For its next production, FringeArts is getting ready to raise the curtain on La Peg, a brasserie, in its headquarters at Columbus Boulevard and Race Street, across from Race Street Pier.
La Peg (140 N. Columbus Blvd., 215-375-7744) has set the opening date as Aug. 25 - six years to the day that executive chef/operator Peter Woolsey opened his first restaurant, Bistrot La Minette in Queen Village. (Both times, he and his wife, Peg - yes, "La Peg" - had newborns to care for at the time, as well.)
La Peg's opening also will be 10 days before the start of the 18th Philadelphia Fringe Festival.
And there's drama at La Peg, and not because of its connection to theater.
It's the view.
From just about everywhere inside the century-old red brick building, you can see the Ben Franklin Bridge, whose distinctive towers and steel cables seem to loom over the dining room through the large, arched windows.
The building was a fire department high-pressure pumping station for decades, and some oldtime steel fixtures remain; they're part of the charm. (A pumping station? Glad you asked: If there was a fire somewhere in Center City in the days before sprinklers were mandated, it was up to men working in this station to turn on pumps that sucked 10,000 gallons of water a minute from the Delaware River and diverted it to the proper fire hydrants.)
The architect Richard Stokes, who had 45-foot-tall ceilings to work with, ordered up a steel mezzanine to be erected in the vast, column-less room to create an elevated dining area. The kitchen - domain of Woolsey and chef de cuisine Nich Bazik - is tucked beneath the mezzanine.
La Peg seats about 100 and there's a 12-seat bar. Also sharing the building are FringeArts' 240-seat theater, studio and offices.
There's a stage in one corner for performances.Outside is 7,000 square feet of space that Groundswell Architecture is turning into an outdoor lounge, dining area, and bar. That bar was built out of an old shipping container and the dining area will be on top of blue stone salvaged from Princeton University, said Woolsey, who earlier this year stepped away from Bistrot La Minette to work with FringeArts' Nick Stuccio on La Peg.
FringeArts is no stranger to food, as it produces the annual Feastival, a fundraiser that typically draws dozens of restaurants and chefs plus hundreds of patrons. This year's Feastival, the fifth, will be Sept. 18 on Penn's Landing.
For your perusal, here's La Peg's menu, whose best deal is a $30 prix-fixe of three salads or French onion soup; roasted half-chicken and fries or salmon with lentils and horseradish; and dessert of chocolate cake or sundae.
It will be dinner only at the start, adding brunch in the fall.