Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

4 Halloween bars you can’t miss in Philly | Let’s Eat

Also: A terrific brunch spot in Delco, and two beer-centric newcomers: a taproom in Center City attached to a bagel bakery and a tasting room attached to a pizzeria in Chestnut Hill.

Bar at the Nightmare Before Tinsel, 116 S. 12th St.
Bar at the Nightmare Before Tinsel, 116 S. 12th St.Read moreMICHAEL KLEIN / Staff

Up for a trick or treat? I run down four Halloween-theme bars in the city, all starting this week.

Also: A terrific brunch spot in Delco, and two beer-centric newcomers: a taproom in Center City attached to a bagel bakery and a tasting room attached to a pizzeria in Chestnut Hill.

If you need food news, click here and follow me on Twitter and Instagram. Email tips, suggestions, and questions here. If someone forwarded you this newsletter and you like what you’re reading, sign up here to get it free every week.

Michael Klein

Boos and booze: Here come the Halloween bars

The National Retail Federation says total spending for Halloween will reach $8.8 billion this year, of which I say $7.7 billion will be in odd-colored alcoholic beverages served in silly glasses. Want a scary bar scene? This year, I count four new Halloween bars in Philadelphia, plus the usual haunts such as McGillin’s Olde Ale House, which alleges that ghosts are its guests.

1. The Nightmare Before Tinsel Halloween Pop-up Bar has set its debut for Thursday, Oct. 3 at 116 S. 12th St., which for the last two years has been the site of a Christmas-themed pop-up bar called Tinsel from Teddy Sourias, owner of Blume, Tradesman’s, BRU Craft & Wurst, U-Bahn, Uptown Beer Garden, and Finn McCool’s Ale House. Atmosphere by Anne White, with a bar top by artist Scott Johnston, is completely Instagrammable: costumed bartenders, a room of 1,001 eyes, a coffin with a skeleton, zombie wall, a spider web alley, and theme drinks, such as the $15 Elvira, which blends Manatawny maple whiskey, apple cider, and apple schnapps and comes in a plastic skull souvenir mug. Nightmare will wrap Halloween night, as the bar must be knocked down and done over for the holidays as Tinsel.

2. Haunt will run from Oct. 3 to Nov. 3 on the second floor of the Pearl Tavern, which itself is in soft-opening mode at 1123 Walnut St., a former Irish Pub location. Owner Townsend “Tod” Wentz, who owns the Spanish destination Oloroso next door, has put this project in the hands of his general manager Alison Hangen, who straddles the local hospitality and artistic communities as founder of Arts in the Industry. In addition to theme cocktails and spooky horror-movie-themed decor by Hangen and Bill Strobel, there’s a full slate of special-events programming, including movie nights and collabs with beer and spirit brands.

The next two are more sophisticated:

3. At 2nd Sanctuary, Brian Sanders and his JUNK troupe are turning a former Victorian-era church at 21st and Christian Streets in Southwest Center City into a venue with assorted 1970s-themed attractions from Oct. 3 to Nov. 3. "The Phantom Portal VR Telecom Tour in the Spectral Garden Chapel” is an experience combining virtual reality, live action, and immersive theater. A second, “Dancing Dead Live,” is a performance telling what is described as the story of an old man dancing with death, watching his friends die, waltzing with a skeleton, and then digging them up. A third, “Zoltan’s Zarkade Escape Room in the Lost Lodge,” is an escape room based on the mystery of “Kid Scout Troop 244,” who disappeared one by one in the fall of 1975. Each of these experiences requires separate tickets. A maze and a costumed zombie-disco party (complete with cash bar) are free with a ticket.

4. Dark Passage, running Oct. 4 to Nov. 2 at 1004 Buttonwood St. (behind Union Transfer in the Callowhill neighborhood), is a themed indoor maze with a twist: Guests will start their tour at a bar called the Strange Spirits Lounge and may take their cocktails with them for what is billed as “an infernal take on the afterlife." Organizers say Dark Passage may take 30 minutes to two hours. Sarah Elger, a Penn alum who has designed theme park attractions for Disney and for Universal Creative (including Skull Island: Reign of Kong and Volcano Bay at Universal Orlando), conceived it as part of her Penn master’s of architecture thesis.

This Week’s Openings

Ambassador | South Kensington

Upscale corner bar coming next week to Seventh Street and Girard Avenue.

Condesa | Rittenhouse

Mexican restaurant from the operators of Suraya, part of the new Pod Philly hotel at 19th and Ludlow streets, opened Oct. 1, following El Cafe, its casual daytimer. A rooftop taqueria is on the way.

Emmy Squared | Queen Village

Detroit-style pizza specialist out of NYC is looking to open at Fifth and Bainbridge streets early next week.

This Week’s Closings

A La Maison | Ardmore

Illness has forced the temporary closing of this French BYOB.

La Pergola | Jenkintown

Longtime Middle Eastern spot has closed (several months ago, in fact); new occupant this fall will be Lilly’s, An Indian Experience.

Monsu | South Philadelphia

Peter McAndrews called it quits after nine years in the Italian Market as his lease was running out.

Plantation | Long Beach Island early warning

The longtime Shore restaurant will close Oct. 12. Local favorite Black Eyed Susans will relocate from its current location in Harvey Cedars.

Sa Bai Dee | Upper Darby

Retirement shuttered this Thai destination near 69th and Market Streets.

Where we’re enjoying brunch

Frankie’s on Fairview, 604 Fairview Rd., Woodlyn, 610-543-2300

City folks have their fill of brunch spots. Several years ago, the burbs started getting into the act. Food veteran Frank Dolce set up his comfy storefront BYOB in Ridley Township about four years ago. Simple hours (7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily) but ambitious food, including an impressive assortment of vegan dishes such as “chicken” & waffles and apple cake French toast. (His vegan cheesesteak won our contest three years ago.)

The Kitchen Sink Burrito ($11.50) was a belly-filling wrap of scrambled eggs, avocado, bacon, and roasted peppers, served with crispy but nongreasy cubed potatoes. Buns of Steel ($11, with a breakfast meat) are grilled cinnamon buns done French toast style and topped with a housemade white chocolate drizzle.

All this and nitro cold brew, too.

Where we’re eating

Spread Bagelry, 2401 Walnut St.

The Montreal-style bagel shop’s so-called Spreadquarters, which opened last week on the Center City side of the Walnut Street Bridge, has a lot going for it. One: Stunning views of the Schuylkill and Schuylkill River Park. Two: A bar with a selection of stellar beer by Workhorse Brewing Co. of King of Prussia. Three: Pigs in Everything Bagel Blankets, which you see before you. They’re the big Hebrew Nationals, wrapped in Spread everything bagels, baked, and served with spicy mustard, Spread’s own black-pepper ketchup, and sriracha mayo.

The pigs in blankets are one of several bar snacks unique to this Spread location. Besides traditional bagel sandwiches, there are flatbreads (including a smoked salmon with scallion cream cheese); Bachos (bagel chip nachos); and fries topped with “everything” seasoning.

This Spread location opens daily at 7 a.m. Workhorse hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.

Chestnut Hill Brewing Co., 8221 Germantown Ave., inside the Market at the Fareway

Lindsey Pete and Nick Gunderson have expanded their Chestnut Hill Brewing Co., inside the Market at the Fareway, by adding a taproom, decked out in greenery, with dedicated seating.

Menu has expanded beyond the thin-crust, wood-fired pizzas into a collection of salads and pastas — all vegetarian and in some cases vegan-friendly. Twelve taps are flowing, nine of which are Chestnut Hill’s own.

Dining Notes

Kennett Square hosts a restaurant week through Oct. 6. Northeast Philadelphia hosts one from Oct. 2-8.

Nick Elmi gives us tips on how to test drive his fabulously complicated Laurel cookbook at home.

Two beloved Pa. brands — Yuengling and Hershey are collaborating for the first time on a new beer.

Craig LaBan’s Q&A does not appear this week.