According to the social media that I follow, everyone in Philadelphia has already stopped by Stephen Starr's Frankford Hall, the barely week-old German beer garden in Fishtown.
And why not! With spring in the air, and people itching to dine al fresco, Frankford Hall certainly has the space to pack in the hoards — 240 seats outside and 160 seats under cover of the open air industrial dining hall.Starr is undoubtedly a master of creating a themed atmosphere to accompany his restaurants, and he's done an excellent job of transporting diners to a huge, outdoor German beer garden complete with long communal tables and benches, four trees for shade, two ping pong tables, and even an oompah band in lederhosen and dirndl playing traditional Bavarian songs!
The atmosphere is relaxed and convivial, with patrons ranging from families with strollers, bros, the indie crowd, and your mom and dad. Everyone can rally around a stein of beer!There are 9 beers on draft, with most available by the half or full liter, and 10 beers available by the bottle. Most of the beers are German, but Yuengling, Miller Lite, and couple of Dogfish Head beers make the list, as well.
If you don't drink beer, a very short list of wines is available — one sparkling, one white, and one red. There is also liquor available, but the selection is limited. The bar doesn't even have the bottles on display, so you'll have to ask.Frankford Hall is set up like a fast food establishment, in that you order food at the walk-up counter, and if the food needs time to prepare a server will bring it to your table. Where you sit is up to you; find a spot and slide in. Drinks are ordered at one of the two bars. Beer and liquor can be ordered at the indoor bar, and beer only can be ordered at the outdoor walk-up window.
The menu is short and sweet, but filled with German classics like sausages, spaetzle, soft pretzels, German potato salad, red cabbage, and sauerkraut.Starr thoughtfully included a vegetarian sausage on the menu, which seems to be very similar to a Tofurky beer brat (our order taker was unsure about the sausage's origin). These are big, peppery, soy-based sausages that come with your choice of either sauerkraut of red cabbage. The warm, sweet and sour red cabbage is stewed with apples and spices until tender.
If you want to eat these like a hot dog, be sure to add a bun to your sausage order, otherwise all of the sausages come as is.You can further dress up your sausage (or pretzel and fries) with condiments from a couple of carts in the center of the beer garden. The curry ketchup has just a hint of curry, the sweet mustard has whole mustard seeds and is perfectly sweet without being cloying, and the Dijon mustard is quite spicy.
I was excited for the spaeztle, a little German egg noodle that can be so good, but the spaetzle with cheese and onions is a hot mess. Drowned in a grainy, heavy cheese sauce studded with caramelized onions, this is not a dish anyone would want to eat on a warm day. Not even sure a couple steins of beer could make this dish appetizing.
There is a non-vegetarian spaetzle with gravy on the menu, and, hopefully, it is much better.If you like to include something from the vegetable food group in your meal, there is a mixed green salad with radishes, as well as a cucumber salad on the menu. A sucker for all cucumber salads, we got the cool cucumber salad with red onions and dill sour cream dressing. Refreshing with just a hint of dill, the cucumber salad is perfect warm weather food.
Pretzel hawkers walk around with baskets of massive pretzels, but I couldn't bring myself to eat the equivalent of a loaf of bread. When I laughed at their size, the pretzel hawker informed me that smaller pretzels can be ordered at the food window. Next time.
The food is simple at Frankford Hall, and is probably not intended as the main draw. The outdoor dining and steins of beer are where it's at, mein Schatz!
1210 Frankford Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19125