Spotted: Jon Taffer Rescuing Bars


Jon Taffer, host of Spike TV’s Bar Rescue has been spotted in Philadelphia this week. Yesterday, he was seen “stressing” West Tavern (formerly Westy’s) at 15th and Callowhill. WXPN’s Robert Drake then spotted him on South Street at Lickety Split.

While Taffer has confirmed that the show is filming in Philadelphia through September 12th, the next location to be hit remains unknown. If you spot Taffer or any TV crews around town, let us know where.

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Today: Official Opening of Victoria Freehouse In Old City


Replacing bubbly with “bloody,” the Victoria Freehouse officially opens today (after a couple days of unofficial soft-opening) in the former home of Swanky Bubbles in Old City. The second location for the owners of Haddonfield’s The British Chip Shop, the Victoria Freehouse serves traditional English fare for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch.

And traditional it is. The menu reads like a Monty Python sketch satirizing an SNL skit mocking British, uh, “cuisine”: mushy peas, potted gammon, country fish pie, sherried liver parfait, and with dessert refusing to be upstaged, a blackboard that broadcasts the pudding special of the day. What is that stuff and why do they eat it?

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Old Swanky Bubbles Goes British With The Victoria Freehouse

When it opens next spring in the club formerly known as Swanky Bubbles, The Victoria Freehouse will add an old-school European vibe to Old City with classic British cocktails (shaken, not stirred, we presume) and a beer lineup consisting exclusively of English and English-style draughts–which, coincidentally, are not traditionally very bubbly.

The UK-themed restaurant is being opened by the Brit and the Yankee step-son who operate The British Chip Shop in Haddonfield. The menu’s not posted yet but the pair is billing the Freehouse as an authentic restaurant and bar, and their nascent website shows pics of fried green beans and curried coconut mussels. We take this as an indication that owners are allowing some colonial influences to seep into their offerings–happy news for those diners who prefer options beyond break-your-teeth scones and mushy toad-in-the-hole.

Entrees will range from $10-$30, dress is casual, and if any of the servers act snooty, go ahead and make fun of their teeth.

The Victoria Freehouse [Official]

Quick Bites: Stollenwerk Replaces Stollenwerk, Swanky’s Bubble Bursts

When Mike Stollenwerk’s Fish moves to its bigger digs at 13th and Locust the Lombard Street restaurant space will be replaced by Mike Stollenwerk’s Brick American Eatery. This more casual neighborhood spot will not be seafood only but will rather serve up venison jerky and Wagyu short ribs. [Meal Ticket]

Speaking of Stollenwerk, his Fathom Seafood House will now be known as East Girard Gastropub (EGG). Egads. [The Insider]

The Broad Street Diner is getting closer. As Naked Philly notes, the spot has a nice shiny exterior and new sign. [Naked Philly]

Rebel Rock Bar & Bites is planning to open in the same strip mall as Delilah’s Den and Zee Bar. They’re advertising locally but not saying much yet. [Rebel]

Swanky Bubbles has closed on Front Street. Its appearance on Bar Rescue and subsequent rebranding as Sheer didn’t turn around the Old City lounge. [The Insider]

The Return of the Tiki Bar? I Wish…

So yesterday, I was tweetering about a story from the annual food show on CBS Sunday Morning that had to do with the (totally untrue) “Return of the Tiki Bar.” It was a trend story, which made it highly suspect right from the start. It was a trend story hooked to a pre-holiday broadcast, which made it doubly-suspect. And finally, the entire “Return” portion of the tiki bar “Trend” was hooked to just two joints in NYC–Otto’s Shrunken Head (which actually opened 9 years ago) and PKNY (which has been having problems of its own lately).

The worst part about the whole thing? I love tiki bars and wished like hell that Sunday Morning was actually onto something. Of all the dead trends that I wouldn’t mind seeing resurrected (see Potato Skins below, courtesy of Art), tiki bars–along with tiki drinks served by tiki girls–are near the top of the list. I will trade you a thousand cupcakes, bacon martinis and high-end cheeseburgers for one decent place to get sloshed on Mai Tais and scorpion bowls, is what I’m saying. Basically, one can not say that there is a tiki bar trend happening until there are as many tiki bars on the streets as there are shitty “Prohibition Speakeasies” clogging up the cocktail scene. And here in Philadelphia? We got nothin’.

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Quick Bites: Name Changes, West Philly Mediterranean & Progress

Progress continues at where the restaurant has received new floors, inside and out. []

Supper adds offal sliders to its menu. Pop a mini-pig ear sammy in your mouth. [Meal Ticket]

Marc Vetri’s North Broad bar was originally announced as Birreria but will open as Alla Spina (beer taps in Italian). Opening is about five months out. [The Insider]

In other name news Swanky Bubbles got a facelift and new identity thanks to Spike TV’s Bar Rescue. The Front Street lounge is now Sheer.

Aksum is an all-day Mediterranean cafe opening at 4630-32 Baltimore Avenue. [Naked Philly]

Wedge + Fig has softly opened in Old City. It’s cheese and light fare for now. Expect a full launch come First Friday. [Meal Ticket]

New chef at Gunners Run. Sarah Mays comes in with experience at FARMiCiA, Day By Day, and Artisserie Bakery & Cafe. [The Insider]

News for People Who Like Bad News

Chew Man Through: Chew Man Chu is done after just 6-months. Craig LaBan’s 0-bell review is blamed, we’d say it had more to do with serving 0-bell food. [The Insider]

Last night marked the end of Swanky Bubbles in Cherry Hill. Its sister location in Old City marches on. The Cherry Hill location may become just what the world needs, another Irish bar. [The Insider]

Quick Bites

AD Amorosi lobs out this rumor, “is Stephen Starr doing designer Mexican for his Broad Street diner?” [Ice Pack, City Paper]

Paxia, the former Molcajete Mixto is having their official grand opening Monday. They’ll be offering a $25 three-course dinner. [Food and Drinq] has what John McCain ordered at Devon Seafood the other day. And yes, we think this does make Devon the new Bookbinders. []

Bar 210 at Lacroix is aiming for the second week of September for an opening. The Clog has the rundown of the design. We’re intrigued by the leather floor. [The Clog]

Bridge hoppers will be glad to hear that Old City’s Swanky Bubbles was unscathed from a fire yesterday morning and was open for business last night. [Dan Gross, Philadelphia Daily News]

In the still not open category, Earth Bread + Brewery and Minar Palace have yet to open their doors. Your guesses are as good as ours and maybe theirs.

In the still closed department, Blue Comet in Glenside hopes to be back in 30 to 90 days. [Ice Pack, City Paper]

And in the gutted and we didn’t notice dept., the Elephant and Castle at 18th and Market is no more.

Quick Bites

We spotted the zoning notice a couple of weeks ago but now it’s official. A Goodburger is coming to the 1700 block of Chestnut Street. Goodburger is out of New York and specializes in charcoal grilled burgers. [Feeding Frenzy, City Paper]

Two more restaurants for Bella Vista. La Golosa is taking the former home of Dessert on 6th Street and French BYO, Cochon is aiming for a September 21st opening. [Table Talk, Philadelphia Inquirer]

Michael Klein reports that the Swanky Bubbles in Cherry Hill paid $1.6 Million for their liquor license. It may very well be a record. [Table Talk, Philadelphia Inquirer]

707 is adding brunch starting Sunday, September 9th. [Feeding Frenzy, City Paper]

Swanky Cocktails, Middling Food

Adam Erace checks out Cherry Hill’s Swanky Bubbles for the Courier Post and finds the food as “middling” as its Old City counterpart.

How does a sushi restaurant mess up a tuna steak? I ordered the grilled yellowfin ($22) rare. It arrived well done, dry and that ugly gray-beige color of canned tuna fish. A foamy ginger-walnut butter tasted like neither ginger nor butter, and the walnuts were so finely chopped, it appeared as if some breeze-born dirt from the expensive Short Hills landscaping had landed in my plate. Worse was a pile of chopped tomatoes and yellow squash tossed in a hoisin-style sauce, an odd and clumsy combination.

Exceptionally gummy, edamame gnocchi ($12) sounded more interesting than they tasted.

The potion of pea-green pillows was quite large for an appetizer, but who would want to eat so much of something so heavy? Ditto on the Baltimore Roll ($9). I liked the filling of scallions and sweet fresh crab, but the thick jacket of sushi rice made this maki unpleasantly glutinous.

There were some highlights. Hoisin lacquered the stack of Fiji ribs ($13) in a rich mahogany glaze that left tangy barbecue stick on my fingertips. Deep and complex, the smoky baby backs pulled easily away from their bones, and a shower of sliced scallions and sesame seeds lent color and crunch.

Summer living is easy at Swanky Bubbles [Courier Post]
Swanky Bubbles [Official Site]

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