The benighted bar space at 216 S. 11th St. should be reinvigorated soon. Its new tenant, Strangelove’s (whose name is pointedly not a reference to the famous film), got support from the Washington Square West Civic Association at its monthly zoning meeting Feb. 26, and while the gastropub still needs official approvals, signs are positive.
The location has not always enjoyed such a positive vibe, however. Long occupied by Doc Watson’s, a favorite of the underage university crowd, it most recently housed Blue Bear and The Butcher and the Brewer, both of which lasted less than a year and left a bad taste in the mouth of the Wash West Civic. Strangelove’s is poised to remake the spot’s reputation with a spiritual makeover and a focus on the neighborhood.
As we reported earlier this week, this fourth venture from the folks behind Local 44, Memphis Taproom and Resurrection Ale House will be in the same vein as their existing establishments, with “elevated bar food” at an affordable price point. The kitchen will be chaired by Paul Martin, whose tenure at Parc ended yesterday. While the chef does have a Cajun background and previously ran the kitchen at Catahoula, expect the same dense, “gastropub”-style fare that has worked so well at Strangelove’s siblings.
Brendan Hartranft, one of the three partners in the operation, promises a restaurant committed to its neighbors and conscientious of their concerns. As a lover of craft beer and a dyed-in-the-wool Philadelphian, he’s looking to bring “food that’s beyond edible” and beautiful beers to the Washington Square West neighborhood, which is currently underserved in that particular niche. His pedigree is sterling, with stints at Nodding Head and the Foodery, and his other three establishments are well-loved and well-patronized by their neighbors. His partners include his wife, Leigh Maida, and longtime associate Brendan Kelly.
The interior of the bar will see minimal changes, and the current floor plan calls for 158 seats, about 50 of which are bar stools. With 18 taps and two beer engines on two floors, expect a fully-stocked bar with top-shelf international and domestic craft beers and a higher-end whiskey menu to pair with dinner. Like its forerunners, Strangelove’s will eschew the “waxed mustache” attitude of other gastropubs, opting for an all-inclusive, child-tolerant atmosphere and a wallet-friendly menu. The contentious third floor of the building will not be included as part of Strangelove’s, nor will the restaurant carry over the amusement permit from the Doc Watson’s days, leaving the spot’s history as a music venue in the past.
The Civic hopes Strangelove’s can “restore some sanity” to 216 S. 11th, and Zoning Committee members voiced few concerns, so the liquor license transfer should go smoothly. While the space will be physically ready in two weeks, opening will be suspended pending said transfer. Hopefully, Washington Square West will soon have a neighborhood bar that it can brag about.
Photo by Sandy Smith