Johnny Brenda’s Guide Review
The Bottom Line
Johnny Brenda’s is kind of like a love letter to Philadelphia. This cornerstone pub and concert venue was one of the first upscale gastro pubs to land past Northern Liberties and into Fishtown. With rustic décor and no frills service, Brenda’s can be counted on to deliver an excellent ever changing roster of local beer and inspired food using local ingredients.
· Affordable, quality food made form local ingredients.
· Excellent beer selection highlighting local breweries.
· Happy Hour features ½ off oysters.
· Intimate concert venue about makes dinner and a show a one-stop experience.
· The constantly rotating menu means items are written on a chalkboard and not on a hand out so you may have to stand up for a view.
· Sometimes loud and hard to find seating.
· Address: 1201 Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19125
· Hours: 11am – 2am all week long
· Transportation: Accessible from the Frankford El stop. Street parking usually available.
· Phone: (215) 739-9684
· Website: www.johnnybrendas.com/
When Paul Klimport, a chef and William Reed, a brewer, of Standard Tap fame purchased the large corner bar called Johnny Brenda’s it was in pretty bad shape. The second and third floor, which would later become a 250-person capacity music venue, was a “flop house” with twenty some tiny rooms. One equipped with an outside lock and referred to as “the murder room.” Fishtown was not yet a destination for dining or nightlife and was considered a pretty sketchy place. The owners showed incredible foresight when building the bar, restaurant and concert venue, as Fishtown is now one of the hippest scenes in Philadelphia and Johnny Brenda’s remains the flagship establishment.
Using the same ethos behind the Standard Tap, Johnny Brenda’s serves only locally produced Beer. But don’t worry, there are so many! From PBC to Dockstreet, Yards, Sly Fox, Weyerbacher and Dogfish Head. As kegs are tapped and then emptied throughout the night, the selection rotates, so you can never be sure what you’ll find on tap. The menu is concocted from local, seasonal ingredients. The use of local products showcase the tremendous amount of pride the bar and it’s proprietors have for their home town.
The service is relaxed and casual. Servers and bartenders wear anything they like. Patrons can usually seat themselves anywhere is the large dining room or at the outdoor seating along Girard Avenue. Don’t wait to be handed a menu. The constantly changing selection mean that items are handwritten on chalkboards then erased when they sell out, so make your way to one of the many neon lettered signs. Food items are written, as one-word titles so don’t hesitate to ask for details of the dish, or to mention that you have a certain allergy. That goes for the beer as well.
The menu is largely of Fishtown inspired seafood. The Fishtown Stew consists of mussels, clams, scallops, and shrimp in a garlicky red sauce. There are usually between two and five varieties of oysters available, which are served for half price during happy hour (weekdays from four to six.) Other highlights included the Hanger Steak; a flavor filled cut of steak, served simply with house cut French fries and au jous. The shrimp and grits which a fried grit patty served with pesto marinated shrimp and guacamole. There is an extensive list of sandwiches, which are always great and feature one of the cities best burgers.
It is hard to find a music venue that actually serves great food and beer, and without inflated prices and plastic cups, but Johnny Brenda’s does. After dinner head up stairs to see live local and national bands and occasional DJ night dance parties. As Fishtown continues to gain more and more restaurants and clubs, Johnny Brenda’s will remain the original and one of the most consistently excellent spots for food, drink and all variety of fun.