Michael Schulson is the chef and restaurateur behind the Schulson Collective of restaurants whose imagination and vision have made him one of Philadelphia’s most successful hospitality professionals.
Schulson is the owner of day-to-night destination Double Knot; the expansive Independence Beer Garden; Sampan and the adjacent Graffiti Bar; and serves as chef-partner at Izakaya at Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, N.J. Schulson Collective’s portfolio also includes the new-American spot, Harp & Crown, in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square, as well as contemporary izakaya restaurant, Monkitail, and cocktail lounge, Nokku, at The Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, Florida. The notable Philadelphia restaurant Osteria was added to Schulson Collective in 2018 as well as DK Sushi, the fine-causal sushi concept located at the University of Pennsylvania. Most recently, the red gravy restaurant, Giuseppe & Sons, opened on Sansom next to Harp & Crown with an upstairs luncheonette and an elegant ristorante below street level. Today, Michael teams with his wife, Nina, in their efforts to expand their business.
Schulson attended and graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, working his way up the culinary chain of command in such acclaimed restaurants as New York’s Peacock Alley at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and David Burke’s Park Avenue Café, and Philadelphia’s Le Bec-Fin and Susanna Foo. Before setting out on his own, Schulson helmed legendary kitchens in New York City (Buddakan) and Philadelphia (Pod) and traveled to Japan. He eventually learned the ability to speak conversational Japanese following his stints in prestigious Tokyo kitchens, among them Spago and the Four Seasons Hotel.
“As a student of Asian cuisine, I have always emphasized flavor over fat, and I’m proud to bring that approach to other culinary styles, as well.”
In 2008, Schulson opened his first restaurant, Izakaya, a modern Japanese pub in Atlantic City’s Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. At Borgata, Schulson found himself among the likes of Bobby Flay and Wolfgang Puck, earning rave reviews and immense popularity. Schulson opened his second restaurant, Sampan, in 2009 in Philadelphia’s bustling Midtown Village. The contemporary Asian restaurant and bar was promptly named one of Bon Appetit’s “Top Six places to Taste Asian Fusion,” and Schulson was named one of Esquire’s “Chefs to Watch” in their annual restaurant issue soon after.
In summer 2014, Schulson took on his biggest project to date with Independence Beer Garden, a 20,000 square-foot open-air drinking and dining mecca steps from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall in Philadelphia’s Independence National Historic Park. The massive, largely outdoor space quickly attracted huge crowds and became known as one of the city’s best places to enjoy a beer, a snack and fun with friends.
“From delicious bites to scenic views, Independence Beer Garden is looking to spruce up the summer. - But we can’t forget about the piece that brings the entire garden together: beer. And with a beer menu almost as big as the location itself, you might have a tough time narrowing things down.”
- Philly mag, FOOBOOZ
In 2016, Schulson introduced restaurants Double Knot and Harp & Crown to the Philadelphia scene. Double Knot is a bi-level speakeasy that offers a modern Japanese dining experience highlighting sushi, sashimi, robatayaki, and a combination of small and large tapas. Double Knot has received numerous accolades including “three bells” from The Philadelphia Inquirer, three stars and the title of “2016 Best New Restaurant” from Philadelphia magazine and was named one of the “15 Biggest Restaurant Openings of 2016” by Zagat. Schulson Collective’s Harp & Crown offers guests a menu highlighting seasonal ingredients and global cuisines with delicate yet complex flavors. It was named one of the "Most Beautiful Restaurants of 2016" by Eater National. Harp & Crown also features a cocktail bar and two-lane, reservations-only bowling alley beneath the main room where cocktails, pizza and charcuterie are served.
In spring 2017, Schulson brought his modern Japanese fare to The Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, Florida with the opening of Monkitail. The restaurant's menu is a contemporary take on the classic izakaya, featuring sharable small plates and sushi as well as an array of specialty cocktails and saké. Surrounding an open robatayaki kitchen in the heart of the restaurant is a 15-seat sushi bar and a private dining area overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Tucked away beyond Monkitail is Nokku, a discreet cocktail lounge with four private rooms, each having full karaoke capabilities. Monkitail was the winner of USA Today’s “Best New Restaurant in 2017.”
In 2018, Schulson Collective opened their first fine-casual concept, DK Sushi, at the remodeled food hall at the University of Pennsylvania. DK Sushi is a spin-off of Schulson’s lauded sushi bar and izakaya, Double Knot. Chef Kevin Yanaga created a menu of a la carte items and signature sushi sets that are made-to-order as guests make their selections from the touch-screen kiosks. In addition, Schulson took over the critically acclaimed Italian restaurant Osteria. Osteria's award-winning menu includes antipasti, homemade pastas, house-cured salumi, authentic Neapolitan and Roman-style pizzas, wood-grilled meats, seafood and decadent desserts. To round off the year, Giuseppe & Sons, the Center City collaboration with the Termini family and the Collective’s newest restaurant, opened in November. The red gravy Italian restaurant is located next to Harp & Crown and mimics the operation of Double Knot, with a luncheonette upstairs and a more refined ristorante below street level.
Most recently, in spring of 2019, Schulson drew inspiration from his family’s history of butchering in the Bronx to open up Alpen Rose, a 40 seat boutique steakhouse in the Midtown Village. Located next to Double Knot, Alpen Rose is an immersive, spellbinding experience that transports you and offers curated moments of discovery along the way. The steaks are dry-aged anywhere from 14 to 120 days, butchered in-house, and prepared in the wood-burning hearth in the open kitchen.
“We named it [Double Knot] the Best New Restaurant In Philly in this year’s Best Of Philly issue. It took the highest spot of any of the new restaurants that made it onto this year’s 50 Best Restaurants list. I still use the broiled sea bass I had there as the standard against which I judge all fish dishes in Philadelphia (and not a single one has measured up).”
- PHILLY MAG, FOOBOOZ
Following the opening of Alpen Rose, Schulson and his team will target the Rittenhouse neighborhood of Philadelphia with a concept that celebrates old-world Italian roots, lifestyle, food and décor. The projected opening is spring of 2019. Following this venture, Schulson will tackle the Camden waterfront with two restaurant concepts sidled up next to each other. Projected in late summer/fall 2019.
Schulson has starred in two original series, TLC’s Ultimate Cake Off and Style Network’s Pantry Raid, and has also appeared as a guest on TODAY, The View, The Rachael Ray Show and FOX News. He has been featured in a wide range of publications including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Men’s Fitness.