Uptown Beer Garden didn’t have the smoothest debut last summer. Shortly after opening to enormous crowds—turns out, Center City was thirsty for an open-air happy hour—it fell prey to L&I red tape during a crackdown on pop-up bars.
“We didn’t know what to expect — we got thrown to the wolves. We had 3,500 people the first day,” says Teddy Sourias, owner of Uptown as well as hotspots BRU Craft & Wurst, U-Bahn and the soon-to-open Cinder. “And nobody knows anything at L&I. You go in there, and they act like they don’t even know why they’re there. But we have things figured out this time.”
Opening May 19, this summer’s Uptown features twice the seating and a third bar to accommodate the 9,000-square-foot space. A new outdoor grill will be manned by veteran chef Jonathan Petruce, who’s serving an upscale, street food-inspired menu of portable snacks and sandwiches. In addition to Turkish chicken skewers, lobster rolls and Spanish octopus, he’s got the Philly classics covered—although no, there’s no faux-orange whiz on this cheesesteak, whose roll is slathered in beef fat rendered from marrow bones.
“Everything is made right here—we stuff our own sausage, we roast our own pork. It’s kind of like going to a barbecue…only at my house,” says Petruce with a laugh.
True to its origins, Uptown has the brews covered with a rotating selection of seasonal craft cans and an impressive draft list featuring the Uptown IPA, an exclusive from Pennsylvania’s own Pizza Boy Brewing.That said, don’t expect any craft beer snobbery. “We might be beer garden, but we have two margarita machines—the mack daddy ones, the big guys,” says Sourias. “We’re ready.”
If you go:
Uptown Beer Garden opens for the season tonight at 1735 JFK Boulevard. On Wednesday, May 25, swing by for the Center City Sips Preview Party (5-7 p.m.) featuring specially priced drinks and snacks, tastings and samples. Hours are Monday-Tuesday, 4-9 p.m.; Wednesday-Friday, 2 p.m.-midnight; Saturday and Sunday, private events only.