Fishtowners rejoice- you have a new hangout. The new Memphis Taproom [where: 19125] opened this week at the corner of Memphis and Cumberland, and Joe and I went to check it out last night.
It’s a simple spot– a bar, a small dining room, wooden floors and lighted glass blocks for decoration. The menu, too, is simple: hot appetizers, salads, sandwiches and platters, with an excellent selection of local beers on tap and reasonably priced bottles. The food is straightforward– burgers, fried chicken, sandwiches– but it’s clear that chef Jesse Kimball, formerly of Center City’s Matyson, knows what he’s doing. There are little creative twists on each dish that make this bar food into something special. Jacket potatoes come with real, aged cheddar, not the canned stuff; steak frites are tinged with garlic and served with a light arugula salad and excellent fries. Fish and chips can be ordered with fish, or with miso-marinated battered tofu. The hot appetizers are substantial enough to satisfy late-night drinkers, and the meal portions are filling without the giant-plate excess offered at so many Philly restaurants. Joe’s pulled-pork sandwich was a toasted roll filled with smoky, tender pork, spicy barbecue sauce and an inventive smoked coleslaw.
Memphis Taproom has only been open for four days, so some of the kinks are still being worked out: not all of the beers we ordered were actually available yet, and desserts, brunch and the late-night menu aren’t up and running yet. Still, there’s no question that this will be a regular hangout for Fishtown locals and neo-Fishtown hipsters alike– they were represented in just about equal numbers when we visited. It’s a balance that many local businesses find difficult to strike, and Memphis Taproom is succeeding so far: enticing hipsters with retro decor, lots of vegetarian and vegan options, and a sophisticated beer menu, while also making longtime locals feel welcome with reasonable prices, tasty interpretations of local classics like pirogies and Polish sausage (a dish that’s close to my Pittsburgh heart) and an unpretentious atmosphere. (No cheesesteaks on the menu, though.)
The Taproom’s website says that Kimball is “currently studying the foodways of America’s inner cities,” and he’s certainly picked a good place to do that. I for one am looking forward to walking down the street and sampling his interpretations of Philly cuisine on a regular basis. Especially those steak frites.