Big cats are not the theme of The Little Lion, the upmarket but casual American bar-restaurant opening Thursday, Jan. 7 at the corner of Third and Chestnut Streets in Old City, filling the long-vacant space that was Haru.
The Little Lion was the nickname of Alexander Hamilton, the nation's first Treasury secretary, the major author of the Federalist papers, and yes, the wigged dude on the $10 bill.
Owners Chris Younge, a former manager of Devil's Alley, and entrepreneur Jason Dills are history buffs, and the restaurant is set up in a long-ago bank building across from the forthcoming Museum of the American Revolution. It's also down the street from Hamilton's Philadelphia residence.
The sprawling interior - parts of which date to 1847 - takes advantage of the 25-foot ceilings and 8-foot old-fashioned windows, which have been modified to open in warm weather. The main room leads to an open staircase and balcony, behind which - on the second floor - are one of two bars and a separate dining room.
The bar on the main floor is tucked behind the staircase. Behind it is another dining room with a raw bar and eating counter, plus additional seating. (TVs are in the upstairs bar.)
Chef Sean Ciccarone is executing a Southern-influenced comfort food menu - small plates plus full-size entrees, including seafood, a steak, sandwiches, salads, and desserts. So far during test dinners, thumbs-up have been noted for the farmer's cheese appetizer ($8, served with peach preserves, honey, olive oil, and grilled bread), the shrimp and grits entree ($21), and the Lion burger ($15), which happens to be beef.
Bars include six local draft lines and 30-plus craft bottles.
Initial hours are 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday to Thursday (food service ends at 11 p.m.), 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday (food on through midnight).