Collingswood's Blackbird becomes Benny's Burger Joint

Alex Capasso and manager Natasha Jones at Benny's Burger Joint.

Comes a time in a fine-dining-oriented restaurateur's career when he realizes that while white-tablecloth BYOB elegance might be lovely in a dry town, it's the more wallet-friendly concepts that tend to generate income.

After making a go of it in downtown Collingswood with Blackbird Dining Establishment and the less-expensive West Side Gravy, chef Alex Capasso went the burger route by converting the duopoly into Benny's Burger Joint, a sit-downer that opened this week in the former Woolworth's store at 712 Haddon Ave. It's named after his 9-year-old son. (Capasso said he was still negotiating for a new, liquor-licensed location for Blackbird in Center City.)

The renovation, which took less than a month, preserved the space's bones. Instead of framed prints, though, the walls are festooned with 1980s-theme, cartoon-style murals by Suzanne Rende - all the better to go with the retro video games scattered throughout the place.

Burgers are built on 8-ounce Angus beef patties, turkey patties, roast pork, gluten-free veggie patties, crispy or grilled chicken, and ahi tuna. (Capasso imports gluten-free bread from the Italian Market's Taffets.) The menu allows for customization, but he's banking on a few specialties, including a burger inserted between two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches topped by blue cheese dressing and bacon, and another wedged between grilled cheese sandwiches with pickles and ranch dressing. On the "Phony Luke's" - an affectionate homage to South Philly's Tony Luke's - the burger is topped with roast pork, caramelized onion, provolone and broccoli rabe. Menu is here.

The new-found family friendly atmosphere has caused at least one nearby eatery to sit up and take notice. I see that The Pop Shop - the popular '50s-themer soda fountain across the street - has declared August "burger month"; see the PDF list here.