Northeast Times

Fishtown’s Anthony’s Café treasures past, welcomes present

Fishtown writer Greg Pacana ex­plains what's in store for the old­est fam­ily-owned bar in Fishtown.

Like many Phil­adelphia neigh­bor­hoods, Fishtown has ex­per­i­enced a renais­sance of sorts in the past few years. 

Part of this re­birth has been an in­fu­sion in­to the neigh­bor­hood of young­er people look­ing for more than what the tra­di­tion­al corner bar has to of­fer.

This new gen­er­a­tion of bar pat­ron wants a wider se­lec­tion of beer choices (like craft beers and mi­cro­brews), a more di­verse food menu, and DJs or live mu­sic in­stead of juke­box tunes. As a res­ult, older bars like An­thony’s Caf&ea­cute; in Fishtown are be­com­ing scarce.

With such a far-reach­ing and vi­brant his­tory, though, An­thony’s isn’t dis­ap­pear­ing—it’s grow­ing and ad­apt­ing, just like Fishtown.

An­thony’s Caf&ea­cute;, at 319 E. Gir­ard Ave., has been serving pat­rons, spon­sor­ing loc­al ath­let­ics and act­ing as a com­munity gath­er­ing place for over sixty-five years. That makes An­thony’s, the own­er­ship of which spans three gen­er­a­tions, the old­est fam­ily-owned bar in Fishtown.

The Zysk fam­ily has owned the bar since 1947 when Mary Zysk, a first-gen­er­a­tion Pol­ish im­mig­rant, pur­chased it. She named the tav­ern after her hus­band Ant­o­nio (“An­thony”). Mary’s son, An­thony (also known as George) took over with his wife Ag­nes in the 1960s. 

Mary’s grand­son, Joey, as­sumed own­er­ship in the early 90s. Joey Zysk had been tend­ing bar in his fam­ily’s caf&ea­cute; since he was eight­een. Joey’s older sis­ter Ar­lene, who also ten­ded bar as a teen, still lives above the Caf&ea­cute; with her hus­band Pat Hart and their son Daniel. 

Joey’s own­er­ship of the bar has al­ways fo­cused on fam­ily and friends. His child­hood friends Greg Fox, Ricky Spross, and Billy Spross are still tend­ing bar at An­thony’s twenty years after they all at­ten­ded high school to­geth­er.

An­thony’s has also al­ways played a ma­jor role in the Fishtown com­munity, and has donated to loc­al char­it­ies and sponsored many loc­al youth and adult ath­let­ic leagues.

As times changed and the land­scape of the bar busi­ness shif­ted, Joey and the Zysk fam­ily de­cided to make a grace­ful exit. For­tu­nately for Joey, one of his lifelong friends, Kenny Hep­worth, a former part­ner of the Good Time Tav­ern on York Street, was in the mar­ket for a bar of his own. 

Kenny’s vis­ion of a Fishtown bar was very sim­il­ar to Joey’s. Kenny was not look­ing to re­in­vent An­thony’s—he wanted to main­tain the his­tory and tra­di­tion of the bar while bring­ing in more pat­rons. 

He has wasted no time in im­ple­ment­ing his new ideas. The beer taps are op­er­a­tion­al for the first time in three years. There is now a DJ every Fri­day and Sat­urday after 9 p.m., and sev­er­al bands have per­formed live. Kenny is also work­ing on host­ing guest or celebrity bar­tenders, im­ple­ment­ing karaoke and the pop­u­lar Quizzo trivia nights, and most re­cently, he an­nounced the first-an­nu­al An­thony’s Beer Olympics, to be held later this month.

For those who loved the old An­thony’s Caf&ea­cute;, it’s not go­ing any­where. And for those who are look­ing for a fresh take on an old fa­vor­ite, Kenny Hep­worth prom­ises you will not be dis­ap­poin­ted.

An­thony’s Caf&ea­cute; is open Monday through Sat­urday from 9 a.m. un­til 2 a.m., and on Sunday from 11 a.m. un­til mid­night.

Give them a call at 215-634-0981.

Greg Pacana is a writer liv­ing in Fishtown. He can be reached at gp­pacana@ya­hoo.com. 

You can reach at gpacana@bsmphilly.com.

comments powered by Disqus