A GQ City Guide: Philly, Without the Cheese

A divey bar with a rowdy side. Homegrown DJs keep the party young while pints of IPA, APA, and regular-ass pale ale keep it loud.

Mark Byrne October 2011

The New York Times

Rebirth Along the River

…Leading the neighborhood revival is Johnny Brenda’s, a stylish gastropub that manages to feel both macho and intimate. Named after the original owner, a Philadelphia boxer, the restaurant has vintage lamps salvaged from the street, local beers on hand-pumped tap (Victory Hop Devil, Yards ESA), and a mixed crowd of would-be artists, musicians and even some Penn grad students from clear across town.

An open kitchen lets you watch the pierced, tattooed chefs whip up seasonal dishes that have included goat cheese, arugula and watermelon salad ($8), and tuna steak with tempura rice cakes ($15). Littleneck clams are $1.50 each — half price during weekday happy hours (4 to 6 p.m.).

After dinner, the action moves upstairs to a new music hall that holds 250 and has played host to indie rock acts like the Walkmen, Tokyo Police Club and Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth.

Jess McCuan

The Restaurant Reporter

Farther north in Fishtown, the relaunched Johnny Brenda’s, from the folks at Standard Tap, occupies a 40-year-old former watering hole that’s now dominated by a large open kitchen. Start with a selection of oysters on the half shell, followed by an upscale version of the famous Philly cheesesteak sandwich; this one is stuffed with juicy flank steak, Brie, and grilled onions. Tell anyone that you’re headed over to Johnny Brenda’s and they’ll also probably recommend the grilled octopus. Take that advice; the tentacles are grilled to a perfect balance of crunchy and chewy…Read more by clicking on the dateline below

Andrew Knowlton, with additional reporting by Liz Mathews, Janet Taylor McCracken, and Dara Moskowitz

Philadelphia Weekly

Happy Ampers. Philly’s new music venue rocks.

Johnny Brenda’s is my local bar. You drink somewhere steadily for three years, you hear things. The rumor of a music venue on the second floor has been buzzing around this smoky room for as long as I can remember.

It was one of those impossible hipster dreams: a thousand songs in your pocket? A music venue atop your favorite bar? Well, we all got iPods, and now there’s a music venue on the second floor of Johnny Brenda’s. Dreams come true.….Read more by clicking the dateline below

Erik Bader