Walk This Way Through a Philadelphia Neighborhood with a Booming Beer Scene
Philadelphia has always been an incredible city for beer drinkers. From South Philly, to Queen Village, all the way up to Port Richmond, each pocket of this city has its own identity with a bar and restaurant scene to match. But over the past few years, one neighborhood in particular has undergone an explosion of new beer bars: Fishtown.
Located northeast of Center City between the Delaware River and Frankford Ave., Fishtown was historically the cornerstone of Philadelphia’s fishing industry in the 18th and 19th centuries (hence its unique name). Still home to many working class Irish Catholic Philadelphians, Fishtown has experienced a fury of growth this past decade.
With the warmer weather finally upon us and the grand opening of Evil Genius’s brand new brewery on Front St., Draught Lines decided it was high time to pub crawl through Fishtown.
Behold, your guide to Fishtown on Foot – making stops at old standbys, as well as exploring some of the area’s newest beer bars.
If you’re taking public transportation, the El stops at Girard and Berks, both very close to some of Fishtown’s best bars. If you’re driving, parking on Frankford Ave. can be a little tough. Luckily, parking one block over on Front St. is much easier – especially up near Cecil B. Moore, which just so happens to be right across the street from one of Fishtown’s newest hotspots: Evil Genius Beer Company.
This past March after years of planning, Luke Bowen and Trevor Hayward, the founders of Evil Genus, proudly opened their first permanent home at 1727 N. Front St. And boy is it a beauty. This jaw-dropping, huge, industrial space even has an outdoor beer garden!
On tap are Evil Genius classics like I’ll Have What She’s Having and Stacy’s Mom, but you’ll also find plenty of limited “lab exclusives” like Ermahgerd! Rhsberries! a raspberry Baltic porter, or Trust the Process, an IPA brewed with Galaxy and Amarillo hops. If you’re on the move, like we were, and don’t get a chance to try all the limited releases they have available, you can snag a growler or crowler to-go!
Walking east on Cecil B. and down Frankford Ave., stop at the Philadelphia Record Exchange or grab some frozen yogurt at The Igloo on your way to the next destination – Bottle Bar East. It opened four years ago as a standard takeout bottle shop, but has since undergone quite a transformation.
“We started with just four taps,” says bartender Josh Aptner. “But Fishtown just blew up so quickly that we had to expand. The kitchen was expanded, the upstairs was expanded. Now we have 13 taps. This used to be my favorite spot before I started working here. The draught program is killing it, the food is killing it, all at reasonable prices.”
With a few stops under your belt and a few beers in your belly, it could be time to grab some grub. Right next door to Bottle Bar East, Kensington Quarters is dedicated to supporting local farmers and producers. The amazing menu has something for everyone. General Manager Tim Kweeder says, “We champion small farmers and we do it pretty well here. We still maintain a whole animal butchery which is unique to Fishtown. Even our breweries are super local. We like to keep it all Pennsylvania and New Jersey.” The patio out back is one of the best spots to enjoy a cold beer while soaking in those Fishtown rays.
Fueled up and feeling good, take a jog down to Frankford and Girard to hit up one of Fishtown’s most beloved craft beer bars: Johnny Brenda’s. A bar that ignited the Fishtown beer scene 14 years ago, Johnny Brenda’s was built on a philosophy of supporting local breweries. All their taps are from breweries within a 90 mile radius, so you’re likely to see lots of local favorites like 2SP, Sly Fox, Weyerbacher and Dogfish.
As one of the most storied bars in the area, Johnny Brenda’s has been uniquely positioned to witness Fishtown’s transformation. “Fishtown has changed tremendously,” says longtime bartender Tabitha.
“When I first started here, this neighborhood was so different. But Paul and William [owners of Johnny Brenda’s] did a lot for Fishtown. It’s a destination now. You can come here and hit so many different places, depending on what you’re looking for.”
Take a trip down Girard and stop into another of Fishtown’s newer bars: Sancho Pistolas. Sister bar to the Center City darling Jose Pistolas, Sancho’s setting is more intimate with a homerun menu. Their 10 taps are always rotating and the late night happy hour from midnight to 1 AM is the place to be after seeing a show at the Fillmore or Brenda’s.
At this point of your Fishtown pub crawl, you probably need a little pick me up – if so, head up to Front Street Cafe. Opened in 2015, Front Street Cafe’s menu has food that’s perfect for whatever mood you’re in. And you can sip expertly crafted coffee or a draught beer on the back patio.
“With a place like Front Street Cafe that has so much to offer, in a neighborhood like Fishtown, you tend to see a ton of different types of people,” says server Carolyn Marks. “From business professionals in for lunch, to people with face tattoos – we run the gamut.”
Now it’s time to walk off a few of those beers and head east, down Thompson St. up to Cedar St. to the legendary Fishtown taqueria, Loco Pez. This cash-only dive bar features décor straight out of your grandparents’ basement and a menu inspired by the taco trucks of Los Angeles. If you’re feeling particularly courageous, try the Gordo Board Taco Challenge that entices brave-souls to eat four pounds of tacos in under nine minutes. The prize? Besides becoming Fishtown-famous with your name immortalized on the Gordo Board above the bar, is a free T-shirt! It’s worth it.
Right across the street from Loco Pez sits our last stop, Cedar Point Bar & Kitchen. This relaxed establishment features 14 taps, handpumped cask beer and an outdoor deck. The menu features retro-American classics with some soulful, contemporary concepts. The Cubano and Seitan Wings are musts and the outdoor deck is the perfect spot to wrap up a long pub crawl through Fishtown on foot.
Philadelphia is an amazing beer drinking city and neighborhoods like Fishtown continue to improve upon that tradition with an eclectic collection of craft beer bars, all within walking distance of each other. There’s a tap list and a lunch menu for everyone, so take the trek north of Girard to experience for yourself, all this area has to offer.