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Johnny Brenda's

Not Rated.
Johnny Brenda'sJohnny Brenda's
BA SCORE
89
very good

37 Ratings
Ratings: 37
Reviews: 25
rAvg: 3.93
pDev: 11.2%
Taps: 12
Bottles: 0
Cask: Y
Beer-to-Go: N
[ 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
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Ratings: 37 | Reviews: 25 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of brnmc922
5/5  rDev +27.2%

brnmc922, Feb 13, 2014
Photo of ChuckAmok
4.5/5  rDev +14.5%

ChuckAmok, Dec 30, 2013
Photo of gueuzegeek
4.45/5  rDev +13.2%

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!!!

gueuzegeek, Jan 11, 2005
Photo of gdfan47
4.33/5  rDev +10.2%

I love music, this is my new favorite small place to see a show (puts the khyber to shame)

same owners and standard tap, they have live music and dj's upstairs and downstairs is a giant bar with tables
the people that work here are nice

It is owned by the same people who own standard Tap, the food is pretty good and cheap

the beer selection while good and ecclectic, sometimes doesnt always taste that great upstairs ( I dont know if they clean their lines as much as they need to)

they have cool seaonals from Local Philly breweries and arent afraid to throw some weird stuff on too

def like this place alot better than the khyber and the north star

gdfan47, Dec 07, 2008
Photo of NeroFiddled
4.33/5  rDev +10.2%

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!!!!

NeroFiddled, Nov 05, 2006
Photo of rotsaruch
4.3/5  rDev +9.4%

During a visit to Standard Tap, maybrick, Jack Curtin and I met with William Reed one of the co-owners who gave us tour of the new and improved upstairs area, including the new outdoor deck. We also talked about their new establishment in the Fishtown area called Johnny Brenda's. Since it was only a short distance away, we decided to give it try.

It is definitely located in a blue-collar neighborhood at a pretty busy intersection. It's a small place with one bar-size pool table and juke box (no TVs). According to our lovely barmaid, who gifted us a round of brews, it has been open since late 2003 with a similar theme of Standard Tap of serving only local/regional mircobrews. There were 12 taps and one beer engine. There is bar seating for about 25 to 30 people with some tables and chairs. One of the cool features is an open-air kitchen area adjacent to the bar. The menu is simple, but unusual for such a bar in such a neighborhood. Paul Kimport's influence on the menue at Standard Tap shines through at Johnny Brenda's. No hambergers or steak sandwiches. How about grilled octopus!!! An absolutely marvelous, marinated, delicious beauty.Thank you William and Paul for continuing to spread the good word on quality brews, great food at some really reasonable prices.

rotsaruch, Feb 08, 2004
Photo of JCB905PA
4.25/5  rDev +8.1%

JCB905PA, Mar 04, 2014
Photo of PopeDX
4.25/5  rDev +8.1%

Mmm, Johnny Brenda's, the sister joint to Standard Tap. It shares many of the same characteristics...local beers on tap only, and an eclectic menu. There's typically different beer and different food than the ST though, so it's not exactly the same thing. About 12 taps and 2 casks, all rotated frequently and nice and fresh. They have PBR on tap as well...yeah it's brewed by the Lion, so technically it's local...but it seems out of place, like they're trying to attract a hipster crowd. The service here is very good...friendly and fast, as well as knowledgeable.

The food is just as good as the Standard Tap, if not better. The fries are probably the best in the city, right up there with Grace Tavern at least, and the other offerings are all solid. The hummus and falafel sandwich is a great item that will please everyone. The kitchen is right in the middle of the bar as well, you can watch them cooking...always a plus...not because I don't trust them, but because it's fun.

It's really in a dingy neighborhood, though...maybe they're hoping it'll go through a renaissance like Northern Liberties did. I wouldn't hold my breath. It's pretty much a drive from anywhere, though it is a few blocks from the Girard station on the El (blue subway line). There's no other bars within walking distance, except maybe a long walk to Northern Liberties through some shady neighborhoods. It is close to the Girard Street exit of 95. Oh, and it's closed on Sunday, beware.

If you're local and looking for some place new to go, or happen to be slumming around in your car, bored, JB's is a great place to go. Otherwise I'd probably stick to Northern Liberties. Ooh, and if you go, be sure to check out the altered Budweiser neon over the jukebox. Describes the place pretty well...

PopeDX, Dec 29, 2004
Photo of roan22
4.22/5  rDev +7.4%

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!

roan22, May 04, 2006
Photo of Foxman
4.22/5  rDev +7.4%

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.

Foxman, Dec 31, 2005
Photo of rdrummer
4.22/5  rDev +7.4%

Ever since I read a review of this in the Inquirer, I have been trying to get here to give it a try. I am a big fan of Standard Tap, and Johnny B's has the same owners. There are an upper and lower bar with an open kitchen that is behind the upper bar. The lower bar has a pool table and a really eclectic jukebox. This a blue collar, working man's area of the city, which can be proven by going to any other bar in the area. The atmosphere of Johnny B's fits in but not the menu or beer selection.

The beer concept is the same as a Standard. There is only draft beer, and all the selections but the ubiquitous PBR are local (Yuengling's is debateably local.) There are 12 taps in all with two hand pumps. Yards ESA and Sly Fox East Kent were the casks on the hand pumps. There was a really good selection with Dogfish Head, Stoudt's, Sly Fox, and Yard's all represented. The beer is served at the proper temperature and service is quick and good.

The menu is very small considering the open kitchen, but it has some really unusual things on it, including grilled octopus and a mushroom cigar (which is a cheesy, mushroom mixture in a light pastry dough). I would have prefered a little more choice, and perhaps there is more choice at dinner time. All in all, another great place to kick back and enjoy some good beer and some fun conversation.

rdrummer, Apr 25, 2004
Photo of slander
4.08/5  rDev +3.8%

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.

slander, Jul 09, 2005
Photo of jrancan
4.08/5  rDev +3.8%

It's very early on, and I'm sure that they haven't gotten everything together, but I figured I'd be the first to give it a shot.
The second offering from the owners of Standard Tap, Johnny Brenda's (the name kept from the original owner who was a local boxer, I think?), is definitely trying to do more of the same. No bottles, only locals on tap (12 or so, which is more than S.T.) and a funky atmosphere with the molded ceilings and edgey locale. No food yet but they are working on the open air kitchen.
Funny atmopshere, on the edge of the 'hood (some people would say it's smack dab in the middle).
Really nothing else in the vicintiy, so I'm guessing that the owners are hoping that the area is up and coming, like the nearby Northern Liberties (which I think they had something to do with).
Two long blocks down, and two short blocks over from Standard Tap, this is an interesting try, but not yet a must go to.

jrancan, Oct 12, 2003
Photo of orangesol
4.03/5  rDev +2.5%

Our final stop in the area was Johnny Brenda's. Heard a lot of good things about this place so I was looking forward to checking it out.

We got seated in the corner downstairs at a large table. Draft and Food menu right above our table. Place was pretty dead but it was a sunday. Pretty good draft list but nothing over the top. Service was decent, he came around enough I guess. I decided to go with the grilled caesar salad and two cheddar biscuits on the side. Salad was ok, could have skipped the whole deconstructed thing and just given me a real salad, but the biscuits were even better.

Overall a place I will definitely return to at some point. I am really looking forward to checking out the other areas this place has to offer.

orangesol, Jul 03, 2012
Photo of Rifugium
4/5  rDev +1.8%

Located at Frankford & Girard. For a small concert/show venue, this place has a mighty good beer selection of mostly local Philly / PA brews, and three quality bars--one on each floor including the balcony. Not a HUGE selection; about 12 rotating draughts, and all good beer, with typically one or two cask-conditioned brews. The food is fairly decent overall, and the menu seems to be improving. If you have some coin to spare, the brisket is probably the best thing on the menu, and the steak sandwich is damn tasty. Definitely worth going to early if you're seeing a show there. Friendly and knowledgeable staff.

Because of the atmosphere and the beer selection, I think it's safe to say this is my favorite venue.

Rifugium, Apr 29, 2011
Photo of Seanibus
4/5  rDev +1.8%

A pleasantly divey little treasure in a defiantly scruffy neighborhood. The atmosphere is rough, with an old-timey corner bar out front, a bland dining room in the back and a strange, dark little nook in between featuring tables embedded with shifting colored lights. The food is good, if relatively basic (I really liked the Cuban sandwich, the smoked salmon was less successful). The beer list is terrific, with a dozen or so well thought out selections, including when we visited Weyerbacher's Echo and Troeg's Nugget Nectar. There is even a decent, if limited, wine list. Service is perky and friendly.

Seanibus, Jul 21, 2009
Photo of InspectorBob
4/5  rDev +1.8%

InspectorBob, Feb 26, 2014
Photo of GeoffreyM
4/5  rDev +1.8%

GeoffreyM, Oct 21, 2013
Photo of cdaguanno
4/5  rDev +1.8%

cdaguanno, Jun 18, 2014
Photo of NYR_Rob
4/5  rDev +1.8%

NYR_Rob, May 26, 2014
Photo of soulcougher
4/5  rDev +1.8%

soulcougher, Jun 04, 2014
Photo of seanchai
4/5  rDev +1.8%

seanchai, Dec 31, 2013
Photo of DarkerTheBetter
3.95/5  rDev +0.5%

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.

DarkerTheBetter, Aug 29, 2006
Photo of PopeJonPaul
3.9/5  rDev -0.8%

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.

PopeJonPaul, Oct 09, 2005
Photo of BARFLYB
3.88/5  rDev -1.3%

Went here for a music 'event' and some local beer. I've been meaning to stop here forever.

From the outside Johnny's looks like your average run of the mill Philly corner bar and to an extent, it is, but they serve great local beer. Downstairs is a bar area with pool table intact, about 15 bar seats, in the back a more relaxed seating area with i guess table service. Upstairs another bar but a bit smaller, with the stage area towards the left and a small pit holding about 70-100 patrons or so. Going upstairs again a balcony area with you guessed it, another bar thats smaller than the others. The balcony had about 50 or so people up there. I watched the show (95' hip hop) from here. The place was full of douchbags, but there was some nice trim up in there, although alot of the girls I met had coke running at the bottom of their noses.

I had a bunch of Sly Fox Royal Weisse beers and called it a day. The quality was good that my beer tasted good and not dirty. Cant comment on the rest of the bar though, because from the looks of it, JB's is not the most upkept place. My beer was in a plastic cup but because of the 'show' I understand that, there was some proper glassware there as well.

Service was good for a packed house, no real wait for beer.

The selection is all local beer and that fills a niche in the city because everybody has a import or two wheather it be from Belgium or cali. The farthest I've ever seen this tap list travel is Flying Fish Brewing in Jersey. About 12 taps in total, some cans, some bottles, pretty simple. This place gets the cream of the crop of special local beer releases during Philly Beer Week, once they had four Troegs scratch beers on tap at once (i ccould not attend, kicks rocks, damn you roggenbier, I'll get you someday). Keep it local.

I did not try the food.

BARFLYB, Oct 20, 2010
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Johnny Brenda's in Philadelphia, PA
89 out of 100 based on 37 ratings.