Darling Jack's Tavern, a restaurant of Safran Turney Hospitality's Midtown Village opening on Friday will be a reflection of broader changes in the group's mentality following the Covid-19 epidemic.
It took more than five long years to create the new restaurant, mostly because of the pandemic. Safran explained that the fact that they had to abandon a project and put Darling Jack's in limbo forced Valerie Safran, and Marcie Turney, to focus on fewer concepts.
We're looking at things in a slightly different light. She told The Business Journal that she doesn't want us to do so much but when we do, it should be amazing.
Darling Jack's, located at 104 S. 13th St. in Midtown Village, is the fourth restaurant that Safran Turney currently operates in the neighborhood and the eighth concept introduced by the hospitality group in the past 21 years. Safran stated that she wanted to make Darling Jack's as good as possible, since it may be the last restaurant for the group.
She said, 'If it was our last dining experience, I think this would be a good way to go out. It's not too extravagant. It's real and good food. There's confidence in it.
Safran Turney's first Midtown Village location was Little Nonna's at 1234 Locust St. Two years later, its Mexican restaurant Lolita debuted at 106 S. 13th St. The group opened Indian restaurant Bindi at 105 S. 13th St. in 2007. It was transformed into Spanish tapas concept Jamonera by 2012.
Barbuzzo opened its first location in 2010 and Bud & Marilyn's, the group's flagship restaurant, opened in 2015.
Jamonera closed its doors in 2020, after the outbreak of the pandemic. Lolita followed soon afterwards. Safran Turney’s latest concept, Good Luck Pizza Co. opened in the Jamonera location in February 2022, but it has since closed.
Open House is located on 107 S. 13th St. and Verde is next to Darling Jack's and across the street.
Safran Turney currently has no new projects, but Safran admitted that they could become re-inspired to open a different concept in the near future. Safran Turney owns some properties in South Philadelphia and she likes the concept of opening something. However, any possible concept seems 'far off'.
Safran stated that the group would be interested in opening additional airport concepts, since the restaurants are operated by a partner rather than the group.
Darling Jack's construction resumed in March 2022, after the original March 2020 start date was delayed.
Darling Jack's will serve American food. The name is a combination of masculine and feminine elements to give the tavern a rustic and refined feeling. Menu items include "tavern style pizza," a thin crust pan pizza, Gochujang-glazed lamb ribs, smoked bone-in ribs and French onion soup.
The drink menu includes craft beers and wines as well as cocktails like the Don't Do Me Dirty Darling Martini made with Helix Vodka and Castelvetrano brine and the Easy Peasy made with vodka, Aji Amarilllo Sugar, Curacao, and Lemon Oleo.
In the approximately 2,400 square feet space, 75 people can be accommodated at the bar with 14 seats, chef's counter with eight seats and dining area. The restaurant will add 20 additional seats for outdoor dining during warm weather.
Safran stated that Darling Jack's would employ between 50 and 60 full-time employees, as well as part-time workers.
The space has a retro throwback feel. According to Safran's, the design was created in collaboration with Kate Rohrer, an interior designer from Philadelphia's Rohe Creative. She has worked on Bud & Marilyn’s Midtown Village, as well as the Philadelphia International Airport branch.
Darling Jack's features a kitchen counter as well, which Safran says creates an energetic atmosphere in the restaurant. After the success of Barbuzzo, the duo decided to include one in their concept.
Safran stated, 'I do not think that we will ever open a new restaurant without an open-kitchen at this time.'
It is larger than Little Nonna’s and Barbuzzo. This gives the hospitality group more room for production, like making focaccia in-house. The former Lolita location at 106 S. 13th St. is combined with the adjacent space. A 30-foot-high brick wall was removed during construction to separate the two.
Safran and Turney wanted to stay at Darling Jack's in Midtown Village because Safran described it as 'bumpin' any night of week. The pandemic decimated the business of restaurants and retailers in the area. They haven't fully recovered, and the return to the office is still slow. But Turney believes that the area is still vibrant.
It's not as busy in the morning and evening. Safran stated that there is still plenty of room for growth, but the neighborhood still feels new to him.
Lunch service in Center City has been affected by the reduced number of workers. Safran Turney’s three other restaurants in Midtown Village are not yet open for lunch.
Safran stated that Darling Jack's would initially offer dinner, weekend brunch and happy hour service. It will then expand to include lunch service in order to test its viability post-pandemic.