Growlers, the new pub coming to 8th and Fitzwater from Jason Evenchik (Time and Vintage Wine Bar) and Jay Willard (Dandelion, El Vez), officially has a chef. Jerry Donohue, formerly of Spamps and Blue Bell Country Club, will be at the head of the kitchen. Growlers will open in the first half of September and aims to be a neighborhood hangout. We caught up with Donohue about what to expect on the Growlers menu and about what is in store for his team at the Yards Smoke ‘Em If Yous Got ‘Em competition, where he will be the defending champion.
As the opening date moves closer, Growlers is working on finishing up the menu and getting the front of the house ready for business. “It’s going to have a classy pub feel with exposed brick and copper topped tables,” says Donohue. This local hangout atmosphere means the team at Growlers wants their customers “to be comfortable coming back one or two or three times a week,” says Donohue, “We want this to be a spot where people from the neighborhoods will come to after work for dinner and a couple of beers.”
The cozy neighborhood feel that the pub hopes to portray starts with a menu that keeps people coming back. Donohue says “We’re getting the feeling now that customers don’t want white bread and national canned beers anymore. They want real food and real beer. They want it to be interesting and quality food.” And if they’re true Philadelphians then they also want soft pretzels, and Donohue is way ahead of them. “I’m working on a recipe for artisanal homemade pretzels in the restaurant,” Donohue says, coming in whole wheat and rye at first then special flavors like sundried tomato down the road.
Donohue also wants to assure that all diets can eat at Growlers. On a recent trip down the shore with friends Jerry witnessed how they cooked for a member of their family with a gluten allergy. Inspired by the trip Donohue plans to offer gluten free options with the weekly specials. “There is still good food that is gluten free and dairy free,” he says, “I want to allow people to have the same dining experience when they have these afflictions.” This means gluten-free soft pretzels too, a recipe Donohue has been researching for the restaurant. Other menu items include fare like pork belly tacos and smoked salmon along with traditional pub dishes like burgers and wings. Short ribs and soft pretzel-stuffed chicken will make an appearance alongside the seasonal craft beer list.
Of course Donohue’s hobby, BBQ competitions, will see its way on to the menu as a weekly specials. After all he was part of the winning team, the Master Basters, at last year’s Yards Smoke ‘Em If Yous Got ‘Em competition. “Last year we barbecued five different things all day and then decided to enter our ribs so this year we’ll probably be making some last minute decisions,” he says, “But Growlers might be seeing some of the ideas that come from this year.”
As Willard, Evenchik, and Donohue start hiring their team there is one ingredient they are looking for in each new member: the ability to have a good time. If this fun energy rubs off on their customers then Growlers should get the atmosphere they’re looking for. “After all,” says Donohue, “what’s the point of cooking if you don’t have fun?”
Growlers Bar [Facebook]