Let the Honky Tonk Roll On, Come Mornin’ I’ll Be Gone, I’m Goin’ To Memphis, Yeah…

Yeah, our Memphis ain’t the one that Johnny Cash longed for, and there ain’t no Honky and surely no Tonk goin’ on, but Philadelphia’s new Memphis Taproom was the place to be this past week and yesterday, in company of Big Dan, Mr. and Mrs. Rubeo and designated driver Cruella the Wonderful, I got to make my initial visit. Unfortunately, things were a bit off-kilter at first, because The Loud Man was there when we arrived, his second visit since Memphis opened last Tuesday night (for him, it turns out, free parking ranks right up there with good beer as an attraction). Each Big Lew Guffaw sent nervous locals scurrying away from the door before entering, so we had no real idea of the popularity of the place until he rushed off home.

After that, the crowds came and we were able to settle in and enjoy the beer and grub and, a highlight for me at least, watch Spanky Hartranft, a true artist behind the bar, ply his trade, catching every eye as a new arrival walked in, selling the beer without pushing it, telling stories and just generally having the time of his life doin’ what it is that he does. Leigh Maida (Mrs. Spanky, as she once introduced herself to me, “but I have my own identity too”) was rushing about, helping to keep things under control and the whole staff seemed really into it all.

We were all over the Sprecher Black Bavarian, one of the best black lagers I’ve ever tasted, but at $4 a pint for all draughts (a price Spanky says he’ll hold as long as he can, but that can’t be too long, I’d imagine), the Poperings Hommelbier was damned hard to resist as well. Like that Bryson fella, I had me the King Rarebit, which was most delicious. I wanted to try the Port Richmond platter or the Kielbasa Hoagie, but a man can only eat so much. Steve and Dan each ordered a bowl of the Buckwheat Chili and when the former’s came out well before the latter’s and Spanky came over to apologize for the delay, Dan immediately responded that “as long as I can fill my glass with $4 pints, take all the time you need.”

At one point, the place started taking on the aura of that legendary street corner in Singapore where, they say, everybody you know in the whole wide world will eventually pass by if you wait long enough. Aside from Lew and and a passel of his homebrew buddies who had all been at the Manayunk Fest, I got to pass time with Bill Barton, who was doing a delivery of Philadelphia Brewing Company beers (Kenzinger is far and away the best seller, he reported, with my favorite, Rowhouse Red, second); Eddie Friedland, who was dining with his family in the back room, and America’s Sweethearts, Suzy Woods, still recovering from her 30th birthday bash Thursday night, and Chris LaPierre, still recovering in general.

A good time, all in all, and I have to say, for all those out in the ‘burbs who tremble and pull the covers over their heads at even the thought of going to Port Richmond, there were sure a lot of nice new townhouses all over the area, plus clean streets and a good vibe. Man up, folks.

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