Fishtown Jumping

Photo: Alexis Olsen

THERE’S NO SHORTAGE OF CORNER BARS in Fishtown, a historically working-class Philadelphia neighborhood that has been steadily mutating, these past few years, into a more upscale one (so what else is new?)

Some of those drinking establishments are decades-old dive bars. The recently renovated Fishtown Tavern, above, straddles the line between what was, offering $2 drafts to keep longtime locals coming in, and what is and will be, with ambitious bar food like warm dates stuffed with goat cheese and portabello mushroom sandwiches.

Fishtown (the name comes from its history as the shad fishing center of the Delaware) is characterized by:

  • tiny 19th century row houses

  • electric trollies

  • abandoned industrial buildings on a massive scale

  • new construction in a hyper-modern style (similar to that in the Northern Liberties area, a few blocks to the south and a little farther along the gentrification arc)

  • a growing population of ex-Brooklynites, including my son Max.

On Sunday afternoon, he and I took a walk, and soon I was getting a tour of the latest developments — especially the rapidly changing Frankford Avenue corridor, a diagonal artery of mostly industrial buildings and old storefronts being adapted as we speak for use as restaurants, music venues and, of course, bars. Here’s some of what moved me to take my iPhone out of my pocket as we walked along:

Loco Pez, a new taqueria (with amazing-looking salads and $1.75 tacos) in one of many buildings with rounded or oddly angled corners

Scrumptious detail on a corner building

Little Baby’s, a new ice cream store on Frankford Avenue offering unusual flavors like Earl Grey Sriracha, next door to the also-new Pizza Brain

One of many fish-themed gates by Robert Phillips, a metal artist whose workshop was in Fishtown. He died last month at age 50.

El Bar, so named for its location under the elevated railway that runs along Front Street. It may look at first glance like an old-school dive bar, but don’t be fooled. It’s hip.

The plants on the Juliet balcony are a hint that someone lives above these commercial garages on Frankford

Above, a high-end, limited-edition motorcycle shop is coming in next to a hair salon called Parlour

A fine converted carriage house

As-yet-unrealized potential in a building next to a music venue called Barbary

Restauranteur Steve Starr’s Frankford Hall, above, an indoor/outdoor beer garden that opened a couple of years ago, has been a major turning point in the development of Frankford Avenue. A Korean barbeque spot is coming in next door.

About cara

I blog (for fun) here at casaCARA, and write (for money) about architecture, interiors, gardens and travel for many national magazines and websites.
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9 Responses to Fishtown Jumping

  1. Rick says:

    thnx Cara. i enjoyed that little jaunt!

  2. cara says:

    A gorgeous, and spot-on snapshot of Fishtown. Way to go, Cara!

  3. Judy Dean says:

    Love it. How much fun is it to be able to visit your son and make great discoveries like this!

  4. Cher Vick says:

    Loved this post, and love looking at old cities reinventing themselves….gives hope for Newburgh!

  5. Jenny M says:

    Love how these amazing buildings have had new life created for them. I had 2 days in Philadelphia last year and loved the city and the architecture, it reminded me alot of my home city Melbourne, Australia.

  6. Collin says:

    Great post – lovely summary of Fishtown. I live on the same block as Max. Actually just sold my house but am moving a few blocks away to a house a bit older, which I think would be right up your alley.

  7. cara says:

    It is right up my alley, Collin, if I’m thinking of the right house — a ‘double wide’ with an arched door and dormer windows? That house is beyond fabulous. Congratulations and best of luck with it!

  8. Collin says:

    You got it Cara! Next time you’re in town you’ve got to come over for a tour inside. I’ve loved your blog for awhile and would enjoy the opportunity to meet you.

  9. cara says:

    Gladly, Collin!:-)

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