When restaurant mogul Stephen Starr brought plans for a $1.5 million German-style beer garden to Fishtown last year, the project received an overwhelming vote of neighborhood support.
But, then for months, little was known about the project after it received approval from residents in a meeting held by the Fishtown Neighbors Association in March of last year.
Have no fear, because after more than a year of preparation, the 100,000-square-foot formerly vacant industrial structure at 1208-1214 Frankford Ave. — directly across the street from the popular Johnny Brenda’s restaurant — opened yesterday.
This weekend, the newly opened Frankford Hall will host a gala opening weekend with live music.
“This was an abandoned building for 20 years,” said Crystal Wang, account coordinator for New York City-based Bullfrog and Baum, the company that handles all of Starr’s PR moves, as she toured the new eatery on Friday, May 13.
The new restaurant is a German-style beer garden, with lots of outdoor seating — rows of picnic tables will seat about 240 patrons in an open-air gravel courtyard — and 160 indoor seats.
There will also be two pingpong tables outside.
It’s all surrounded by three bars — one indoor and two outside — that will offer nine taps of, primarily, traditional beers imported from Germany.
“All of our drafts are German-style except for three,” said Josh Mann, Frankford Hall’s beverage manager.
Along with the rotating taps, there is a huge cooler for 50 kegs and a wide variety of bottled beers — 70 percent of which, Mann said, are imports.
The tap system itself, said Mann, is advanced and it actually cleans itself thanks to a special system of radio waves that kills any bacteria that builds in the beer lines. Of course, he said, the system would also be flushed regularly, but the advanced radio wave cleaning system, he said, is intended to keep beer tasting as crisp and clean as possible.
“This is the most state of the art system available,” he said. “It’s constantly self-cleaning.”
Mann said the idea of the beer garden was to bring as much German culture as possible to the new establishment.
This idea is also reflected in all the food available at Frankford Hall. Food will be served from a walk-up kitchen that will allow diners to place their order and then take their seats; food runners will bring the meals to the patrons when it’s ready.
As to the food itself, Wang said the meals are all very German-inspired, with a wide array of sausages — bratwurst, weisswurst and Kasefrainer, to name a few — and salads, sauerkraut, schnitzel, spaetzle with gravy, Bavarian bread dumplings, fries with curry ketchup and rotisserie chicken.
There will also be servers walking around Frankford Hall offering pretzels to hungry patrons.
“I think the focus here is socializing and keeping it simple,” said Wang.
Just as presented last year, Frankford Hall emulates the 101-year-old Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden in Astoria, New York City.
There are also elements –— like the huge steel doors that remain from the original structure — that are intended to retain Philadelphia’s historic fabric and industrial feel.
“We wanted to feature the new and the old,” she said.
Much like the original beer gardens built in Munich, Germany, Wang said the new beer garden would be a neighborhood-friendly destination.
Even though there will be music — live this weekend, but otherwise it would be recorded music over an in-house speaker system — played in the outdoor area, which is surrounded by 25-foot, ivy-covered walls, Wang said that the team at Starr Restaurants brought in sound technicians to ensure noise from the establishment wouldn’t impact the surrounding neighborhood.
“This is neighborhood friendly,” she said, as a soft music played overhead as workers toiled to prepare for the opening on Tuesday, May 17. “It will only be about at loud as it is now.”
While a large percentage of the new Frankford Hall is open-air, Wang said Frankford Hall will be open year-round.
Plans aren’t final, but she said the restaurant is planning on adding some type of heating system to allow the outdoor area to be utilized year round.
If worse comes to worse, the indoor area can operate separately from the outdoor area by closing glass-paned garage doors.
“We expect some sort of heating,” she said. “But right now, we are concentrating on opening. It’s going to be great.”
Finally, last year, some residents expressed concerns over parking in the area due to the influx of customers to Frankford Hall. There will be valet parking available to keep parking concerns to a minimum.
Frankford Hall will be open on weekdays from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. and weekends from noon to 2 a.m.