Bar Review: Local 44

A new West Philly watering hole has all the right ingredients: Good beer, decent food, pleasant decor. So what's missing?

By Rachel Riot and Kunoichi Erica
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 10 | Posted Mar. 20, 2009

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A bar, like a fine wine or a pair of Doc Martens, tends to improve with age. In a few years, when it’s built a bit of character and achieved that lived-in quality, perhaps a spirit will inhabit what, for now, remains only a building.

Finding a good bar is like finding a soul mate. The very air around you should sing softly of future memories forged on the strength of the bond created upon that first fateful meeting. When your foot crosses the threshold for the first time, the force of the atmosphere should drag you forward like a willing victim into Dracula’s castle. The personality of the bar should fold itself around you, whispering assurances that you have indeed entered a space that is alive: with excitement, with curiosity, with warmth.

Yet the first thing one notices upon entering Local 44 is that the walls work to block out the whip of the wind outside. It whispers only, “Now you can remove your jacket.” That is all. No magical tinkling of invisible faerie bells, no electrical shock through the nervous system, tells you that there may be more here than meets the eye.

It’s not the decor that throws the place off. The brick-red walls perfectly compliment the paneled floors. The thin, dark-wood doors that lead into the kitchen look like they’ve just been shipped from a European chapel, thanks to the stained-glass window-slits that adorn them. Even the bar has a touch of old-world glamour, as the line of light bulbs that dangle down from wires in the ceiling seems like it could come from some unused corridor in Thomas Edison’s factory.

It’s not that the beer list is unimpressive. In fact, their fine selection of craft beers, ranging from Slyfox to Ommegang to St. Bernardus, may be what saves this West Philly bar from obscurity. Because even college students need good beer once in a while.

Perhaps it was a combination of small things. It may have been the fact that the large frames that hang on the walls contain pictures of rather nondescript glasses of beer. A bar should serve beer, but decorate with items that give it a touch of personal flavor, and not of redundancy. The food, according to friends, was decent, but not great. They even sold out of two beers during a two-hour interval. And while the demands of Philly Beer Week must have been high, perhaps better preparation might have been in order.

Then again, maybe it’s just new. A bar, like a fine wine or a pair of Doc Martens, tends to improve with age. In a few years, when it’s built a bit of character and achieved that lived-in quality, perhaps a spirit will inhabit what, for now, remains only a building.

Rachel Riot and Kunoichi Erica are pseudonyms for the bloggers at Philadelphia ExBEERiment, where this post first appeared.

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Comments 1 - 10 of 10
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1. Anonymous said... on Mar 20, 2009 at 12:53PM

“I think the worst thing about Local 44 is actually the service. If they addressed you in a timely fashion, told you that the beer you ordered was still on its way 5 minutes after you ordered it (not even mentioning the fact that it might take five minutes to get your beer), you know things like that...”

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2. Ben said... on Mar 20, 2009 at 12:54PM

“I've been to this place a few times now and I'm sure it's none of the things you mentioned, though those don't help. No sir, the problem here is that the place is full of d-bags. People who don't care that they have a great selection of beer at their fingertips, that don't mind whatever food they're shoveling into their mouths because they're more concerned with getting laid. It's isn't Local 44's fault, but this place sucks pretty hard unless you're just stopping by for lunch when it's not jam-packed full of unappreciative, rich, west philadelphians (read as: Drexel/UPenn students).”

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3. said... on Mar 20, 2009 at 03:00PM

“A College bar with character??”

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4. podunkom said... on Mar 21, 2009 at 07:55AM

“I tried it out for the first time the other day. Beer list excellent, food interesting and good, service personal and excellent. I got a nice vibe from the room. I guess that's just me?”

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5. Leigh said... on Mar 21, 2009 at 09:12AM

“My favorite experience at Local 44 during this past Philly Beer Week was encouraging people to drink up from one or another particular kegs so we as a group of drinkers, bartenders and servers could move on to the next exciting beer on our beer week agenda. I found this sense of enthusiasm for the beer and the community vibe that was generated really satisfying as a bar owner and a beer enthusiast. Or you could call it unpreparedness, as it's labeled above. Whatever. You're the anonymous expert on our business model apparently. Leigh@L44”

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6. Anonymous said... on Mar 23, 2009 at 04:23AM

“in local 44's defense, their bartender on sunday nights (the only time i've ever been there....) is very attentive and really helpful. and they have an amazing finnish porter on tap. my only complaint is that the noise-producing decor (hardwood floors and tin ceilings....) make the volume of 5 people comparable to that of 20 people in a more acoustically well-thought out bar.....”

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7. Smetzger said... on Mar 23, 2009 at 11:49AM

“One thing that this bar needs, for sure, is a happy hour. The occasional themed happy hours are cute and all, but Local 44 really needs at least a few hours each day during which you can obtain a beer besides Kenzinger for less than $4 so that the proletariat can go drink there more than once in a blue moon. Speaking of prices there, what's up with the bar's weird pricing system ($3.30 for Kenzinger, etc.)?”

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8. Anonymous said... on Mar 23, 2009 at 11:32PM

“It's a great bar as far as I'm concerned, but to me the far more important factor is that it's a great neighbor. The previous place was the scene of constant bar brawls, drunken patrons, and sidewalks littered with cigarette butts and trash. This place is clean, most of the patrons leave (relatively) sober, and I have yet to see a police car called (and I live right up the street). Good bars are all over the city, but a good bar that's good to the people who live nearby? That's something I'll raise a glass to :)”

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9. Phillybits said... on Mar 24, 2009 at 08:01AM

“I've only been there a few times myself, but I find the exterior and interior to be very pleasant, neat and clean, as opposed to the hole in the wall that previously held the location.

Furthermore, the name itself is warm and inviting to regular year-round residents who actually may appreciate how the right business, properly placed, can be beneficial to a neighborhood as opposed to just being another pop-up sausage fest factory for late night binge drinkers who previously would've left the joint only to break bottles and shed vomit all over the sidewalk out front.

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10. Anonymous said... on Apr 13, 2012 at 10:12PM

“Worst bar ever. Bartender tried to molest me on the way out. Over priced drinks and ugly bartender. Stay home and fuck yourself”


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