Center City restaurant Harper’s Garden grows outdoor dining setup with private greenhouses

The greenhouses at Harper's Garden (Courtesy of FCM Hospitality)

The greenhouses at Harper's Garden (Courtesy of FCM Hospitality)

Outdoor dining has been a saving grace for Philly’s struggling restaurant scene, and with colder temperatures fastly approaching, business owners are getting creative.

First there were the heated plastic igloos in Northern Liberties, and now starting this weekend, enter Center City greenhouse pods.

Harper’s Garden — a cocktail bar and restaurant at 18th and Ludlow streets — has always had an outdoor beer garden set up with twinkly lights and shrubbery abounding in its veranda.

With its 10 heated, individual greenhouses, Harper’s will be able to keep their outdoor dining afloat through the wintry weather. The weather-resistant greenhouses come in two sizes: one which accommodates a table of four to seven and another that accommodates a table of six to nine.

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They’ll be available on a first-come, first-served basis for no additional fee. Reservations for the greenhouse spots can be made here.

“Restaurants are fighting for their survival right now and we have worked with our teams for months to find safe, healthy and socially distanced ways to continue to offer outdoor dining experiences for our community,” said FCM Hospitality and Harper’s Garden owner Avram Hornik.

Hornik added that over the summer, the hardest parts of their outdoor dining experiment were ones with unexpected rainy days or miscellaneous showers.

“We couldn’t operate outdoor dining in these cases for our tables and venues that didn’t have a covering,” Hornik said. “This means a loss of revenue and a challenge in terms of any restaurant’s survival with a reliance on outdoor dining. Navigating the pandemic, as whole, while keeping the priority of our employees and guests has been challenging.”

For greenhouse diners, patrons can anticipate a new autumn menu including a fall endive salad and beef pho-glazed brussel sprouts — as well as a new cocktail menu featuring drinks from beverage director Matt Deutsch. The drinks pay homage to Deutsch’s mother, who passed away during the pandemic.

“If there is one thing I hope we take away from this past year is that it is the small moments that make the biggest impact on our memories,” Deutsch said.

Cocktails include Bonita Apple Butter, inspired by childhood trips to local orchards, as well as Date with a Butterfly, with butterfly pea-infused gin, sherry, cardamom, lemon and egg white — and PB&J, featuring Dad’s Hat Rye, Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey and Crème de cassis.

On Thursday, the City of Philadelphia provided additional guidance to restaurants for winterizing their outdoor dining arrangements. Restaurants can choose between three different variations of overhead coverings, as well as heating powered by electricity, propane, or natural gas.

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