Michael Schulson and his wife Nina Tinari-Schulson are having a hell of a time changing the scenery across Philly’s dining-scape. Everything he touches seems to turn to gold, whether it’s a defunct gay porn theater in Midtown Village (now one of best new restaurants in Philly, Double Knot), or just some random empty space in Independence Mall (now Independence Beer Garden, the unofficial summertime hangout for Philly’s young professionals). When it opens on October 11, the backside of Center City's old Gap Outlet — and long before that the power-breakfast destination Stouffer’s — will turn into Harp & Crown, an absolutely magnificent-looking American restaurant and bar for Center City.
And it’s all a part of Center City’s new-and-improved Sansom Street. Once a hotbed for Jersey nightlife (courtesy of Rumor, Pulse, and Ladder 15), the strip between 15th and 16th Streets is now not only home to some of the city’s iconic haunts — Oscar’s Tavern and Oyster House — but some sterling newcomers as well, like Mission Taqueria and, soon enough, CookNSolo’s Rooster Soup Company.
But what Schulson’s done with the 12,500 square-foot space at 1525 Sansom Street is downright jaw-dropping. Its inconspicuous glass facade hides a grand entrance — café-like in the front, swankier towards the back — full of antique chandeliers hanging from 24-foot ceilings, funky saloon-style furniture, knick-knacks left and right, and tufted leather abound. Pictures are soon to follow.
The Harp & Crown kitchen will be led by Karen Nicolas, Food & Wine’s best new chef of 2012, who’s put together an globe-trotting menu of charcuterie, small and large plates, plus shareable entrées options. Dinner begins at 5 p.m., daily. The 32-seat bar will pour a hefty collection of craft locals and imports, plus wine picks by general manager Michele DiPietro and cocktails by Schulson’s trusty beverage manager Zachary Davis.
But the real stunner here, like its Izakaya-sibling across Broad Street, is in the basement.
Elbow Lane, as it’s called, is the exclusive downstairs lounge with its own cocktail bar and, get this, a two-lane bowling alley. Lanes are available by reservation only — they’re thinking $200 per lane (including bowling shoes), which may seem a bit lofty at first, but consider this: the bowling area is roomy enough for over 10 people per lane. All you need is a big group for a relatively inexpensive bowling experience. Elbow Lane opens at 5:30 p.m., daily.
One more thing: Schulson told Eater that he’s currently negotiating another possible lease in Center City — specifically within the "two-block radius" around Harp & Crown, but, "nothing is final."