Stephen Starr is hated by some, but loved by many for the innovative restaurant concepts he has brought to Philadelphia. When a new Starr establishment opens, you can bet it’s going to be the latest “it” place for dinner and/or drinks, which comes to the chagrin of those who prefer an authentic experience over theme park dining.
I have to admit I fall somewhere in the middle, believing that I reject pretense, yet I have eaten at virtually every one of Starr’s restaurants and enjoyed myself the majority of the time.
Starr’s latest endeavor is Frankford Hall, a beer garden in Fishtown. At first I rejected the notion. Beer gardens are supposed to be big tents filled with sweaty people sitting at long tables drinking yards of beer and singing Bavarian tunes. A slick corporate space with valet parking and bouncers wearing earpieces does not usually come to mind.
But I’m curious, and I’ll try anything, so we headed there last Saturday night to meet friends. Luckily, we found street parking, and upon entering, even found a long table for drinking liters of beer. There is an inside area at the front, which leads you to the open air beer garden in the back. All we could say was, “Wow, this place is cool!” Picnic tables, umbrellas and trees with twinkle lights make this an enchanting atmosphere, especially at night.
It’s very laid back, too. There are no waiters or waitresses. You sit wherever you like (you might even make new friends by sharing a long table) and order drinks from one of several bars. Same for the food, which was the night’s biggest disappointment. (I’ll get to that in a minute.) Of course, the beer list is mostly German with the usual standards like Franziskaner, Spaten, and Paulaner, which you can order in half or full liters.
I wouldn’t come here for the food, even if you just want bar munchies: $7 for a pretzel with cheese sauce that was mediocre, $8 for a tiny portion of way too salty spaetzle with bacon, bratwurst with red cabbage that was left on the plate. Maybe the frankfurter and french fries would be a better choice, but we didn’t try them.
For really good German food and a larger beer selection, go to Brauhaus Schmitz, a beer hall on South St. But for a night under the stars, Frankford Hall is in the running for the latest “it” place to enjoy biers in the city.