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Openings

First Look: Independence Beer Garden at the Liberty Bell

By Danya Henninger
July 16, 2014
Photo by: Danya Henninger

Torrential rains and booming thunder weren’t enough to keep the crowds away from Independence Beer Garden on opening night. Proprietor Michael Schulson tells us the open air bar was packed (at least the 75% of seating that’s beneath shelter).

It’s no surprise that this new sanctuary next to the Liberty Bell is popular — it’s exactly what the Historic District needed. Instead of a dead, boring plaza beneath the angular overhangs of the Dow Chemical Building, now beer flows, flowers bloom, games are played and good, high-quality food comes out fast. Chef Travis Masar (also still at Sampan a couple nights each week) says everything on his menu was all designed with a 10-minutes-or-less turnaround.

Flip through for an up-close look at several of the dishes, including a killer strawberry milkshake and the best cheese curds we’ve ever eaten, plus some shots of the finished space.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Fried Cheese Curds

    Cheddar curds from Maple Brook Farm are fried in a tempura-style beer batter to make the lightest-feeling cheese poppers we've ever tried. Dipped in the tomato jam, each bite is a sweet-salty-fatty-crunchy delight ($5).

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Chicken Cutlet Sandwich

    A classic, with fried chicken breast, lots of sautéed broccoli rabe, melting provolone and aioli dressing, on a Carangi Bakery roll ($8).

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    BLT

    Two kinds of tomatoes share space with Oscar Meyer bacon and lettuce between toasted white bread: fresh red slices and fried green ones ($6).

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Fish 'n' Chips

    A hearty portion of mahi mahi strips are battered and fried, served with house-cut shoestring fries and housemade tartar sauce ($13). (This one made our list of New Fish 'n' Chips to Try This Summer.)

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Grilled Mahi Mahi Sandwich

    For a healthier fish option, get the steaks grilled and served with cucumber, tomato, pesto and tomato jam between two slices of focaccia ($9).

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Clam Strips

    Whole clams are dipped in a slightly thicker batter, fried and served with house tartar sauce and a lemon wedge ($7). Their scent makes you feel like the ocean might be just steps away.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Italian Sausage Sandwich

    Spicy sausage from the Italian Market is sliced into sizzling rounds and served on a Carangi roll with sautéed peppers, onions and long hots ($8).

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Mixed Green Salad

    Another healthy choice. Greens are tossed with chunks of tomatoes, pepitas and assorted grilled vegetables in a lemon vinaigrette ($8).

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Strawberry Milkshake

    On the less healthy, but entirely delicious side is the handspun shake. Housemade ice cream is blended with vanilla malt and strawberry preserves for a huge 24-oz. cup of sweet refreshment ($5).

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    All this food comes out of a kitchen at the back of the space, made from two soldered-together cargo containers.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Next to the kitchen is a game area, with corn hole and ping pong tables.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    At the center of the plaza is the main bar, with 30 or so stools and 20 taps.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    On the south side of the wraparound patio are two bocce courts, next to Adirondack chairs arranged around fire pits.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    At front, right across from the Liberty Bell and Independence Mall, is another bar, also outfitted with 20 taps, and several long picnic tables.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Nearly all the tables have wooden Connect4 and Jenga sets.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    There are places to party with groups and spots to hide out with your date. This is one cool beer garden that Philly should be proud to show off.

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Places Mentioned

Independence Beer Garden

Bar • Washington Square West

Atmo.- Decor- Service- CostI
 
 
 
Sampan

Asian • Washington Square West

Food26 Decor23 Service22 Cost$47
 
 
 
 
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