Ask developer Bart Blatstein when he'll stop construction in Northern Liberties, and he replies: "Never."
His latest is the Piazza at Schmidts, a collection of apartments and retail along Second Street south of the old Schmidt's brewery. It's just east of Liberties Walk, his first major retail-residential project in the neighborhood.
Last month, the Piazza saw the opening of three restaurants, and in three weeks, there will be a fourth. Free parking is just north of the Piazza in a dirt lot at Second Street and Germantown Avenue, where the brewery once sat. Blatstein plans to develop a supermarket there.
Darling's (1033 N. Second St., 267-239-5775) - a retro diner from Harry and John Arnold, who have two Darling's Cafes in Center City, where their specialty is cheesecake - is keeping long hours: 7 a.m. to midnight on weekdays, 8 a.m. to 4 a.m. weekends. Hearty breakfasts and weekend brunch. New lunch/dinner menus, going into effect this week, include sandwiches and salads ($8 to $13) and a rotating selection of entrees priced a few bucks higher. Step south into the courtyard and in front of you is . . .
Vino (1001 N. Second St., 215-923-2014), a sumptuous, indoor-outdoor Italian wine bar/lounge from Michael Maglio with antique furnishings and a menu of popularly priced panini, brick-oven pizza, and a collection of small plates known as aperitivi. Fifty wines by the glass, 30 beers by the bottle. It's open from noon to midnight daily. And south of that is . . .
The Swift Half (1001 N. Second St., 215-923-4600), an industrial-meets-modern pub with a strong outdoor scene from David Garry and Heather Gleason of Center City's Good Dog. (It's the closest restaurant to the Piazza's stage and large-screen TV, which have become magnets.) Chef Jessica O'Donnell's early menu includes a muffaletta, a burger, fish and chips, a rack of molé ribs, charcuterie and cheese plates, soup and salads. Hours are 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays through Fridays, 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. weekends. Kitchen is open till 1 a.m. Ten beers are on tap.
July 1 is the tentative rollout of P.Y.T., a modern lounge and burger bar at the north end of the Piazza from promoter Tommy Up, who also promises alcohol-infused milkshakes to wash them down. P.Y.T. - "the drinks are pretty, the music is young, and the food is the thing," explains Up - will have a private burger party room.
Two other bits of info regarding Northern Liberties:
Copper Bistro, on Second Street near Green, closed after three-plus years.
Mark Tropea, a Restaurant School grad who spent seven years as executive sous chef at the Desmond Hotel in Malvern, is tuning up Sonata, a 45-seat BYOB that will replace Swallow in Liberties Walk. He hopes to open in July. Food: contemporary American "with a little flash, but not enough to scare people away"; entrees will be $22 to $28, with some higher gusts. Hours: Tuesdays through Sundays for dinner.
Cooking up change
Steve Cook and Michael Solomonov will sell West Philly's Marigold Kitchen (501 S. 45th St.) to well-traveled chef Robert Halpern, 31, who plans to open Sept. 1 with the same name, decor, BYOB policy, and hours. Halpern's background includes classic French and postmodern techniques. (He dislikes the term "molecular gastronomy.") He's going for an element of surprise with a menu he calls approachable and affordable, using local and sustainable ingredients.
Cook and Solomonov, whose last day will be a $65, six-course feast on Aug. 1, are planning Percy Street Barbecue at 900 South St. (the former Crescent City) with Marigold chef Erin O'Shea. Projected opening: October. Cook and Solomonov's collection also includes Xochitl and Zahav.
Progress on some projects mentioned here:
Brauhaus Schmitz, the bierhall planned for 718 South St., is talking about a soft opening June 20, with public service June 22.
Smokin' Betty's, the crosstown companion to Devil's Alley, is about a week out at 11th and Sansom Streets.
Miga, the Korean barbecue at 211 S. 15th St., is about two weeks off.
Blockley Pourhouse, a bar and live-music venue, and its adjacent Mary Oaks pub at 38th and Chestnut/Ludlow Streets, are now about two weeks out.
Max Brenner, Chocolate by the Bald Man, on 15th Street south of Walnut, is up for late June.
Pascual "Pat" Cancelliere is a couple of weeks from opening 943, his Italian-Argentine BYO at 943 S. Ninth St. in the Italian Market.
Paul, a 28-seat new-American BYOB from Effie Bouikidis at 1120 Pine St. (across from her eponymous Greek BYO), is looking at July 7 or 8.
Shank's & Evelyn's revival at 120 S. 15th St. is up for July.
The Famous 4th Street Deli branch at 38 S. 19th St. is pegged for the end of July.
The University City District is running another Dining Days, from July 23 to 30, with three courses at three prices: $15, $25, $30. Lineup is at www.ucityphila.org/dining days.