Ringing in a new Blue Bell Inn
The Blue Bell Inn has sat at the Montgomery County crossroads of Skippack and Penllyn-Blue Bell Pikes for 271 years.
For the last couple of decades, that historic vibe simply translated to "old," giving rise to the sobriquet Blue Hair Inn.
In September 2012, the Lamprecht family sold it to Kevin Clib and Scott Dougherty of M2K Restaurant Group (which operates Bridget's and KC's Alley in Ambler) and developer Bruce Goodman.
On Monday, after a full year of renovations that took it down to bare walls, the Blue Bell Inn (601 Skippack Pike, Blue Bell, 215-646-2010) will reopen.
It's at once sexy and contemporary (sleek woods, marble) and warm and rustic (the original stone foundation is visible). A 700-bottle, floor-to-ceiling wine tower is the wow in the main dining room.
The bar area, with its soaring ceiling and gas fireplace, is being primed for weeknight happy hours. The partners, who scoured the region for inspiration, added a raw bar similar to the one at Center City's Oyster House. Operable garage doors leading to a new outdoor patio with waterfall and fire pit are similar to those at Stratus, the lounge at the Hotel Monaco.
Entrees (mostly from the mid-$20s to mid-$30s) are out of the steak/seafood house playbook. But there's no calves' liver, a longtime specialty.
"I have a heart for older people, really," Clib said. "But we're not bringing it back, just like we're not putting eight ounces of butter on everything."
Chef Luke Palladino, a fixture at the Jersey Shore, has signed to open an Italian steak and seafood house called Palladino's at 1934 E. Passyunk Ave., creating an anchor for the entry to East Passyunk Avenue. The plan is a late-fall opening.
Mainland Inn in central Montgomery County is indeed coming back, says co-owner Sloane Six. Opening is penciled in for late spring, and the chef will be Ezra Duker, a Philly-born hotshot whose resumé includes French Laundry and Morimoto Napa.
Estia Taverna, a semicasual offshoot of Center City's luxe Greek spot Estia, is new at 140 W. Route 70 in Marlton (856-596-5500), which previously was the partners' Pietro Coal-Fired Pizzeria. Entree prices are $16 to $34; it's open for dinner only. Another location is due to open this summer at 200 Radnor-Chester Rd. in Radnor.
The pizza/wine bar Zavino is serving lunch and dinner at its new branch in Chestnut Square (3200 Chestnut St., 215-823-6897). This is triple the size of its Center City flagship.
More restaurant news at www.philly.com/mike.