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January 16, 2015

A burden of love: 'Memphis Taproom' owner dishes on 'Coeur'

Restaurants Coeur
Coeur PhillyVoice

Coeur takes inspiration from Hartanft's punk rock roots.

Coeur is about cooking from the heart. 

Brendan Hartranft, who owns Local 44, Strangelove's and Memphis Taproom and upcoming Clarkville with partner Brendan Kelly and his wife Leigh Maida, is preparing to open a restaurant that embodies his love for people and the risk of being different. It'll be at 8th and Christian, where The Mildred used to be. He and Maida visited Montreal after he got chemo,  Hartranft told They fell hard for the spirit of whimsy and mais bien sûr (“but of course” in French) service mentality of Quebec. Being there reminded him of the value of time spent together. 

“To be in Montreal and at a loose end with the person that you love is to make every day feel like forever. And it reminds me of Emily Dickinson who said, forever is nothing but a series of nows.” 

Enjoying the richness of life means taking your time. Hartranft says the original name of the restaurant was “Hard Coeur,” a tribute to the austerity and openness to radical enjoyment the hardcore movement represents: “Hardcore was just about just, f*** it. What’s wrong with butter and fat? What’s wrong with roasting? … As a chef, why do you have to be pushing yourself so hard to the point that there is no richness in your social fabric because I’m just watching you push this stone up a mountain and I’m just getting tired for you.”

That mentality informs his commitment to veering away from the pub thing toward a more de rigeur French concept. “We wanted to do that very heavy prepped fare,” Hartranft said. “There’s a level of talent and skill required for execution but it really is about loving the food.” Poutine, a dish made of french fries, a gravy-like sauce and cheese curds, will likely make an appearance on his menu; the owner is keeping quiet about the rest. 

But Hartranft is open to different influences. As a seventh generation Philadelphian originally from the Northeast, he believes people deserve nuance. A wine list of “opinionated whimsy” will feature a rotating selection. “Why aren't wine lists changing every week?” Hartranft asks. Right now, he’s drinking “deep Burgundian.” But he won’t commit to that: “We truly want to be a current restaurant … I don't know the person I’m going to be in September.” 

By the time it opens in September, Coeur will offer “bright sunshine flavors” from the produce available in the fall. For a restauranteur looking to branch away from his established pattern, the timing is right. “I wanna fly my freak flag high,” Hartranft said.