Archive for April, 2009

It’s not easy being green. Or underground, for that matter.

Posted in bar hopping with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 23, 2009 by philadelphiaexbeeriment

“…I was walking among the fires of Hell,

delighted with the enjoyments of Genius;

which to Angels look like torment and insanity.”

–William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

We’re all familiar with the stairway to heaven and the ladder of success, but very few of us would realize that descent can also lead to new worlds and good things.  Not so the people at 12 Steps Down.  They have hidden their bar away in a den below ground, daring the adventurous to climb down and discover what lies hidden for them in the darker depths.

The brave will encounter, not a haven for Morlocks, but a strangely inviting expanse of sensual overload.  Like a well-made spaghetti western, 12 Steps Down offers a little bit of everything: the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Some traits may overwhelm the newcomer with delight, others may annoy; but overall, these traits combine to create an experience well worth reliving again and again.

Upon first setting foot on the green carpet, we couldn’t resist the impression that we were walking across a giant pool table.  The viridian field spread out before us, beckoning us inward as smoothly as entrants to the Emerald City.  We passed the actual pool table in the back; it seemed to grow out of the ground, a living extension of the rug.  Even the light stretching forth from the restroom corridor was green, glowing eerily like the special effects from a Stephen King TV special.

Soon, our ears were seduced by the strains of Jimi Hendrix and Cream, and we were forced to admit that we had finally discovered a bar where we didn’t feel the need to feed more money into the jukebox.  The final assault to our senses came in the form of a television with gigantic proportions.  It was Ray Bradbury’s wall-screen, transformed from fiction into reality.  What better way to enjoy our beer than to accompany it with a bit of sleuthwork, and take in the latest episode of Dateline in mammoth dimensions?

True, the service at the bar was a little slow.  But we really couldn’t fault the bartender for finishing his conversation with a regular before moving on to the uninitiated newbs.

Something truly pleasing about this bar is their beer list.  Even though three taps sit meekly at the corner of the bar, they are filled with a beer for everyone: one for the cheapos, one for the everyman, and one for the aficionados.   Although itty bitty in the eyes of most places blooming up these days, the bottle selection is shockingly varied.  Beers from PBC,Yards, and Victory line the shelves as well as other well known, non-locally crafted beers.

If you take a gander at the board behind the bar you’ll see what’s on tap and a dozen bottles that might only be available for a limited time.  But the most wonderful thing about this board is the prices scribbled alongside the beer (which is something all cash strapped beer lovers can appreciate).

But the most important thing we discovered at 12 Steps Down is a lesson Rowan Atkinson learned a long time ago: sometimes, things can be a little more fun down below.

* this post was previously posted at our Philadelphia Weekly page.

A Little Bit of Saving Grace

Posted in bar hopping with tags , , , , , , , on April 17, 2009 by philadelphiaexbeeriment
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Don't judge a bar by its cover.

Grace Tavern.  It was a name we’d heard passed back and forth between the lips of locals, peppered throughout conversations behind the bar and in the midst of parties.  We were informed of its status as a hole-in-the-wall that was, nevertheless, well worth a visit.  For us, it became like a legendary El Dorado, a promised land that only those in-the-know could reach.

We were not disappointed by our nighttime venture.  We walked through its misleadingly shabby exterior, into a realm cut directly from a Pink Floyd album cover.  Like Dr. Dave Bowman after confronting the Black Monolith, we were drawn forward into a landscape of strange hues and distorted geometry.  Grace Tavern can be summed up in only a few words.  The atmosphere?  Psychedelic.  The color?  Purple Haze.

Nevertheless, don’t let the trippy atmosphere fool you.  This hippie haven is well-stocked with the best in beer.  With featured drafts from Monks Cafe and Nodding Head, and a bottled beauty for almost every letter of the alphabet, this bar at 2229 Grays Ferry Ave will keep you happy all night long.

Sure, the bathroom may be kind of small, and the Bevador in the corner may look like a leftover prop from Forbidden Planet, but this bar screams “cool” as fiercely as a Bob Dylan record.  From the floral pattern etched into the ceiling, to the funky lighting, Grace is sure to please the flower child in all of us.  So hop aboard the magic bus and take a ride to Grace Tavern.

And if you should have trouble spotting it, just remember, it vaguely resembles the background from the original Whose Line Is It Anyway? set: