Table Talk: Broad Axe reopens with a less-pricey menu

The main dining room of the Broad Axe Tavern in Whitpain Township. The renovated facility features a bar and an assortment of dining rooms on two floors and a meeting/banquet room on the third.
The main dining room of the Broad Axe Tavern in Whitpain Township. The renovated facility features a bar and an assortment of dining rooms on two floors and a meeting/banquet room on the third.
Posted: May 07, 2009

In ye olden days - oh, until about seven years ago - the Broad Axe Tavern turned out pricey, traditional fare at Butler and Skippack Pikes in Whitpain Township, while regular folks went next door to the casual mainstay Phil's Tavern for sandwiches and heaping portions of all-American fare.

As of this week, there's a new choice in the Blue Bell/Ambler/ Gwynedd corridor as the Broad Axe Tavern (901 W. Butler Pike, 215-643-6300) has reopened after a renovation that took the circa-1681 landmark down to three stone walls and aimed the culinary approach in a more everyday direction.

Managing partner Matt Doman, former chef at the William Penn Inn, oversees a warmly decorated operation with a bar and assorted dining rooms on two floors (one looks into an open kitchen) and a meeting/banquet room on the third. It's also "green," with an oil-recycling system and takeout containers made from recycled material.

Broad Axe's menu, available from lunchtime through late night, runs the gamut from casual (grilled pizzas, soups, salads, sandwiches, burgers) to more ambitious (a scallop BLT, crab cakes, salmon - even a couple of steaks, which at $31 are by far the most expensive items). There are 16 beers on tap, and 10 wines are offered for $21 a bottle (the so-called "21 Club").

Doman says there's enough parking, even though developers a couple of years ago plopped a bank branch in the lot next door.

Meanwhile, Phil's Tavern (931 W. Butler Pike, 215-643-5664) is still very much cooking. Owner Charles Compagnucci has added a barrel-ceiling sunroom with a fireplace at one end.

What's coming

A bit of excitement at 13th and Sansom Streets. Audrey Taichman has signed a lease for a second Audrey Claire location on the northwest corner, in the former check-cashing agency across from Capogiro and El Vez. Next door, Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran say they will take over 110 S. 13th St. with a Mediterranean concept - no name yet - that will have a liquor license and a wood-burning oven. Turney and Safran also own Bindi, Lolita, Open House, and Grocery on the same stretch of 13th Street. They're also about two weeks from opening Verde, a flower-and-chocolate shop, at 108 S. 13th. It's the former Robin's Books, which is now upstairs. There's a bit of history here, as Turney was the opening chef (1998) at Audrey Claire at 20th and Spruce Streets. Taichman says she has "nothing but praise for all the great operators in that part of town."

Chef R. Evan Turney - who happens to be Marcie's brother - is looking at a May 18 or 25 opening for Varga Bar, a retooling of the short-lived Azul Cantina at 10th and Spruce Streets. He and partner George and Valerie Anni (Valanni, Mercato) will do 22 beers on tap, plus an eclectic menu of bar snacks, cheeses, sandwiches, and main plates. One specialty he's calling "not my mom's Spam in a can." He explains that his mother, who was not much of a cook, made Spam a lot. Turney plans to beer-brine ham and serve it with fries in a parchment-lined Spam tin along with braised cabbage and apples.

And speaking of Capogiro: The gelato shop is expected to open its third and fourth locations any day at 1625 E. Passyunk Ave. (next to the new Michael's Cafe) and at the Radian, 39th and Walnut Streets.

Closings

A sign on the door of Siam Lotus (931 Spring Garden St.) explains that it's closed because of a vacation to Thailand. The phone, however, is disconnected and state records show the liquor license is inactive.

Javier in Haddonfield (208 Kings Highway East) is gone. A statement from Partnership for Haddonfield, the town's business organization, said: "Significant internal setbacks during the restaurant's opening months coupled with the prolonged economic downturn led to the demise of the establishment." A year and a half ago, Javier received $56,600 from the Partnership for Haddonfield under its Fine Dining Incentive Program.


Contact columnist Michael Klein at 215-854-5514 or mklein@phillynews.com. See restaurant news in real time at http://go.philly.com/insider.

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