If Charlie was a sinner - to invoke the name of a Philadelphia bar - then Martha is a hipster.
East Kensington is getting a cool neighborhood bar that's been taking shape over the last year and a half at York and Martha Streets, just off Frankford Avenue.
Martha (2113 E. York St.) teams two developers (Marathon Grill co-owner Cary Borish and Mike Parsell) and Khyber Pass Pub alumnus Jon Medlinsky in an old building that was a cooperage years ago but was more recently an auto-repair shop. It's down the street from Philadelphia Brewing Co. and more or less across from Rowhouse Spirits Distillery. Soft opening is Dec. 11; grand opening is Dec. 17.
The centerpiece is a bar with a 24-line draft system. In a novel approach, only 10 of the lines are beers (both hoppy and Medlinsky's favorite, sours). Four taps pour nonalcoholic beverages, such as kombucha. Five dispense wine. Five serve cocktails, as Phoebe Esmon (Yachtsman, Emmanuelle) is developing a list based on local spirits.
Menu from chef Tim Kirkland is simple: vegetable plates, cheese, charcuterie, house-made pickles by Mike Landers, and hoagies made of quality, local ingredients and built on rolls from Pete Merzbacher at Philly Bread in Olney.
There's no kitchen hood, so all cooking is electric. (Speaking of electric: During a preview visit, Kirkland demonstrated a flavorful vegan dish of pastrami-spiced smoked beets, caraway-spiced sauerkraut, caraway-infused croutons, and a carrot "Thousand Island" dressing made of onion "cream," reduced fermented carrot juice, capers, and shallots.)
There are a few seating options, including a balcony, a banquette (with plenty of AC power to keep you charged), a living room-like space with a turntable and fireplace, a bar rail, and the bar itself, where food and drink menus will be projected on a screen. ("Do you know how much time I spent writing out menus every day at the Khyber?" Medlinsky asked. The menu and tap list are displayed in real time, so that when a barrel is kicked, its replacement will be noted.)
Next spring, there will be patio seating and bocce outside.
Hours: 4:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday to Monday.