His restaurants are stylish, incredibly diverse, and feature innovative menus. In Philadelphia, he owns Sampan, Double Knot, Harp and Crown, Osteria, DK Sushi, Graffiti Bar and Independence Beer Garden. Outside of Philly, he has Izakaya at the Borgata Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City (his first restaurant) and Monkitail, which is located in the Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood, Florida.
His latest Philadelphia restaurant, Giuseppe & Sons, is a partnership with the city's iconic Termini Brothers and opened its doors in late November 2018.
When he's not working at his restaurants (or creating new, inventive concepts), he loves checking out the city's vibrant dining scene with his wife and business partner, Nina Tinari, along with his two sons.
Schulson says, "We have something really special going on here in Philly right now. My wife and I are honored to be part of it as we continue to open restaurants and add to its diverse and red-hot culinary scene. I'm excited to do whatever we can do [to] bring attention to our great food city and help foster its future as one to be reckoned with nationwide."
A self-professed fan of Asian cuisines (he spent time in Japan honing his culinary skills), Schulson always seeks out interesting and authentic dining spots. These are a few of his local Philadelphia favorites:
Tai Lake has a wide range of fresh seafood dishes, including these frog legs — Photo courtesy of Nina Tinari
Schulson has been a long-time fan of Tai Lake, a classic Chinatown restaurant with a massive menu and an array of fresh seafood dishes. He often brings his staff here after an especially long day. This eatery is considered the real deal – and is usually bustling with devoted food lovers who adore the abundance of seafood and Chinese dishes.
Schulson said, "We've had so many great dinners here with our team. It's open late and the food is so good! As a person who loves traditional Asian cuisine, this is the spot for me. From the frog legs with golden chives, to the Dungeness crab with scallion and ginger, the food is taken fresh from the tanks in the front of the restaurant and cooked right away for you."
Schulson is always impressed with the quality of ingredients here. He adds, "You actually see the shrimp, eel, crab and frogs moving around in the plastic bag as they bring it to the kitchen in the back. This meal, along with some Tsingtao beer, [makes this] the perfect late night place."
Tio Pepe Seafood and Steakhouse
Tio Pepe's Portuguese take on paella is unlike anything being served in Philadelphia — Photo courtesy of Nina Tinari
Located in Philadelphia's northeast section, Tio Pepe is an authentic Portuguese eatery with an extensive menu that offers something for everyone. A few of their signature dishes include arroz de marisco (seafood and rice), roasted veal and suckling baby pig.
Schulson explains, "I love to go to this restaurant with the family. It's always great because my oldest son loves the steak, and my younger enjoys the fried shrimp (and no, they aren't foodie kids). My wife, Nina, and I love the paella, which is the best around. The flavors are off the chart, as the dish has chicken, pork, shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels and lobster – it is made to order, bursting with flavor."
He added, "They also make this traditional sausage that is cooked tableside with brandy and is set on fire. It's like no other sausage I have ever tasted."
Schulson does not recommend skipping dessert here, as he says, "It's the ultimate surprise. It's simply whipped cream with ground vanilla wafer cookies on the top and bottom. It sounds like nothing, but trust me, it's awesome."
And what is his beverage of choice? "The red sangria is to die for, I think Nina and I finished two pitchers ourselves on our last visit (and we Uber home of course)!"
Kim's BBQ Restaurant
Kimchi, potatoes and spicy broccoli – Kim's Korean BBQ is all about the small dishes that come with the main course — Photo courtesy of Nina Tinari
Considered a hidden gem, Kim's Restaurant is also situated in the Northeastern part of the city. Schulson enjoys taking his chef friends here for a classic Korean-style meal. He usually orders the pan-fried dumplings and tableside barbecue.
Schulson pointed out, "People might be intimidated by this place, as the staff isn't very fluent in English, and the menu isn't very easy to understand. I have been going to this place for years."
He offers some tips: "Beware, you will walk out smelling like smoke and barbecued food. We always start with the scallion pancake which has a great sesame sauce and lots of jalapenos – so be careful with the spices here!"
The menu is authentic and Schulson enjoys tasting all the specialties. "I love the pork belly, tongue, bulgogi and the spicy pork. All these items you cook yourself tableside. Your main course is served with white rice and lettuce, and about 15 small dishes that you add to the lettuce wrap. Some of the best ones are the kimchi, potato mix, green beans and mixed spicy broccoli. The key is making sure you don't overfill the grill, which would cause the meat to steam. So, my tip is to cook it slow."
He continued, "At the end of the meal, you can help yourself to ice cream that's hidden in a small freezer box that you will need to find on your own."
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Vernick Food & Drink
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Located in the Rittenhouse Square area of Philadelphia, Vernick Food & Drink is run by another notable Philly chef, Greg Vernick, who was named the "best chef in the Mid-Atlantic region" by the James Beard foundation in 2017. He and Schulson are longtime friends, and Schulson and his wife are frequent guests at the restaurant.
It's one of their top spots to dine or grab a few craft cocktails. Schulson says, "Greg Vernick is not only a talented chef, he's a great person, so it's fun to support someone who has such admirable qualities."
Regarding the menu, Schulson said, "Some of the 'musts-haves' are the toasts, the beef, avocado and mushroom are all my favorites. I also love the crudo plates that all change seasonally. And last week, I had the hamachi and the tuna poke, which were both amazing. My go-to dish is always the roasted chicken. It's cooked perfectly every time and is always a hit. It's fun to eat here because you can always get six to eight delicious small plates and you won't be disappointed."
When in Philly's University City, Schulson heads to the family-run Vietnam Café, a stylish restaurant that serves up authentic fare including specialties like lemongrass pork chops, lime chicken, shrimp curry and clay pot dishes. They also offer a mix of creative and classic Polynesian cocktails.
Schulson says, "Vietnamese food is one of my favorite things to eat, as I love the clean flavors, the amount of acid in the dishes, and the balance of flavors complemented by the fish sauce, which gives the food the perfect umami flavor. Here, I am a fan of the pho, the grape leaves, the grilled pork summer roll and the house special vermicelli."
Termini Brothers Bakery
Termini Brothers Bakery is one of the best Italian bakeries in Philadelphia, and they are most known for their cannoli — Photo courtesy of Kae Lani
A South Philadelphia landmark, Termini Brothers Bakery is known for their high-quality classic sweets from Italian family recipes. This iconic shop evolved from a small neighborhood bakery to one of the top destinations in the city. Top sellers include Italian cream cakes, as well as torroni, biscotti, pizzelle – and plenty of traditional cookies.
Schulson knows this bakery well and has been a longtime devoted fan. He says, "They make the best desserts in South Philly, and you must try the cannoli!"
He revealed, "I'm a little biased ... because I just opened Giuseppe & Sons restaurant with the Termini family and they are dear friends. But the best part about this place is the fantastic sense of culture they created over 90 years ago."