Russ Cowan - the Brooklynite known for his deli makeovers (various Kibitz Rooms, Famous 4th Street) - has turned his attention to Mr. Bill's, the South Jersey landmark with the huge statue of a dude in a hat outside since the early '60s.
Mr. Bill's, a local hot dog/hamburger hangout that also drew Jersey Shore tourists who stopped for ice cream off the Atlantic City Expressway (453 S. Route 73, Hammonton, 609-561-5400), reopened last month after a major redo.
Cowan has expanded the menu to include the deli items he sold at Kibitz and Famous. He's channeling the menu from the original Nathan's from Coney Island - though Mr. Bill's does not have a raw bar.
He's curing his own pastrami and corned beef, and offers full breakfasts, lunches and dinners; it's now open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. And yes, there are still custard, burgers and dogs.
Cowan says he tried to buy the place about six years ago but couldn't come to terms with the owner. He learned recently that it was up for sale again and bought it from a second owner.
What's comingFirst you're hearing about the space that was Little Pete's at 1904 Chestnut St.: Pearl will be a bilevel, French-influenced pan-Asian from David Stein and sons Scott and Sean Stein (of Old City's Red Sky) and Scott Stein's childhood best friend Brett Perloff, a lawyer/nightlife promoter. DAS Architects, which recently did Rae, will design. Up for fall.
A retooling of the restaurant in the Westin Hotel in Liberty Place is up for mid-July: It'll be known as City Grange, which backers say will be "faithful to regional and sustainable American food" and inspired by the National Grange Movement. Chef Chris Lichtman, a Culinary Institute grad, has strong ties with local farmers and purveyors, and is also the grandson of New Jersey's former largest pig farmers, Lichtman Bros.
Sabrina's Cafe & Spencer's Too, the offspring of South Philly's Sabrina's Cafe, should be up and running at 1802 Callowhill St. "in the next two weeks," says co-owner Robert De Abreu.
Briefly notedMs. Tootsie's Restaurant, Bar & Lounge (1312 South St.) has opened for dinner Fridays through Sundays.
La Veranda (5 N. Columbus Blvd.) has taken advantage of its long-underutilized Delaware riverfront vista and opened an outdoor lounge.
Alison at Blue Bell (721 Skippack Pike) got a liquor license; no mixed drinks - just a tight wine list plus sangria. There's a $5 corkage fee for BYO-ers.
Justin Rambo-Garwood, executive chef of Philadelphia Fish & Co., has hired childhood buddy Matt Buehler, late of Striped Bass, as his sous chef. They used to play hockey together; now they cook skate.
Contact columnist Michael Klein at 215-854-5514 or email@example.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/michaelklein.