1. The wait is over! Download the BeerAdvocate app on iTunes or Google Play now.
  2. Get 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine for only $9.99!

Johnny Brenda's

Not Rated.
Johnny Brenda'sJohnny Brenda's

Taps: 12 / Bottles:
Cask: Y / Beer-to-Go: N
BA SCORE
89
very good

36 Ratings
Ratings: 36
Reviews: 25
rAvg: 3.95
pDev: 10.89%
$$ - reasonable
[ Bar, Eatery ]

1201 Frankford Ave
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19125-3905
United States
phone: (215) 739-9684

visit their websiteWebsite view map and get directionsMap @johnnybrendas

Notes:
None, yet.

(Place added by: NeroFiddled)
Place: Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Latest | High | Low | Top Raters
Ratings: 36 | Reviews: 25 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of fishtownhxc
fishtownhxc

Pennsylvania

3.6/5  rDev -8.9%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 2 | selection: 4 | food: 5 | $$

since this place is owned by the same people as the standard tap, you'd expect the food and beer selection to be top notch, and it is. best place in the city to get a grilled pork sandwich after midnight (outside of a busy weekend). the taps rotate a fresh selection of local and regional beer, much like the standard tap, and the food is usually out of this world; like the tap, the best pub food in the city. don't bother going thursday through saturday nights unless you wanna deal with a bunch of wanna-be williamsburg fixed gear douches who inhabit the place and don't think it's cool to shower or bathe. in addition, it's not uncommon for a lot of the bartenders, especially the female bartenders, to be complete assholes and act like you don't exist. maybe it's because i wasn't wearing a cycling shirt with a reload messenger bag. either way, on several occasions, in addition to a few were the bar was practically empty, i have run into the worst bartenders at this place. you practically have to tackle one to get them to serve you, and i've gotten more attitude from the female bartenders at this bar simply because i didn't shout over the loudness in the bar at 10pm.

this place also has one of the best venues in the city to see a band, so for that alone it's worth it as well.

if the bartenders dropped the cooler than you act, this place would be the best bar in philly, regardless of who frequents it.

05-30-2008 14:52:40 | More by fishtownhxc
Photo of aes0300
aes0300

Pennsylvania

3.55/5  rDev -10.1%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4 | service: 3 | selection: 3 | food: 3.5 | $$

Johnny Brenda's is what you expect from a Philly bar. It's vintage rock and roll with a little attitude. Ok, It’s dark, grimey, and full local Philly punk sceensters. But don’t dare say this place doesn’t have any charm.

Head upstairs for live music and you will find a small stage and standing area which can get crowded. The small dimensions, however, make for an ideal setting to see a show. Food is served downstairs with what I would call an average beer list. You can find many local brews like Yards, SlyFox, Troegs, and Victory, which is fine by me.

I think what really makes this place is the atmosphere. Don’t expect to be blown away by an extensive beer list, but do come to see your favorite band and drink some local brews.

11-12-2007 17:33:52 | More by aes0300
Photo of MmmIPA
MmmIPA

Pennsylvania

3.86/5  rDev -2.3%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 3.5 | $$

For my first time coming to this seemingly corner bar,I was shocked.Awesome tap selection of everything local,Yards,Legacy,Flying Fish,Slyfox.I had a Slyfox rt. 113 ipa on cask and it was oh so dreamyand good too.I didnt eat there but the food prices seemed reasonable.The beer prices ranged from $3-5.50.I will for sure check this place out again.You walk in the bar and there is a nice sized bar and a pool table with some tables next to it and another bar in the back with the bathrooms beyond that.They have a upstairs but I didnt venture there.I had a good time here and well worth for people to go.

04-29-2007 03:40:51 | More by MmmIPA
Photo of NeroFiddled
NeroFiddled

Pennsylvania

4.33/5  rDev +9.6%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4 | $$

Johnny Brenda's is named for John Imbrenda, the Philadelphia native and professional boxer who used the name Johnny Brenda in the ring. He opened Johnny Brenda's in 1967, and sold it to Will Reed and Paul Kimport when he retired in 2003.

I'm not sure what can be said about Johnny Brenda's that hasn't already been said here. It's a great place. Excellent beer selection. Great food. Cool crowd. It's my local, so I'm kind of partial to it though. However, they have just added live music upstairs! THAT'S RIGHT, LIVE MUSIC UPSTAIRS!!!

I finally made it out and went to see a band called Below The Hudson. They were great, and the band that opened for them, Up The Empire, were really good too (I couldn't stay for the headliner, Cordaline).

Anyway, I was really impressed with the set-up of the place, the sound, and the quality of the bands. If they can keep booking bands of such high caliber I have no doubt that they'll become one of the premier places to see live music in Philly.

As you enter the bar is in front of you, there are bathrooms in a hallway to the left, and there's a lounge to the right and behind the bar (for when you want to get away from the music for a little bit). To the left of the bar is the stage, so you can see the band from the bar too. As you enter the big room the band is to your right and there's plenty of room to your left. It's all standing room, but there is a bar rail along the back wall. Stairs lead up to the balcony which is really impressive with a curling cut-out of the floor and "antique" railing made of black steel with a mahogany rail. There are a few tables with stools. The decor is minimal, with unfinished walls and a few antiques scattered here and there, but it's somehow really comfortable. Unpretentious, for sure.

For the $8 cover I thought it was really worth it; and I was able to get some good local beers (Troeg's Wheat and Yards Pynk). I didn't have any food, but the whole menu was available, and they had table service in the balcony.

It's really almost like two different bars now! I can hang with my friends, go upstairs to check out the show if they're not interested, and then come back down when I feel like it.

Way to go Will Reed!!!!

11-05-2006 15:07:13 | More by NeroFiddled
Photo of DarkerTheBetter
DarkerTheBetter

Pennsylvania

3.95/5  rDev 0%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 3.5 | $$

I was up in the neighborhood helping a friend landscape his backyard for the morning. After we got all sorts of tired and dirty, we were in need of fine drink and a good sandwich, so Johnny Brenda’s it was.

Upon walking through the front door, there’s a pool table right in the middle of things that seems to obstruct the flow into the building. It was also hard to miss that it was covered with a red felt. Interesting. We meandered to the back to grab some bar and to get away from the thundering jukebox. Once seated I was impressed to see that behind the bar faded right into the kitchen. It seems that more often than not, the kitchen is hidden away from things, but the view of the cooks doing their thing behind a row of bottles was nice. Looking around I noticed a lot of artificial wood paneling lending a 70’s feel to the place. I then started to notice that everything else was generally red, to include clusters of over-sized glass grapes up in the corners. The lowered ceiling looked red too, but I’m not sure it if was their actual color or lighting. The pool table started to make more sense now too. Getting ahead of myself here, on our way out, I noticed that the curvy window on the front door was tinted red too. Over all, the red was subtle but lent a groovy vibe to the joint. Also, the door behind the pool table made a lot more sense once inside. It was almost as if it made leaving inconvenient, kind of like how casinos make their exits impossible to locate so you stay longer. I’m glad this place was so nice, because I didn’t really want to leave.

The food we got was pretty good. I got the steak sandwich with onions and peppers, and my buddy got the pork. Both were really tasty and just what we needed after a hard morning of work. My sandwich was delicious, but the large strips of steak were a little bit stringy. I must add that the fries that came with were just thin little strips, as if a normal french-fry was sliced down the middle into thirds. The fries were really tasty with some sort of seasoning, but they seemed over-salted. Another neat addition to our meal was that we were given a bottle of catsup and a bottle of buffalo wing sauce! For a pepper lover, that was really appreciated. Tasty food for sure. Also, on the menu were some rather classy options like a hummus platter, a few different servings of octopus and falafels. I’ll be back for a more adventuresome dinner for sure.

The beers on for the day consisted of entirely local brews. I didn’t have my little black notebook, so I didn’t get a list, but they were all tasty. My buddy got Yard’s Saison and I got a cask Hop Devil, which was perfect for my mood. The local emphasis was really impressive. Made me feel all good inside.

The young lady behind the bar was pleasant and helpful, but she didn’t seem to know her beer all that well. Turns out she’s new to the place and to the state for that matter. She’ll figure things out soon enough. She did manage to never let my water glass get below a third full. That was very much appreciated.

I liked this place a lot. The vibe I got (and it most definitely was a vibe) was really good. I’ll take my girlfriend back for dinner sometime to check out the more exotic items on their dinner menu.

08-29-2006 00:32:57 | More by DarkerTheBetter
Photo of roan22
roan22

New Jersey

4.22/5  rDev +6.8%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | food: 4 | $$

Johnny Brenda's is so much better now that the young-to-mid-20's hipsters have F'd off to a more hip location. Now the crowd is older on average and less scene-y. Its never jammed packed either, even on weekends. I like that the bartenders who are women aren't tarted up in slut gear or forced to dress the same due to a uniform. The bartenders are really nice, and really different.

Please don't listen to all the suburban folk who continue the culture of fear in America. They are scared by the proximity of the El, an abandoned house, or the one occasional crackhead with no teeth muttering down the block. Hello...Girard Ave. is a major thoroughfare that is strangely empty at night. I just do not see sketchy looking individuals hanging out on corners or around cars, breaking into them, or gangs of thuggy kids on bikes, and I have walked blocks very late at night between Frankford Ave. and Berks St. and have not seen a soul, let alone felt scared. I really like this neighborhood for what it is, and if it turns into another sanitized Manayunk or Old City I will be sickened. Real cities aren't always safe, comforting places people, and difference is good.

Johnny Brenda's provides 10 taps of quality local craft beer, and interesting appetizer-size dishes of food. I like the Lolla salad with chicken on it. I don't really have experience with Standard Tap so I'm not gonna compare the two. Everyone knows the same dudes own both places. I have even been to The Fire on 4th and Girard and although its not a beer bar, the experience of going there was far more interesting than the patrons you'd find in boring Manayunk.

The jukebox or whatever means they use to broadcast music is ingenious (the jukebox is on but people's bad songs never play). But it is not metal music solely. I heard Depeche Mode, Yaz, Echo and the Bunnymen, Erasure, The Cure and other 80's club hits every time I have visited JB's. And no, there is no TV and yes, its smoky in there but who gives an F? You go to a bar to socialize, not to sit in a purified air chamber with a TV to entertain you. Whiners stay home!

05-04-2006 05:55:55 | More by roan22
Photo of Foxman
Foxman

New Jersey

4.22/5  rDev +6.8%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | food: 4 | $$

At last, I unearthed my notes on JB's...

You can say many things about the neighborhood, but it all comes back to "seedy." But hey, you can't always pick your neighborhood. You can likewise say many things about the atmosphere, but when all's said and done, the bottom line is, DIVE. And that's not at all judgemental, but rather a simple statement, because I'm OK with dives. It's dark, dingy, too smokey, rich with bar history and chipped formica tables, and with a fabulous aura of funk. I can almost imagine seeing the old, bald, pug-nosed ex-boxer who was sitting on a stool behind the bar, stogey tucked in his mush, many years ago when I visited this bar, well before its re-birth. (I do not remember why I was there then. Or leaving. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.) I mean, pretty much nothing in the apperance has changed. The pool table could be original, by the looks of it. Though, the juke box is a strong collection of new, not so new, and old. But man is it dark. Since I can't see well enough to really judge, I'll just have to assume it's basically clean.

But the beer, my friends, is mighty fine, with lines that sparkle, judging by the flavor, and a standard that is obviously very high. And the service is always a pleasure to experience, with knowledgable staff, each of them quick to refill, but not so quick that you can't make a change if you so desire.

The selection is local-riffic, and I've seen pretty much every brewery in the DelVal represented at one time or another. Sly Fox, Victory, Yards, Flying Fish, Landmark, Stoudt's and others, all make an appearance, just like down the road at Standard. Certainly, there's generally something for every taste.

And the food is a solid asset as well, with some of the best fries I've had in a long time. Sandwiches are strong, and the octopus is a refreshig surprise, so much better here than at Monk's. And I always enjoy the pastry mushroom cigars. The kitchen is in full view, which, depending on your point if view, can be good or bad. I liked it though.

So, yes, it's in a very threadbare neck of the woods. And inside, time seems to have stood still. But not where it counts most, and with the funky air of insouciance it exudes, combined with the fine ber and food, this is one establishment well worth double checking your car alarm to enjoy.

12-31-2005 21:19:48 | More by Foxman
Photo of PopeJonPaul
PopeJonPaul

Oregon

3.9/5  rDev -1.3%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 3 | $

I like dive bars. On a corner in an "upscale ghetto" neighborhood, this place has all the trappings of a dive bar: a pall of cigarette smoke (the part I could live without, really,) barely functioning AC, red felt pool table, crazy lighting (there's the token glass "grape light," and a "meat light" over the back bar,) wood paneling, haphazard decorative elements left over from the 70s. They have a great old 80s-metal jukebox (when was the last time you heard Metal Church in a bar?) with a neon Budweiser sign over it that's been broken to say "dive."

Good taps, all local micros which was nice for tourists like me (Sly Fox, Victory, Yards, Stoudts, etc.) Food was ok, had a chicken sandwich that was worthwhile but the menu is pretty much a bar menu with a couple added entrees. Service was good, nothing fancy though. All in all I liked the place, if you're not into the dirty ol' dive thing it's probably not for you but it's certainly worth a visit.

10-09-2005 16:12:15 | More by PopeJonPaul
Photo of slander
slander

New York

4.08/5  rDev +3.3%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4 | $$

Yes.
It's true.
I drank beers.
In the hot June sun.
In Camden, New Jersey.
For the better part of the day.
In the shadow of a large battleship.
Right across the river from Philadelphia.
Now we were going to need to get some food.
And I had heard about this place Johnny Brenda's.
So I figured maybe grab a bite here and perhaps a beer.
I figured right because we were able to grab a bite, and a beer.
And then we, uh, and then we got on the road and went the hell home.

The loving warmth of the Northern Liberties section is not to be found here. It's considerably more divey, and I'm talking about the 'hood. Um, okay, yeah, inside too. It's a 2 room deal, with a pool table front row center when you come in. Off to your left is a good juke and a neon Budweiser sign modified to read "Dive" (which is just beautiful).
REM's "Finest Worksong" was playing.
Beyond that lies the bar. It's like 2 "L" shaped bars that run together collectively seating 2 dozen. Framed Schmidts ads and posters and an old framed Harley poster, a giant glowing "Ham" light dangles behind the bar, mostly panelled walls, red & white alternate striped floor, pressed tin ceiling, an open grill area behind the bar, 6 bar tables up front and one real table and a pair of bar tables to the rear. We scored the one real table because it was meant to be.
There are 2 blackboards over the bar.
One listing tap selections...
12 taps with a nice focus on the local & regionals (Sly Fox Dopple & Dry Irish Stout, Landmark IRA, Stoudts Hefe & APA, Victory Prima Pils, Flying Fish ESB, Yards Saison & Philly Pale Ale, Weyerbacher Hefe), a retro (PBR), a cider (Woodchuck), a cask offering (Victory Hop Devil), and a few wines.
...and the other listing the food menu...
The shoestring fries were from Crazytown (that's a good thing), and the chicken sandwich was solid except that it came with a clump of spinach on it, which I promptly flicked away.
Psychedelic Furs "The Ghost In You" was playing. "Hey, hello, White Dog", I said, to the large white dog that walked up to me, obviously looking to bogue on my chicken sandwich. "I have some spinach if you're interested..." Cheese said, "It could use more light", and then added, "but they get points for the bathroom which was unexpectedly nice". A nice beer selection and the food was good and all, but I find their sister bar, The Standard Tap, to be considerably more comfortable.

07-09-2005 17:11:52 | More by slander
Photo of gueuzegeek
gueuzegeek

New Jersey

4.45/5  rDev +12.7%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.5

Now that Standard Tap has become the "in" place to go, Johnny Brenda's has replaced it in my book. I always loved Standard Tap, but now, sometimes it is just too crowded and there are more generic people in there than I like in the bars I visit.

Johnny's has all the good things going for it, like great local beers, hand pumps and great food. I had the falaffel (sp) sandwich one time and the grilled Brie another. Perfect for me!!

I think the Philly Pale Ale tastes better over here than at ST for some reason.

The location is really just barely off Delaware Ave (Columbus Blvd) at Frankford and Girard, which was a real shocker to me to see how close it actually was to the Ben Franklin Bridge!! That was great news!

Please do not come here if you are just looking for a new trendy spot and ruin what makes it a great place to me. Please DO come here if you consider yourself a bit left of center and quirkier than the average Joe. This is not a sports bar nor Olde City and let's keep it that way!!!

01-11-2005 17:42:45 | More by gueuzegeek
Johnny Brenda's in Philadelphia, PA
89 out of 100 based on 36 ratings.