Sbraga closes 2 restaurants: Sbraga and the Fat Ham in University City

Dining area at The Fat Ham, 3131 Walnut St., Philadelphia.

Chef Kevin Sbraga is closing his flagship restaurant on South Broad Street as well as the University City branch of his more casual restaurant, The Fat Ham, effective after dinner Tuesday, Jan. 17.

Through a spokeswoman, he said he intends to reopen both restaurants. Sbraga - a modern-American restaurant known for tasting menus and a foie gras soup - likely will assume a new name and concept.

Sbraga did not indicate a timeline and declined follow-up questions.

The branch of The Fat Ham in King of Prussia, which opened last summer with a Southern menu paired with a whiskey bar, will remain open. Sbraga said he would focus on that restaurant for the time being.

The moves cap an unfortunate year and a half for Sbraga, who closed Juniper Commons, his retro-theme American eatery at Broad and South Streets, in May 2015 after six months.

A restaurant in Jacksonville, Fla., closed in July 2016 after less than a year. Sbraga said he had nothing to do with that shutdown, and reports in Jacksonville laid the blame at a dispute between the developers and landlord.

The more immediate blow to the city's dining scene, by dint of its location on the Avenue of the Arts, is Sbraga. It opened in the Symphony House at Broad and Pine Streets in 2011, following the chef's win in 2010 on the Bravo series Top Chef.

Sbraga, a Willingboro native, previously had been chef at Rat's Restaurant in Hamilton Township, N.J., and culinary director of Jose Garces' restaurants. Sbraga was named one of Esquire magazine's best restaurants of 2012. 

The Fat Ham opened at 3131 Walnut St. in late 2013. Inquirer critic Craig LaBan awarded it three bells for its "finely wrought, evocative, and unique flavors." 

Sbraga, the University City location of The Fat Ham, and Juniper Commons (now a diner under new ownership) are owned by Dranoff Properties. If there is any friction between Sbraga and owner Carl Dranoff, it is not apparent. In a text message Tuesday, Dranoff called Sbraga "a one-of-a-kind Top Chef talent who will continue to be an innovator and leader in our restaurant scene ... and we look forward to their reopening."

In a statement, Sbraga thanked his staff and added: "I have so much gratitude for our amazing patrons and the Philadelphia restaurant community. Despite closing, I look forward to an exciting future and the opportunities that lie ahead." 

  

Photo: Michael Klein / Staff