Michael Klein: Benny's Burger Joint, in old Collingswood five-and-dime

Alex Capasso and his son, Benny, in Benny's Burger Joint, in the former Woolworth's in Collingswood. The restaurant is decorated with 1980s-theme, cartoon-style murals.
Alex Capasso and his son, Benny, in Benny's Burger Joint, in the former Woolworth's in Collingswood. The restaurant is decorated with 1980s-theme, cartoon-style murals. (LUKE RAFFERTY / Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 09, 2013

Comes a time in a fine-dining-oriented restaurateur's career when he realizes that, while white-tablecloth BYOB elegance might be lovely in a dry town, it's the more wallet-friendly concepts that tend to generate income.

After making a go of it in downtown Collingswood with Blackbird Dining Establishment and the less-expensive West Side Gravy, chef Alex Capasso has gone the burger route by converting the duopoly into Benny's Burger Joint. The sit-downer has opened in the former Woolworth's store at 712 Haddon Ave. (856-854-2874). Capasso, meanwhile, wants to locate Blackbird Dining Establishment in Center City.

Benny's renovation took less than a month and preserved the space's bones. Walls are decorated with 1980s-theme, cartoon-style murals by Suzanne Rende - all the better to go with the retro video games.

Burgers are built on 8-ounce Angus beef patties, turkey patties, roast pork, gluten-free veggie patties, crispy or grilled chicken, and ahi tuna. (Capasso imports gluten-free bread from Taffets in the Italian Market.)

The menu allows for customization, but he's banking on a few specialties, including a burger inserted between two peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, topped by blue cheese dressing and bacon, and another wedged between grilled-cheese sandwiches with pickles and ranch dressing.

Beer here

The 10th location of Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant - the second in New Jersey - will mark its grand opening Friday, at Voorhees Town Center (13107 Town Center Blvd., 856-545-9009). The 11th location is up for 2014 in Ardmore Plaza.

Victory Brewing Co. is planning a brewpub in Kennett Square, and will occupy all 8,234 square feet of the bottom floor of a four-story, luxury apartment complex called Magnolia Place. Victory's Bill Covaleski and Ron Barchet, who met on a school bus in 1973 and opened the taps in Downingtown in 1996, will equip the place with a five-barrel brew house. Opening is targeted to the second quarter of 2014.

Forgotten Boardwalk Brewing, a start-up microbrewery with tasting room, will begin construction soon in Cherry Hill Business Park in what was the first home of Flying Fish Brewing Co. before its move to larger digs in Somerdale. Co-owner Jamie Queli, an institutional banker by day and homebrewer by night, says the tasting room will have a 19th-century vibe with old-fashioned funhouse-style games. As for beers, "we'll do flavor profiles that are not out there."

What's coming

Chefs/brothers Justin and Jonathan Petruce just signed a lease at 1121 Walnut St. - where the boutique Suzanne Roberts is preparing to vacate - to install Petruce et al., whose specialty will be old-world, wood-fired cooking, thanks to two ovens. Opening is aimed for late this year. The Petruces are longtime background players: Both sous-cheffed at the now-departed Meme near Fitler Square. Justin, 32, was chef de cuisine at the old Fish, while Jonathan, 31, worked first at M and for a solid five years was a chef at Little Fish. Proving what a small world this is, the brothers' real estate broker is the Michael Salove Co.'s Bruno Pouget, who operated Caribou Cafe at that very address years ago. It's now across the street, owned by Olivier Desaintmartin.

Restaurant week

The fall edition of Center City District Restaurant Week, marking its 10th anniversary, has been set for Sept. 15 to 20 and Sept. 22 to 27. Amid the hundred-plus restaurants offering three-course, $35 dinners (and some with $20 lunches) are two newcomers: Ocean Prime, the luxe steak/seafood house under construction at 15th and Sansom Streets, and Little Nonna's, the homespun Italian that Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran are building at 1234 Locust St. Ocean Prime, incidentally, just pushed its opening back a week, to Sept. 9.

Le Bec-Fin lives

The Mullins family purchased the letters that spelled " Le Bec-Fin" from the marquee over the now-shuttered restaurant at 1523 Walnut St. The letters will go up on a wall at McGillin's Old Ale House at 1310 Drury St. Since McGillin's is Philadelphia's oldest bar, the Mullinses have a keen appreciation for Philadelphia lore. They have original signs and logos from other shuttered institutions, including John Wanamaker, J.E. Caldwell, Strawbridge & Clothier, Lit Bros., Gimbels, Woolworth, CoreStates Bank, and Deux Cheminees. Meanwhile, the space at 1523 Walnut is being refashioned into a contemporary American restaurant under chef Justin Bogle.


Contact Michael Klein at mklein@philly.com.

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