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