You could go all the way down to Center City, fighting traffic, lack of parking and high prices, to drink craft beer and eat freshly cooked food while listening to great live music in an intimate atmosphere.
Or, you could just swing by Croydon. Depending on where you live, you may not even need to get in your car.
Situated right next to the Croydon train station with its hanging wrought-iron sign and stately beige stucco walls, the Dog & Bull stands out amongst the strip malls and older facades on the strip.
“We’re trying to be a little different for the area — a little hip, without having to wear skinny jeans,” laughs general manager Andy Wells.
Wells may have the thick beard and tattoos of a hipster, but he’s no kid trying to follow the latest trends. The 42-year-old was 16 when he started waiting tables and performing in bars. By his 20s, he was alternating between bartending and touring with a band.
His rock star days may be long behind him, but Wells’ current occupation lets him indulge his musical side along with the bar business — and, for Croydon, those two make great bedfellows.
“I’ve been fortunate to be in the business for years,” he said.
A spot like the Dog & Bull, then, is an ideal place for him to use his knowledge — and try out some new ideas.
“I’m a weirdo, and they let me do what I want,” he laughs.
And, it seems, Wells and the owners are on to something. The first Monday of every other month, for instance, draws an “eclectic” Sushi and Kung Fu Night. “Yes, I know it’s a contradiction,” laughs Wells, acknowledging the food from Japan being paired with the Chinese martial arts movies playing silently on the bar’s TVs while a live band performs.
But it’s a hit, much like the Dog & Bull’s cigar night, held on opposite first Mondays on the back patio. As the weather gets chilly, the regulars lovingly refer to it as The Polar Bull Beer Drinking Club, but the bar has space heaters to keep the cigar aficionados warm — and plenty of prime rib to keep them full.
The idea came from cigar and whiskey dinners, only Wells dispatches steak cuts instead of bourbon. “We’re starting to see the trend of good food being compared to good beer,” he said.
And, both of those are in abundance at the Dog & Bull. Wells is proud to say that there’s neither a fridge nor a microwave at the establishment — “Everything’s made fresh every day, even the french fries. I don’t know how he does it all,” said Wells of the chef, Max Schindler — and not a single domestic brew on tap.
“It’s amazing,” said Wells. “I went from bars selling 50 cases of Miller or Yuengling a week to maybe three here.”
Instead, the Dog & Bull focuses on well-known craft brews from around the world along with local gems. “Neshaminy Creek Brewing is right around the corner so we have them here 24/7,” he offered.
But if the heart and soul of the Dog & Bull isn’t in its patron’s stomachs, it’s on the stage. Wells admits it can be challenging to book great acts in a place so small it fits only 12 bar stools. The best bands want to play bigger places for more money, but, he points out, the atmosphere draws great performers who are willing to trade a bigger payout for an intimate vibe.
He rattles off great bands that come through: jazz artists like Kelly Vale and Mischa Machez, and rock and acoustic-based acts like Pop Fiction and Mike Estabrook.
“It doesn’t get too loud here, you can still have a conversation in the back,” pointed out Wells. “It’s got a homey feel, like hanging out with your buddies.”
The Dog & Bull is located at 810 Bristol Pike in Croydon. For information, call 215-788-2855 or visit www.dogandbullhouse.com.••