Ok, admittedly, we are a little remiss to have not done this sooner, but it is definitely time to officially declare the summer of 2011 “The Summer of the Beer Garden.”
It all started in May when two new beer gardens opened in Fishtown. First was Memphis Taproom, followed quickly by Stephen Starr’s Frankford Hall. Meanwhile on East Passyunk, Le Virtu opened its Campo Beer Garden to much acclaim.
And then in June, there was the With Love Beer Garden, an amazing — ahem, even if we do say so ourselves — pop-up beer garden for Philly Beer Week at the Four Seasons. And the momentum has continued from there. Even the National Constitution Center celebrated the opening of their blockbuster George Washington exhibition this summer with a very cool one-night-only beer garden in honor of General George.
And now, even though it’s July, there are still two solid months of summer remaining for you to take advantage of all the beer garden action popping up across the city. So we put together a roundup to help you do exactly that.
Below is our guide for where to find the best beer gardens in Philadelphia. (Note: while some of them might not technically be a true beer garden, they come close enough so we’re including them here.)
• Frankford Hall: On May 17, Stephen Starr’s Frankford Hall opened with with indoor and outdoor seating for 400. The space is simple by Starr standards, complete with exposed brick walls, reclaimed industrial materials and ping-pong tables. Classic German foods are available at a walk-up counter (think pretzels, bratwurst, curry fries, sauerkraut, schnitzel and spaetzle), as is a hefty beer menu that includes everything from traditional German beers to craft specialties available on nine taps.
• Memphis Taproom: ’Tis the season for dining and drinking outdoors, and Memphis Taproom recently celebrated its third anniversary with the debut of its much-anticipated beer garden. The narrow picnic table-clad spot serves up gourmet hotdogs (of the beef, vegan and vegetarian variety) including the California Uber Alles (beer-battered with nori, avocado and pickled ginger,) the Suicide (jalapeno, sririacha, onion rings and habanero) and the Antipasta (sharp provolone, caponata, garlic mayo, olives, roasted peppers and pepperoncini), fried pickles and canned craft beers.
• Le Virtu: The sweet smell of burning wood and charcoal searing meats on the grill welcomes diners to the Campo Beer Garden at Le Virtu, located on the manicured grassy lot adjacent to the restaurant. Deep in the heart of South Philly, the Campo beer garden takes its name from Abruzzo’s high mountain Campo Imperatore, where casual grilling joints line the switchback roads. The menu extends beyond the grill to offer a taste of some of the region’s spring and summer favorites. Have a beer, relax on the grass and enjoy one of South Philly’s best outdoor locations. Here’s a video teaser.
• Hop Angel Brauhaus: This German-themed restaurant and beer bar in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Northeast Philadelphia also opened a beer garden in May. German style beer, imported, local and national, is the main focus, but other styles are also featured. Most beers are available in .5 liter, .4 liter, and .3 liter servings. And 1 liter glasses for those that are really thirsty. Also, the bratwursts are legit.
• Silk City: The setting at the Silk City Beer Garden is part island oasis, part junkyard. It’s filled with colorful wooden tables, empty-kegs-turned-chairs, string lights aplenty and garden ornament-like objects likely salvaged at many a yard sale. And to that an awesome beer selection, favoring local brews, and you have a recipe for a great summer outing.
• The With Love Beer Garden at The Four Seasons: Psst. Don’t look now, but we’re hearing whispers that this awesome beer garden could make a triumphant return in August. That’s all we can say for now, but stay tuned…
Below we have a few more picks for where to go to enjoy a few beers alfresco.
• 2nd Street Festival Beer Gardens: This annual festival returns to Northern Liberties on Sunday, July 31 and seven local establishments will be setting up temporary beer gardens on 2nd Street as it closed down to vehicular traffic for the day: Bar Ferdinand, Standard Tap, Cantina Dos Segundos, El Camino Real, The Foodery, North Bowl and Gunners Run.
• Piazza at Schdmits and Liberties Walk: Outside of the July 31 festival (see above), PYT, Raw, Gunners Run, El Camino Real and Bar Ferdinand make Northern Liberties’ Piazza area a haven for outdoor drinks.
• Cantina Los Caballitos: Cantina recently took over the vacant lot next to the restaurant and now you can enjoy margaritas, cervezas and delicious Mexican fare in a prime outdoor area right on East Passyunk Avenue.
• The Plaza Cafe at Table 31 at the Comcast Center: The Plaza Cafe at the Comcast Center is gorgeous. Orange umbrellas provide shade while dancing fountains offer a bit of visual entertainment, to say nothing of the tallest skyscraper in Pennsylvania standing just 50 feet away.
• MidAtlantic: Awesome outdoor seating, great beer selection, plus firepits equal deserved inclusion on this list for MidAtlantic.
• Chenango: The restaurant that opened adjoining the Arrow Swim Club has a giant outdoor dining area complete with firepit. Chanango’s patio oasis serves all-day eats like tempura asparagus, Kennett Square mushroom pizza, burgers and salads, plus all manner of cocktails both cool and bubbly. It’s perfect for a summer evening of hanging out with friends and enjoying a few beers.
• City Tap House: This beer mecca in University City has a green roof deck overlooking Walnut Street complete with fire pits. New this summer is a series of Beer Garden BBQs that the restaurant is hosting on their terrace every Sunday this summer. Hot dogs, burgers, and $3 beers.
• Thirteen at the Marriott: Ample outdoor patio seating and a perfectly breezy happy hour beverage list at Thirteen make for a great beer garden-esque vibe. Live music during Wednesday happy hours adds to the sensation that you’re on vacation (the restaurant is located inside a hotel, after all).
• Sampan’s Graffiti Bar: Sampan’s outdoor “graffiti” bar is a favorite Center City watering hole. Philadelphia-area graffiti artists layered the walls and counters with custom street artwork. A plasma screen is suspended overhead so you can catch the Phillies game, and a clear plastic overhang covering the outdoor area means the rain is no deterrent. Word of warning: Chef Schulson’s bright Asian fare and refreshing drinks mean you may never leave.
• Raw: Perhaps we should call this a “sake garden.” Step outside into Raw’s private outdoor courtyard and lounge under the stars, sake in hand. In fact, the fifteen feet glass bar inside houses an impressive shelf of exotic sakes that caters to new tasters as well as sake connoisseurs.
• Jack’s Firehouse: Jack’s also offers some great outdoor dining in their side garden, with American food and exclusively local craft beer offered up as the perfect complement to the tucked away alcove.
• Manayunk Brewery: The Manayunk Brewery and Restaurant is situated right on the mouth of the Manayunk Canal and its sprawling outdoor deck boasts amazing views of the Schuylkill River. It’s arguably one of the city’s largest and best alfresco dining areas. Bonus: the beer is brewed on site.
• Independence Al Fresco: Located in an amazing location right on Independence Mall, the Independence Al Fresco Cafe makes for the ideal respite from sightseeing or the daily work day. Hang out at the cafe with a snack or a drink and enjoy an impressive architectural backdrop made up of Independence Hall, The Liberty Bell, the new National Museum of American Jewish History, and the National Constitution Center. While you’re soaking it all in, the Cafe offers simple American snacks, plus hand-crafted beers (including our Victory Summer Love Ale!) and wine.