Longtime Philly bar owner Fergus Carey of Fergie’s Pub makes moves in Fairmount this week with the Fairview, a brightened-up corner spot taking over the space at 601 N. 21st Street that was neighborhood staple Belgian Cafe. It officially opens Thursday, January 16.
The ownership is a bit convoluted: Carey owned Belgian Cafe and renowned Belgian beer bar Monk’s Cafe with Tom Peters. They recently sold each other their shares in the businesses, so Carey is no longer a part of Monk’s and Peters was no longer involved in Belgian Cafe.
Belgian Cafe closed over the summer — “it needed to be freshened up,” Carey says — and is now the Fairview, co-owned by Carey, Shane Dodd, and Dave Dollinger.
Dodd, who, like Carey is originally from Dublin, bartended at Belgian Cafe for 10 years. He used to work at the Happy Rooster with Dollinger, who is also a bartender (and a DJ who goes by Shecky Lopez).
Carey also owns Grace Tavern on Grays Ferry and he’s in the process of opening the Goat, in Rittenhouse in what was for many years Oh! Shea’s, with Jim McNamara, one of his partners in Fergie’s Pub. He has a doughnut shop in the works as well.
Got all that? Back to the Fairview.
Carey is describing it as a neighborhood gastropub with “a little bit of everything.” There’s a great burger, he says, but also an emphasis on vegetarian and vegan food — “we want it to be accessible to all and have neighbors visit us several times a week.”
Running the kitchen is Beth Fox, most recently at St. Benjamin’s Brewing. The chef gravitates toward American comfort food, which means a melting pot of flavors, she says. At the Fairview, she’s making everything from a pho French dip, to green chile cheeseburger empanadas, to a tikka masala flatbread with cauliflower, chicken, or chicken-fried seitan.
Departing from the average gastropub lineup, Fox stacked the menu with several vegan dishes, like a Beyond sausage sandwich with smoked broccoli rabe and vegan mozzarella and, in homage to a Belgian Cafe favorite, seitan wings with buffalo, teriyaki, or Thai peanut sauce.
“Vegan cooking is fun. There’s a science behind it that you don’t get to explore with ‘regular’ food prep,” Fox says. “There’s a lot of trial and error to get things right texturally and flavor-wise. People still have this misconception that vegan food tastes like cardboard or it’s just a salad. I love junk food. Just because something is vegan doesn’t mean it’s necessarily healthy or bland.”
The space has been redesigned by Raymond Haldeman to be brighter and more open than Belgian Cafe, with new blue booths “because everyone wants to sit in a booth,” Carey says.
Starting this week, it’s open Sunday to Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to midnight and Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Brunch is served weekends from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.