Taps: 12 / Bottles:
Cask: Y / Beer-to-Go: N
Ratings: 36 | Reviews: 25 | Display Reviews Only:
4.08/5 rDev +3.3%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4 | $$
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
3.68/5 rDev -6.8%
vibe: 3.75 | quality: 3.75 | service: 3.5 | selection: 3.75 | $$
I knew about Johnny Brenda’s as beer-focused bar but didn’t know it has an active program of live music. There we went to enjoy singer-songwriter Greg Laswell play his mellow songs on a Saturday night.
Brenda’s is a rather massive endeavor, an entire building with three floors and several bar areas. The ground-floor bar was busy and super loud, not a pleasant place to hang out (call me old, I don’t care). Lucky for us, the second floor (where the stage is) was much quieter and cozier. They have a photo-booth! Sadly, the sound system was atrocious, and Laswell’s smooth, whispery tunes were almost lost.
The beer is good, though. The bar we were at near the stage had 10 taps of all-local/regional stuff, including SlyFox, Neshaminy, Flying Fish Exit 16 and Exit 1, Golden Monkey, PBC Kitty Pleasure, Troegs, Weyerbacher, Brew Works. Service was alright but not great (slow bartender, slammed bar before the concert) and prices are acceptable.
Would I return? Probably not... Kraftwork is only a five-minute walk away and it suits me better.
03-19-2014 15:20:55 | More by DoubleSimcoe
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
4/5 rDev +1.3%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4 | $$
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.
04-29-2011 19:52:56 | More by Rifugium
3.66/5 rDev -7.3%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 3.5 | $$
This is a nice bar/ concert venue in the Fishtown section of Philadelphia. I never tried the food here but go to lots of concerts here. Local promoters R% bring a lot of good band here for less than $20 so I am here a lot. The selection is focused mainly on local beers all served on-tap. Every once in a while they get special one-off and have cask-conditioned ales. Also, they have pool tables which are always nice to find in the city. The service is decent but again I never ate here just had drinks at the bar. A little out of the way but a cool place to xcatch a good show and drink good beers.
12-04-2008 07:52:04 | More by corby112
4.03/5 rDev +2%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4 | $$
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.
07-03-2012 00:41:37 | More by orangesol
3.35/5 rDev -15.2%
vibe: 3 | quality: 3 | service: 3 | selection: 4 | food: 4 | $$
Poked in here after the infamous Firkenteenth at the Grey Lodge. Johnny Brendas seems like a kick ass beer bar that caters to LOCAL BREWS especially on tap (like the Standard Tap) predecessor, but aside from that, kudos ends.
The joint is dingy (which is not always to a fault) but this joint coulda used a mop and bucket so to speak, especially referring to the clientele.
The lone tender on a Friday night did his best. Pool tables abound. As far as the bathrooms go, this doesn't pass the "Would you bring your Mom here test?" NO!!!
Shoestring fries rocked. Great local selection. If you are in the hood then go. Otherwise, speck out elsewhere. Just my humble honest opinion. Fits in well with the neighborhood, but that's is the inherent downturn. Philly is a city of 100 great beer bars. Being one of them is a haul, but not that steep of a hill to climb.
Last call: Been here again a few times since my first review. Good locals and
10-21-2004 05:30:30 | More by blitheringidiot
4/5 rDev +1.3%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4 | $$
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.
07-21-2009 15:37:47 | More by Seanibus
Johnny Brenda's in Philadelphia, PA
89 out of 100 based on 36 ratings.