With all of its retro signage and vintage jewelry shops, the intersection of Eighth and Sansom streets has a definite old world feel to it. And when George and Vasiliki Tsiouris took over Coco’s, a 30-year-old bar and grill, the restaurant was most definitely stuck in time. With a solid selection of bar fare and rock bottom beer prices, it was the kind of place that served a purpose in the neighborhood — a local spot to grab a drink after closing up shop, a quick lunch or maybe even a stiff one after closing a particularly profitable diamond deal.
When the Tsiouris’, owners of modern Greek restaurant Opa and the adjacent Drury Beer Garden, heard that the bar was on the market, they jumped at the chance to take it over. “We’re passionate people, we like getting our hands into something new,” says George.
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But with a steady stream of regulars and decades-long history in the ‘hood, revamping Coco’s into Craftsman Row Saloon was all about finding the ideal balance of old and new.
Tearing up the carpet, adding a fresh coat of paint and a few pieces of kitschy taxidermy, the Tsiouris’ flipped the space in a little over a month’s time and brought in Opa sous chef Rich Freedman to tackle the menu.
“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel,” Freedman says. “We’re reinventing the quality.”
There are plenty of holdovers from the Coco’s days, like French onion soup, chicken wings and corned beef sandwiches, but with Freedman in the kitchen, everything is being made in house. Beef bones are roasted for the base of the French onion, wings are tossed in a stout glaze and the corned beef in the Reuben is house-brined brisket. Of course, some things never change, like the optional addition of Campbell’s tomato soup to the cheddar, American and Swiss grilled cheese.
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Even with a relatively straightforward menu, Freedman is playing with house-ground sausages and charcuterie for a meat plate, sliding seasonal vegetables into salads, and curing his own bacon for the turkey BLT.
Newcomers to this Eighth Street classic will be happy to see a playful menu of $10 cocktails like the Whiskey Pickle (whiskey, dill, lime juice and long hots) and an approachable wine list and plenty of craft drafts, but there’s no arguing that it’s the $4 Yuenglings and familiar fare that are keeping longtime regulars coming back for more.