Philly’s bars are dropping out, falling victim to the pandemic as indoor gatherings are still a long way off. Bainbridge Street Barrel House in Queen Village went to Facebook on Tuesday to bid adieu after nearly eight years. Employees at The Gaslight in Old City were told earlier this month that it was finished after five years. Also done are The Bards in Rittenhouse (25 years), Toll Man Joe’s in South Philadelphia (nearly four years), and Manayunk’s Mad River (11 years), and Bourbon Blue (17 years).
There may be another: Manny Brown’s at 512 South St., which helped to define South Street through the years right from its opening as a rib joint in 1984. In recent weeks, say neighboring business owners, equipment has been sold and the many signed dollar bills adorning every vertical surface have been given away. Owner Lisa Carpino declined to comment.
Manny Brown’s was South Street, in many ways, its folding doors open to everything that the street had to offer, joining now-gone bars and venues such as Lickety Split, Jon’s Bar & Grille, and Dobbs. People still remember the night in May 2004 when a customer walked into Manny Brown’s, noticed TV lights and cameras, and reacted to the hubbub by heaving a chair across the room at M.J. Garrett, who was one of the housemates taping the Philadelphia season of the MTV series The Real World.
The bar was a popular stop before or after a show at the TLA — when there were shows at the TLA. The sign over the front windows, ringed with white Christmas lights, was a series of crookedly hung letters spelling out the name. Part of the “W” broke off a while ago; an apostrophe didn’t stand a chance.
The decor could be described as Mid-Century Philly Bar Classic: dimly lit and worn, with a light tang of beer and a whiff of wings and nachos in the air. The game was always on, and so was the jukebox blaring metal.
The status of the location in Summit Square in Langhorne is not known.
Manny Brown was a real person. In late 1984, months after its opening, Daily News columnist Larry Fields told how Irv Chacker and Gerry Poplar, who owned a popular restaurant called October at 26 S. Front St. in Old City (now a private residence in a new building), needed a name for their new eatery.
“One day they were sitting talking about the problem and in walked Manny Brown, owner of the Thriftway supermarket at Sixth and Federal in South Philly [now the First Oriental Market] — who also is Chacker’s brother-in-law,” Fields wrote. “Irv and Gerry took one look at him and let out a yell: ‘You’re it!’ He, of course, thought they had gone whacko and they spent the rest of the day talking him into letting them use Manny Brown’s as the name for their new South Street restaurant.”
Brown was given an ownership interest, and ran it by himself for five years before his death in 1997.
To delve farther back into Philly restaurant lore: Before it was known as October, Chacker and Poplar’s Old City restaurant was known as The Parsons Table, a popular spot from 1969 to 1979. That slice of town, incidentally, was a fairly bustling restaurant district back in the days before the opening of I-95, with La Famiglia, La Truffe, H.A. Winston’s, Old Original Bookbinder’s, and Downey’s among the destinations.