Philly food is so much more than cheesesteaks. Let us show you.

Philly Fridays: Bryan Kolesar of Brew Lounge

kolesarBryan has been a stalwart of beer events since I’ve been covering them in Philly. While he calls the ‘burbs home, there aren’t many beer events that he doesn’t attend – sometimes, I’m not sure how he does it. No matter how many or how few events I go to during Beer Week, I always run into him multiple times, and it’s always great to have a little chat about what’s going on, whether in the beer world or how we’re doing with our running. The guy knows his stuff so well he wrote a book about it, so definitely pay attention to these recommendations (and find him at one of his many book signings).

How long have you been part of the food scene in Philadelphia, and what drew you to it?

I began writing about beer (and indirectly, food) almost exactly ten years ago in 2005. Started out as one of those blog things – which is still going at – and brought visibility that took me to various platforms for writing about beer. I’ve done a couple of wine articles as well, but for the most part, it’s been about the beer.

The high point thus far was being approached in January 2014 to write a book in the Beer Lover’s series – “Beer Lover’s Mid-Atlantic”. Mine would focus on the Mid-Atlantic as defined by the publisher to be the entire states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland.

It just hit bookshelves (virtual and otherwise) at the end of May and I’m in full swing of promoting it doing book events, signings, etc.

What is your perfect day of Philly food – breakfast, lunch, and dinner?

I’ll answer this from a personally nostalgic perspective, as I used to live in the Fairmount/Art Museum neighborhood.

I’ve been a longtime fan of The Dutch Eating Place at the Reading Terminal Market. I’d grab breakfast at their counter and then do some fresh food shopping.

I’d get the groceries home, get some exercise around the river drives and along the Wissahickon, grab lunch, maybe alfresco at nearby Kite & Key, Belgian Café, London Grill, or from any of the numerous decent food stops in the area, and then take a nap (who am I kidding? I only wish I took naps).

I’m most comfortable with quality casual dining, so in the neighborhood that could mean either Zorba’s, Bridgid’s, or Rose Tattoo for dinner. Catching a show at North Star Bar would top off the night with late night music and snacks.

If you only had $10 to spend on a single food item in Philadelphia, what would you get?

My first roast pork, provolone, and broccoli rabe was a little over 20 years ago at Tony Luke’s in south Philly. I haven’t lost my taste for them and they still beat out the so-called signature city cheesesteak by a mile. They’re still under $10, right?

What would you consider your “local” – the place you visit most often?

While I live in the ‘burbs now, the answer would be Teresa’s Next Door, TJ’s, and the Flying Pig from Wayne to Paoli to Malvern. Iron Hill, Sly Fox, McKenzie Brew House, The Pour House, Station Taproom, and The Drafting Room also see me a fair amount.

If you want to talk about the city, it seems to me that I’ve been at Johnny Brenda’s in Fishtown, Kite & Key in Fairmount, Monk’s Café in Center City, Brauhaus Schmitz on South Street, and South Philly Tap Room in Newbold quite a bit more than any other one place. They’re all great examples to me of casual dining each with a unique perspective on food and beverage. Plus, at JB’s, a pool table and live music in a unique venue with a strong focus on “local” which happens to be in the middle of a growing neighborhood near an El station makes it all that much more appealing. Plus, I rarely leave there without a bag of their fresh-roasted coffee.

Where would you take an out-of-towner to get a true taste of Philadelphia?

Good question and I don’t know that I can answer it with a definitive establishment. I’d probably mull over our choices with a cup or two of our homegrown La Colombe coffee. However, I’m pretty certain it wouldn’t necessarily be a high-traffic corridor near hotels where you’re likely to find tourists. Rather, it would be somewhere to showcase Philadelphia’s quintessential neighborhood lifestyle.

Many neighborhoods have really changed over the years as the city and restaurateurs have searched out new real estate. That means it could be somewhere in south Philly around Passyunk Avenue…along Germantown Avenue in Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill…or 2nd Street in Northern Liberties…Fairmount Avenue in Fairmount/Art Musuem….the new stretches of University City from Market to Spruce in the low 40s…or Frankford Avenue in Fishtown.

We start with pre-dinner drinks at a comfortable but lively bar. Move on to dinner at a casual restaurant but with a well-structured menu. And end with drinks and live music. If all goes well, the out-of-towner will get a great glimpse into six hours inside one of classic neighborhoods.

What is your favorite food or drink event in Philly?

The Brewer’s Plate. Though, maybe it’s my most favorite and frustrating at the same time. It’s great because of how it brings together the best of regional food and beer. It’s frustrating because it’s become such a large, and well-attended, event that it’s near impossible to try everything. But the atmosphere is truly top-notch in the way in which it presents both food and beer together and the care that goes into the planning is evident.

You can follow Bryan on Twitter at @brewlounge. And be sure to buy his book!

Send us an e-mail if you would like to be featured on Philly Fridays.


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This entry was posted on August 7, 2015 by in Philly Fridays and tagged , , , , .
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