TableTalk: Let freedom bubble!

With Independence Hall in the background, restaurateur Michael Schulson (left) and designer David Fierabend of Groundswell Design Group on the future site of Independence Beer Garden. ( MICHAEL KLEIN / )

Imagine people eating and drinking, just steps from Independence Hall.

It happened in the 18th century, and it will happen again this summer. Restaurateur Michael Schulson has secured a deal with the owners of One South Independence Mall West - the landmark Rohm & Haas building and now the home of Dow Chemical at Sixth and Market Streets - to create an outdoor beer garden across from the Liberty Bell.

Schulson, who owns Sampan, the Saint James, and Atlantic City's Izakaya, will control 30,000 square feet around the building as Independence Beer Garden, which he hopes to open July Fourth. Plan is to run it seven months a year.

Groundswell Design Group, which created food setups of this nature, is designing.

Food from chef Travis Masar (a contestant on Top Chef Season 11) will be grilled outside and offered self-service from stationary food trucks.


That's the ticket

You buy tickets for Kimmel Center shows. You'll also have to buy them for dinner at Volver, the Jose Garces restaurant coming to the ground floor in April.

The strategy, the first of its kind in Philly, virtually eliminates the no-show.

Like the cost of a show ticket, this is not cheap. Volver, which starts selling tickets March 12, will be among Philadelphia's most expensive restaurants.

Volver's 34-seat dining room will offer two nightly seatings for parties of two, four, or six. The pre-theater tasting menu will feature eight courses ranging from $75 to $120 per person. The second seating will feature a first course of four snacks, followed by 12 courses, ranging from $175 to $250 per person. Tickets include a table for two, four, or six guests, sparkling and still water, a 20 percent service charge, and tax. (A block away, Vetri charges $155 for its fixed-price, plus tax, tip, and beverages.)


What's new

After 15 years, Cherry Hill's landmark Top Dog is reconceptualizing, ditching its sports bar/nightclub vibe in favor of a craft-beer bar with an outdoor beer garden called Craft Hall and Beer Garden. The heavy work will begin in late March. Manager Bruce Waugh expects a two-week shutdown. Menu will include some German specialties, plus a raw bar.

Sabrina's Cafe, which started near the Italian Market and later added bruncherie branches in University City and Franklintown, just opened a fourth, in Wynnewood Shopping Center (50 E. Wynnewood Rd., 484-412-8790).


Dinner and a movie


Movie chains like the idea of "dinner and a movie," serving food and drinks at seats as the features roll. These so-called dine-in theaters have fewer seats than conventional theaters, but food and beverage sales more than offset that. Following Movie Tavern - which opened near Collegeville in 2011 and has a Flourtown location planned for 2014 - is AMC Theatres. It is retooling its AMC Painters Crossing 9 in the Brandywine Valley into a dine-in theater. The theater will shut down in mid-March and is expected to return mid-June. If iPic gets its chance to develop the Boyd Theater on Chestnut Street, Center City will get a dine-in theater of its own.


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