University City anticipates two upscale restaurant openings
Doc Magrogan's Oyster House and Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar will open in the spring and early summer
February 13, 2012, 11:56 pm · Updated February 15, 2012, 11:29 pm·
This spring, the University City dining scene will see two new upscale restaurants.
Dave Magrogan, owner of Doc Magrogan’s Oyster House and Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar, signed two leases with Penn this semester for two new restaurants to open in the spring and early summer.
In January, Magrogan leased out the space at 40th and Walnut for the upscale-casual Harvest, taking Marathon Bar & Grill’s former location.
Magrogan also announced that Doc’s will occupy the vacant space at 3432 Sansom Street, where La Terrasse was located from 1966 to February 2011.
Penn’s Executive Director of Real Estate Ed Datz said earlier in the year there had been two available spaces for new restaurants. When Magrogan pitched ideas for Doc’s and Harvest, his restaurants stood out among the other applicants.
“His concepts were superior to many of the other offerings,” Datz said. “Each of them individually fit well into the two respective spaces.”
Though Harvest began development and renovations in January, Doc’s will open earlier because its space will not require as many extensive renovations, according to Datz.
Magrogan said his company, Magrogan Group, has had a “long relationship with Penn and several real estate developers in the area.”
He added, “having the University of Pennsylvania as a landlord in the area really makes it helpful.”
When he was seeking new locations for his oyster house brand, Magrogan was attracted in particular to Sansom Row’s “authentic style.”
“It’s really the longevity that owners look for in a new location,” he said. “[Sansom Row] has a great heritage that really complements what we have in mind for Doc’s.”
In light of the growing number of restaurant vacancies in University City, Magrogan has high hopes that Doc’s can keep a long-term presence on Sansom Row.
He wants his restaurant to have the vintage feel of older, more established restaurants. “When [Doc’s] opens its doors, we want it to feel like it’s been open for a hundred years.”
Magrogan modeled his design on late 19th-Century oyster houses often found in Baltimore and Boston. With its numerous divided rooms, upstairs dining space and bar, the restaurant will offer patrons a distinct “Victorian feel, like you would find in a port or harbor town,” he said.
“When you have a restaurant, the first thing you ask yourself is, ‘What are the core values of the brand?’” Magrogan said. “It’s important that the Doc’s brand stays committed to the values we began with.”
The three other locations of the oyster house are in West Chester and Moosic, PA and Dover, DE. While these locations share a notably different character from University City, Datz believes that Doc’s will become a “destination-driven” restaurant, drawing other people to the area than the usual market of students, faculty and local businessmen.
To cater more to a student budget, Magrogan has proposed a range of daily specials, such as a “buck a shuck” night that features one-dollar oysters.
“We want to reach as many different demographics as possible,” he added. “Of course, we want to keep in mind the differences in price range between professionals, students and professors.”
Engineering junior Nick McGill thinks the two upscale restaurants will be able to thrive on a college campus.
“I am never averse to new restaurants,” he said. “I love good food, and on a special occasion I will go some place that’s worth my money.”
College sophomore Sykes Radford said, “from a personal perspective, it sucks a little bit that [restaurants like Doc’s] can be another extra cost on top of other college expenses.” However, “it would be stupid for a landlord not to lease the space to a fancier restaurant. It would undervalue the rest of that block,” he said.
Harvest upholds a farm-to-table ethos and offers a seasonal menu with most entrées under 500 calories.
Magrogan added that there is potential to expand the Harvest brand nationally. However, for Doc’s, “the building fits the brand.”
“Doc’s is not the kind of brand you can expand nationally because you don’t come across that kind of building every day,” Magrogan said.
Magrogan also owns Kildare’s Irish Pub, which has six locations, four of which are in Pennsylvania.
As of now, Magrogan has no other future projects planned for University City.