Category Archives: Pubs, Taverns and Bars

Season Finale – Franklin, Continental and Whiskey

The Franklin Mortgage and Investment Company

Speakeasies have become a favorite on Debora the Explora’s Bucket List this winter. We approached the award-winning Franklin Mortgage and Investment Company for a second attempt. We missed it on a previous chilly night when the street was filled with a long line ahead of us. But this Friday night we made it and it was worth the wait, not just for the cocktail concoctions but the surprise that was awaiting us!

Out on the sidewalk a handlebar-mustached fellow gave us the green light. Through the dark doorway we entered into a narrow, dark prohibition den with black walls illuminated by chandeliers and tea lights. Booths for intimate tete-a-tete conversations ran along one side, facing a bar that ran the length of the room. The host escorted us to seats at the glamorous bar where the bartender immediately offered his services. The drinks were sophisticated and original, topped with fresh fruit and poured over massive handmade ice cubes. We ordered an old-fashioned and a specialty bourbon cocktail.

Here is where the surprise occurred: My husband was recording our visit with his GoPro camera which inspired a conversation with two handsome young guys sitting next to me– Kyle & Rick. They were so funny! The playful conversation followed and we had so many laughs together that they invited us to join them for dinner. Drinks on Kyle & Rick and an invite to dinner. A first!

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The Franklin Mortgage and Investment Company
112 S 18th St, Fl 1st,
Philadelphia, PA 19103

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The Continental Mid-town

Walking a few blocks, we continued our evening at The Continental Mid-town, a Steven Starr establishment. The dining room is impressive with a vaulted ceiling, two-stories high, featuring an enormous chandelier made up of nearly 100 lightbulbs dropping from vertical stems. Around the second floor perimeter is a railing lined with suspended egg-shaped chairs, swinging and facing each other like love-birds.

Packed with diners, the hostess directed us to an elevator that carried us to the rooftop patio while we waited under the stars and continued the comedy! Rick is an avid photographer and shared a photo ap “snap seed “with easy to use filters. We hardly had time to enjoy the patio when we were called to our table. The food was Starr quality. We ordered small plates of roasted brussel sprouts, creamy macaroni and cheese, and pork tacos wrapped with scallion ribbons. We finished with decadent flourless brownies, pure ice cream and chocolate mousse served with cups of joe in oversize yet graceful cups. Again, a gift from Kyle and Rick. Oh stop! Thank you.

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Continental Mid-Town
1801 Chestnut St,
Philadelphia, PA 19103

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Village Whiskey

My energy picked up on the way to our third venue. Owned by Chef Jose Garces, Village Whiskey has been on my bucket list for two years! In the past, the bar was always too full as a walk-in or there were no reservations when I called ahead. Arriving at midnight seems to be the key this bourbon and burger joint, famous for duck fat fries.

A classic shape, it is a long, dark and narrow bar decorated with vintage black and white floor tiles. They are known for many kinds of whiskey obviously! With room in our stomachs for only one night cap, we toasted to our new friends with plenty more laughs–until we explore again.

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Village Whiskey
118 South 20th Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19103

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Dock Street Brewing Company

IMG_3297The Dock Street Brewing Company is housed in an old West Philadelphia fire house. Serving up delicious pizza, they are known more for their craft ales that won awards from the 1980’s to today. Their previous location was near Logan Circle in Center City when the 1980’s television drama “Thirtysomething” referred to their brews in their episodes.

Man Full of Trouble #manfulloftrouble  is one of their brews that refers to a Philadelphia Revolutionary War tavern. Behind the bar, the brewing equipment where they tap the beers regularly can be admired through large internal windows. The young hipster crowd with knit caps, beards and jeans looked like college students. We ran into another friend named Cory who works at the local university.

The interior architectural bones of the venue make an attractive backdrop to the dining room. Arched brick windows recall the bays used by the fire trucks of the past. The space is cavernous with high ceilings and lots of rustic tables nestled on the painted concrete floor between the front door and the back wall. Patrons also sit along the serpentine-shaped bar that extends the entire length of the large room, in front of a glowing wood-fire brick pizza oven. The wait staff passed back and forth all night with pizzas.

This night we met up with two sets of friends who have come along with us to explore other places this winter. The six buckteers! Bill & Mary split a pizza with us while Eric O. & Brian ordered calamari and French fried potatoes and leeks, washed down with Man Full of Trouble. We ordered brews & wine and I enjoyed my mock-tail seltzer water that was served in a bottle. Fancy!

March 13, 2015

Web site:

701 S 50th St,

Philadelphia, PA 19143

Near the intersection of S 50th St and Willows Ave

(215) 726-2337

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Tavern on the Hill

signageI was in the mood to hear some live jazz and clicked over to the WRTI website to see if they had a link to local jazz events. I found a link that led me to not just one but three venues that night! Two of the bands were in Center City and one was a musician in a tavern in Chestnut Hill — “Reverend Chris on the Piano”. The website stated “it’s New Orleans Piano Night in Philadelphia; Solo piano, swing, boogie, blues and much much more.” Being a marathon consumer of HBO’s hit show “Treme” about Katrina and NOLA, the chance to hear that kind of jazz in person on demand was very lucky. I called the restaurant  and someone said “Yes, he is playing and usually performs until 11pm”.  Excited!

Friday nights this January have been snowy and cold and so it was again. We approached the building, spotting a red waving flag under the streetlight — at the top of the cobblestone street in Philadelphia’s charming Chestnut Hill section.

Walking into the narrow, dark tavern we penetrated a dense crowd of patrons. Seats were being shuffled at the front of the bar, with someone saying “Take our seats”, pointing to the back. He introduced himself to us as Nick and we had a fun chat with him about the neighborhood. We discussed our blog and our previous discoveries in the Hill area. Nick, a local patron, set us up with perfect seats in the corner with a view of the dining room, Reverend Chris and his piano and the bar.

A landmark of the neighborhood, I remembered that I had lunched here a few years ago. Outside above the front door, there is a real pineapple mounted to the building which is a symbol of friendship and hospitality. The restaurant is small and romantic with beadboard and floral wallpaper on the walls, and dark wood everywhere — tables, carved moldings, a tin ceiling and an elaborately decorated bar.  Fresh greens were on the tabletops.

Please press play (Music: “The Treme Song” by John Boutté and by “I Wanna Be The Big Chief” piano by Reverend Chris, from Reverend Chris and the High Rollers Viper Mad)

The lovely bartender served us our mocktails and cocktails and we waited to finally hear the mix of NOLA and blues music. We thought we arrived during a break, but we were so disappointed when we realized Reverend Chris looked like he was saying goodnight to some fans. “Uh-oh. Noooo.” When I asked Reverend Chris he confirmed it, but he generously gave us two CDs! He is quite funny! We chatted with him a bit and planned to return because he is a constant provider of fine music here on Friday nights. Just next time we will get there way before 10PM! Thanks Reverend Chris!

Friday Jan. 30, 2015


Tavern On the Hill

Address: 8636 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19118

Phone:(215) 247-9948

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La Peg Brasserie

A french brasserie set in a converted historic pump house with a huge outdoor patio.

lapegAlthough Philly was waiting for the arrival of a Nor’easter, it wasn’t supposed to start snowing until 11pm so we headed out to explore. The evening’s quest was a restaurant known as La Peg, recommended by our friend, Matt Money, the bartender. Great choice!

Recently opened in the fall 2014 it is new on the scene. La Peg is housed in the Fringe Arts Building on Columbus Boulevard underneath the expansive and illuminated Ben Franklin Bridge. Inside, the industrial chic space is cavernous. It was previously a pump house with snaking pipes, heavy chains, iron beams and valved tanks overhead. A chunky clock the size of a mack truck tire is suspended in an iron grid.
The windows stretch from the ground to the second-floor rooftop, with views of the bridge, the Delaware River and the snow! On the sidewalk, diners wearing heels stepped gingerly on the ice. Patrons dined on the main floor or in the loft above the exposed kitchen. All seats at the bar were filled so we waved hello to Money and found a two-top in the corner.

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A five-piece band “Arty and the Hot Katz” entertained the crowd. One of the musicians was enwrapped in a sousaphone–the marching band instrument that resembles a tuba! The five guys wearing hats–bowler, fedora, cap– produced instrumental covers of famous rock and roll tunes…More Than A Feeling by Boston, Pinball Wizard by The Who, Midnight Rider by the Allman Brothers. Dare I say, it was comical to see and hear a sousaphone and violin producing classic rock tunes instead of guitars. But, their sound was fantastic and the customers clapped loudly after every set. Bravo!

We left early to beat the snow storm and next time we need to try out the menu.

La Peg

Address: 140 North Christopher Columbus Boulevard, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Phone:(215) 375-7744

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Randstead Room


Randstead Room

The theme of the night was hidden bars! We arranged a rendez-vous spot at a garage and waited for our friends Mary and Bill. Just a few steps away there was a rugged wooden door with a name painted above, “The Back Bar”, so we ducked inside to discover a tiny hidden bar. We texted Bill and Mary to find us. The small room had a short bar ten seats long in front of an ornately carved wooden wall. A colorful, illuminated stained glass mural shined along the back wall. The panels featured comical cartoon chickens having drinks in a pub! After a text from Mary “where are you?” I quickly realized there was a mix-up and we had parked in the wrong garage. We had not meant to be hiding from them–luckily they found us!

The attractive bartender named Diane explained that The Back Bar was actually part of “The Happy Rooster”. Both bars, decorated with roosters everywhere, were noisy and busy. The rustic unisex bathrooms had short, wooden doors with wobbly latches and tin wall tiles, much like an outhouse on a farm, and Bill had to duck his head to walk into one!

Now for the destination – Randstead Room. Will we get in tonight? We thanked Diane and bundled up to walk in the frigid cold. Gloved-fingers crossed! Down 3 blocks and up two, we turned into the dark alley. Visible at the end of the street blocked with a chain link fence and dumpsters was red light on the left. I warned them that the last time we approached there was a shadowy guy smoking a cigarette but this time the street was empty. A black door with the markings “RR” above a concrete stoop was the only indication of an entrance.

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We entered the narrow, entrance hall dimly lit by a red light. When our eyes adjusted to the darkness we viewed clusters of young people lingering in their winter coats–the dreaded wait-listers ahead of us. I walked up to the host to determine how lucky we were going to be. There were two groups before us and we were welcome to leave our phone number on the wait-list and return if we got a call. Determined to stay put, the host, whose name was Will, was professional and accommodated our perseverence pleasantly. Peering through the small diamond-shaped window in the door between us and the coveted “Randstead Room” we could make out the red decor. And Bill could also see two pairs of open seats at the bar. Soon Will gave us the green light to enter and somehow the guests were asked to shuffle down and make room for us to sit together. We were in!

The decor was very mid-century, as promised. It was a 1960s lounge with zebra-print carpeting and a large chandelier with red dangling crystals. Hung on the wallpapered walls around the cozy room were semi-nude paintings of reclining women staring back at us with bedroom eyes and tossled hair. The red bar top was edged with plump, padded black vinyl. The bar itself faced opposite red leather booths, filled with patrons. Rock-n-roll was on the speakers playing guitar, brass and drums. Derek, our bartender, provided cocktail menus and recommended the “Bartenders Choice”– just tell him what kind of spirits you like and he creates. Blackberry vodka smile fizz, a house-made ginger ale, a Bourbonella and a simple Skotch Sour were served, topped with fresh fruit from the bowls lined up in front of us on the bar top. The month-long wait was worth it. Next time we will order appetizers created in El Ray’s kitchen.

Randstead Room is physically hidden but is well known for its ties to El Ray, on Market Street. Another Steven Starr establishment, I read that you can ask the bartender at El Ray to lead you to RR by way of their kitchen.

January 16, 2015


Ranstead Room
2013 Ranstead St.
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 563-3330

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Garrett Hill Ale House

Garrett Hill Ale House – “Home away from home”

GH logoTHE BURBS! With the weather extremely frigid the willingness to drive too far was low. With a quick search near my zip code we found a few new choices, and one of them was Garrett Hill Ale House in Bryn Mawr. Known to the locals and the college crowd, the pub had some great reviews so we headed there.

From the street, the look was definitely inviting. There was the silhouette of a band in the window and people inside. The decor was modern with light wood bar and  flooring. We found two spots together at the bar, which is where we prefer to sit. There were 30 beers on tap with a menu describing each, which brings me to a confession. The current trend of offering so many craft brews on tap is a mystery to me. How do they offer so many kinds of fresh beer?

The bartender took care of us immediately. My bucketeer partner was packing his GoPro camera to document our night and captured our fun. Please press play:

Garrett Hill Ale House is known for their chef. They get a brownie point because the kitchen closed by 10pm but they extended for us. We ordered parmesan-rosemary wings which were huge and a surprise dish — duck spring rolls. Had to try them of course. Thin pastry with shredded veggies and duck meat rolled inside and fried — delicious!

The 5-person band, Dickens and Ballsworth, had an old-school playlist with sounds from The Big Chill and Purple Rain. The vocalist who could practically take a cover and make it his own. The boisterous crowd was filled with personal friends of the band but they were worthy of the loud applause.

There is an important rule about the bucket list — sometimes you have to make an effort to pull ourself out of your cocoon even though you may not want to. You could marathon stream boob-tube content but it’s always worth the effort to head out into the real world, even on a 22-degree night.

January 9, 2015

Garrett Hill Ale House
Address: 157 Garrett Avenue, Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
Phone:(610) 519-0500


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Town Hall Liquors

sign1I attended the lovely afternoon wedding of my friends’ daughter on a Monday in College Park near Washington, D.C. After the wedding reception, later in the evening, the guests gathered in the hotel “dome” area to unwind and congratulate the parents of the bride.

Our celebrations were a bit noisy so the hotel staff asked us to move the party into one of the rooms, which we did, but it was a small space for the talkative bunch. Someone said we should try to find a bar nearby, but being a Monday night there were few options and most of the pubs were closed early due to winter break.

I jumped into action, opened up my smart phone, and found one just a five-minute walk away. Then, I shared my blog with a few critical people, Chip the father-of-the-bride and Craig his son. They were surprised to see that I had experience with this task! How can you argue with Debora the Explora? It was easy to agree and said let’s give it a try.

logoWe outfitted ourselves with winter jackets and hiked up the street to the place called Town Hall Liquors. From the outside the establishment was looking rather bleak. There was a large, tacky highway sign with individual plastic letters spelling out the prices of the spirits. Walking across the asphalt parking lot, we headed for the front door with a plain, illuminated sign. I think the whole group began to doubt my suggestion.

Upon entering we were all pleasantly surprised. Within the large space there pinball games, pool tables and posters on the walls with a circular bar in the center. This college bar had a 360 degree bar offering good positions for people watching. A few patrons looked up and gave us a friendly nod.

The young bartender explained there were a few good draft brews on tap and he began serving us immediately. chipshandWe enjoyed the rock and roll music that Chip’s son played “Paradise By The Dashboard Light” by Meatloaf and at the end of the night our tabs were very low and our satisfaction high.

This bar also has an on-site liquor store specializing in kegs.

Dec 29, 2014

Town Hall Liquors
8135 Baltimore Ave
College Park, MD 20740
Phone number (301) 474-3322

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