The West Philly spot brews up standout beers — and community change
They said it would be loud. They said another bar would draw more drunks. They said it would hamstring a decade of progress around 50th and Baltimore, where boarded-up houses and abandoned storefronts have gradually given way to occupied apartments and progressive businesses. But after some tense negotiations, the Cedar Park neighborhood agreed: A brewpub could be more than an unsavory watering hole. When Dock Street Brewery opened in August after a five-year absence from the city scene, thirsty throngs from Penn and beer buffs citywide flocked to the not-quite-gentrified corner. And, admittedly, with all those geeks yammering in the erstwhile firehouse, it gets pretty loud.
The industrial look of the place marks a departure from the Center City polish of the original Dock Street location on Logan Square. In West Philly, it’s elbows on the tables, jackets on the floor and chess games at the bar. Servers are just as likely to take a break and chat up a regular as they are to take your order. But one glance around the room is all you need in the way of menu guidance. With huge copper brewing vats at one end of the bar and a wood-fired oven roaring away at the other, the top picks are obvious: pizza and beer.
Award-winning brewer Scott Morrison concocts Dock Street’s assortment of flavorful beers. Each day’s selection is scrawled across two chalkboards, with vital stats like alcohol level and plain-language tasting notes. Standouts include Gail’s Ale, a quaffable, malty-sweet elixir, and Rye IPA, a heavily hopped number with a toasty aroma. The Helles isn’t as big and bold as some of the other offerings, but its bitter-sweet balance makes it a good choice for the uninitiated.
With two-thirds of the property dedicated to brewing, it’s obvious that beer trumps food. But Sicilian owner Rosemarie Certo, original proprietor of University City’s Pizza Rustica, has a passion for pies as well. The margherita gets a woodsy twist with rosemary flecked over the usual crushed tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. The Flammenkuche, topped with caramelized onions, bacon, crème fraîche and gruyère, is a flavorful nod to the fancy French fare of the original Dock Street. Crusts here are thicker and chewier than those at last year’s pizza darlings (Osteria and Slice), but the oven ensures a slightly charred, non-floppy pie.
The rest of the menu suffers from Certo’s pizza preoccupation. Paninis cradle deli-sliced ham and canned tuna in flatbread. Dock Street’s veggie burger is your grocer’s Gardenburger. Fries emerge soggy, under-seasoned and cold. Take a cue from the regulars, who know the only thing better than the pies and suds is the energy that Dock Street has brought to Cedar Park.
Dock Street Brewery, 701 South 50th Street, 215-726-2337, dockstreetbeer.com