boxes of mementoes in the basement, scoring a rare photo of former Mayor Frank Rizzo with Frank Sinatra. And, off to the side, a machete, which no one could explain.

One new feature will be outdoor seating in season.

Why take on the Triangle? "I feel a certain kinship with the place - not because I used to go there but I feel like they were doing what we do," Simons said. "They were a gastropub before the term existed. ... Their food was delicious! They were a bar that had better food, better drinks, and better service than you would expect from a bar." The idea, he said, is to "take that idea and carry it forward."

Simons said the menu - from chef Mark McKinney, who's half-Italian - will be reminiscent of the old days, which will be a relief to neighbors who buttonhole him outside, hankering for the mussels in red sauce, hot roast beef, and what he calls "the simple, cravable" food that represents "all the best parts of South Philadelphia fare."

Suzanne O'Brien, a consultant now serving as director of operations for the partners' bars, said the bar would serve tap wines by the carafe.

The Triangle had been adrift since 2001, when Anthony Fraietta, grandson of founder Antonio Patrone, sold it. Successive ownership kept the weekend entertainment, which included crooners like Dusty Gale. Its last operator, James Dachino, chose to close in late 2008 after a spate of incidents, including a five-day liquor-license suspension over serving minors.

Simons said there will be no entertainment, though the jukebox will be stocked with both rock and South Philly style musicians such as Chubby Checker, Frankie Avalon and Fabian.