The couple had approached with a reasonable request: To share our oversize table. Then, he plopped a baby carrier right in the middle of it and jogged away to order a few pints at the bar; she settled into a seat, slid her shirt aside, and casually began feeding her infant an offering not available on the drinks menu.
Though not standard barroom fare, this lactation situation seemed more or less fitting at Craft Hall, the expansive, 35,000-square-foot, parent-approved brewery, bakery, restaurant, and playground that might best be summarized as alt-Chuck E. Cheese. Avram Hornik, who has created his share of boisterous twentysomething party scenes (see Concourse Dance Bar, which contains an actual “adults”-only ball pit), opened the place in March in partnership with Mainstay Independent Brewing, from longtime Sly Fox brewer Brian O’Reilly, and gluten-whisperer Alex Bois’ Lost Bread Co.
O’Reilly said creating a kid-friendly space just made sense for his business (the tanks, though visible from the bar, are all safely behind glass). “Craft breweries in America often have this really open feeling, and people feel comfortable bringing their children,” he said. Plus, he has two kids of his own; they’re becoming regulars.
I arrived with friends who, with an almost-3-year-old, seemed the target demographic for Craft Hall. They stepped inside with the wide-eyed, dazzled look of people about to enjoy a meal in a restaurant without having to feel self-conscious if their child should decide to sprint, screaming, through the place.
Through subtle cues, Craft Hall has developed a split personality. In front is the grown-ups section — signaled by chandeliers, a wall of potted plants, vintage sofas, bleached tree branches stretching skyward, and college basketball on the flat screens.
We navigated past that stylish front bar into terrain that, in an unwritten rule, was reserved for families. There, we found tables scattered with items including (but not limited to): sippy cups, half a banana, a baby-changing pad, a stuffed sloth. All around us, the good people of gentrified Fishtown trailed their children into a play area overrun by tiny humans: clambering atop Skee-Ball machines, shooting arcade basketball, disappearing into a large pirate ship play structure and tumbling down a spiral slide. (Posted playground rules include: “Don’t be gross! Wear shoes and socks at all times.”)
As instructed by a warning posted on every single table and on the menu, we ordered at the bar: the Dialing In Tropical IPA ($7 for a pint), which was crisp, hoppy, and not overly fruity, and the Craft Hall Old Fashioned ($10), a pleasantly citrusy, boozy, malty concoction with barrel-aged orange bitters and beer simple syrup. We took a number and waited for food to be delivered to our table — much of it piled atop Lost Bread dough, like a Kennett Square mushroom pizza gooey with a washed-rind, Raclette-like cheese from New Jersey’s Valley Shepherd Creamery ($15), or a fried chicken sandwich slathered with pimento cheese and pickles on an emmer roll ($15).
As we sat, a postmodern ballet of mayhem unfolded around us. Strollers obstructed the aisles. A child on roller skates almost careered into the open kitchen. My 3-year-old guest sat still long enough to positively review the pizza, then scampered toward the playground, his mother darting after him.
It’s not exactly relaxing, she acknowledged later. Still, compared with the other options, she said, “This feels so civilized.”
901 N. Delaware Ave., 267-297-2072; crafthallphilly.com
When to go: For those not planning around nap time, watch social media for music acts and other events. It’s open Wednesdays and Thursdays, 4 p.m.-midnight; Fridays, 4 p.m.-2 a.m.; Saturdays, 10 a.m.-2 a.m.; Sundays, 10 a.m.-midnight.
Bring: Your whole family. There’s no judgment here.
What to order: Beers range from lagers to Belgian to American styles. The Poplar Pilsner is a popular potable. Flights are available on request, as are pitchers and growler fills. Or try a beer cocktail like the Trolley Car, made with Aperol, Grand Marnier, and an unfiltered IPA.
Bathroom situation: A multistall bathroom (with a changing table, of course) that is about as clean as can be expected under the circumstances.
Sounds like: A boisterous 95 decibels reverberating off the concrete floor and high factory ceilings, with a dance-y, upbeat bass line backing a trillion shouting kids.