This fall, Chef/owner Kevin Sbraga of Juniper Commons in Philadelphia channels the 1980s and the age of roasted meats sliced to order, salad bars with raspberry vinaigrette, and dip-filled bread bowls with the opening of his third restaurant Juniper Commons, on South Broad Street.
Juniper Commons brings the spirit of the decade to life with quintessential American dishes and re-imagined classic cocktails, with Lionel Richie and Chicago on the playlist. Chef Sbraga and Executive Chef Greg Garbacz have created a menu of dishes that evoke warm memories of the past, and served alongside one of the most comprehensive gin programs in the city.
“Juniper Commons is an homage to my childhood, inspired by one of my favorite decades,” says Chef Sbraga whose eponymous restaurant, Sbraga, has been recognized by Esquire magazine as a “Best New Restaurant” and as one of Philadelphia Magazine’s “Best Restaurants of 2013.” His second restaurant, The Fat Ham, was awarded three stars from Philadelphia Magazine and three bells fromPhiladelphia Inquirer.
“When you talk about the '80s, everyone focuses on the pop culture, not the food or drinks," he says. "While many chefs have forgone revisiting this decade, I’m excited to reinvent dishes that have been deemed passé, into quality dishes that guests will relate to today.”
Guests can start the evening at Juniper Commons with updated versions of raw bar classics, such as the seafood tower and shrimp cocktail, followed by fresh takes on baked stuffed flounder and beef burgundy, and finish with a seven layer chocolate cake, monkey bread, seasonal pie, or old fashioned cheesecake. Select dishes from the dinner menu include:
- Smoked Fish Platter with salmon, whitefish terrine, bluefish, lentil salad, and housemade black bread
- Fries with Eyes: beef fat fries with Cherry Pepper Aioli, Pecorino
- Cesar Salad prepared tableside with housemade croutons and dressing
- Eggplant Parmesan: rings of panko-crusted eggplant topped with marinara sauce, locatelli, and parsley
- Rotisserie Chicken served with Marsala sauce and herb bouquet
- Wood Roasted Prime Rib cooked on the rotisserie and served with ox tail au jus and roasted garlic
Not to leave out the youngest food connoisseurs, Chef Sbraga has worked with his two children to create the children’s menu at Juniper Commons. Sure to delight even the pickiest of eaters, this kid-approved menu featured creative takes on childhood favorites such as French bread pizza, cheesy macaroni and cheese, and spaghetti with meatballs.
With a name like Juniper Commons, gin is the obvious choice for the focus of the beverage program that features a collection of over 50 bottles of the spirit, served alongside a selection of house-made tonics with flavor profiles such as floral, herbaceous, citrus, and spicy.
The cocktail list features drinks popular in '80s, executed with quality ingredients and updated for modern tastes. Drawing inspiration from iconic brands such as Bartles & Jaymes, Juniper Commons is macerating fresh fruit with wine, clarifying the mixture, and adding bubbles to create a selection of unique wine coolers.
“The eighties were a time of when cocktails were driven more by sugar and concentrated juices than by spirits,” says Ben Fileccia, Sbraga Dining’s director of operations. “At Juniper Commons, we are taking those shunned drinks and turning them into libations that hold up to today’s cocktail standard—think Sex on The Beach with cranberry washed vodka, peach preserves, and fresh squeezed orange juice.”
Juniper Commons is a modern space with seating for 140 guests in the dining room, lounge area, private dining room, and bar. Philadelphia design firm Eimer Design, which designed both Sbraga and The Fat Ham, combined hints of the past such as wood paneling, brass toned metals, angled patterns with modern lighting, finishes, and upholsteries to create a warm and familiar space.
A juniper wood counter is a focal point of the stylized bar area and also features dark woods and light ceramic tiles to highlight the gin collection. Custom wallpaper created from pages of local newspapers such as The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Daily News, and The Bulletin from the '80s cover the wall that separates the private and main dining rooms.
Opening in late fall 2014, Juniper Commons will serve dinner Monday through Sunday from 5 to 10 p.m., with plans to launch lunch and brunch service.