The first time I walked into the South Philadelphia Taproom for dinner, I noticed Temple paraphernalia decorating every surface. An Owl football helmet graced the top bar shelf, while a red foam “#1” finger pointed skyward. However, one poster made my greedy little heart beat with happiness. Tuesday nights, it proclaimed, “$1 Yuengling Lagers and Miller Lites with Temple ID.” Now that, I thought, is a special sure to thrill any thirsty, impoverished college student.
“What’s the Temple connection?” I wondered. Only an owner would be able to spread all his college nostalgia around so prominently. Questioning the bartender led me to John Longacre, a graduate of the Fox School of Business. Unlike so many restauranteurs who dream their whole lives of running a corner bar, Longacre was an economics major whose primary business is in real estate development. He got a great deal on the property on Mifflin Street and it came with a liquor license. He thought: Why not? Longacre freely admitted that, “Except for bartending in college, I knew nothing about the restaurant business.” Even though he stumbled into the biz sideways, Longacre forged ahead and ended up gutting the place to turn it into the cozy, brick-walled Taproom it is now.
When I asked him why Temple students should come to his establishment, Longacre listed a variety of reasons, from the fact that they have 75 beers to choose from, fun food like quesadillas and smothered chicken, three TVs and, in his opinion, the best jukebox around. I didn’t evaluate the jukebox, but all the rest is true. The Taproom has a wide range of microbrews and imports, and tasty bar food. The creamy crab and spinach dip I shared with my mom was impressively rich in crab.
The big, juicy burgers are homemade, not those perforated frozen hockey pucks. An order of fries is generous enough to feed a small family. The only beef I have with the Taproom is the absence of dessert. I know, I know, it’s a bar. They could keep some Tastykakes and ice cream around for fat kids like me, though. The bartenders are friendly, and it’s not a fake, “I-want-a-big-tip” kind of friendly, either. One bartender, Totti, even offered me his Hershey bar when I whined over the lack of sugar. That’s hospitality, let me tell you.
Prices are extremely reasonable; complete dinner entrees are around $12, and domestic beers about $2.75 regularly. The Wednesday Temple special also includes half-price menu items – this means you could get a righteous homemade bacon cheeseburger for $3 and a lager for $1 to wash it down. Tip $2, and you have just had a meal that beats the heck out of the garbage in the Student Center for about the same cost.
Longacre mused over the nature of Temple University and its students when I asked him why he thought his place was different from every other bar.
“Even though the Taproom isn’t around the corner, it’s like an extension of the University … I take all kinds of heat for all my T.U. stuff everywhere. Temple isn’t like a traditional school where everyone lives on campus. Temple students live throughout the city – the city is your campus.” Take note, hungry Temple readers: John Longacre wants you at the South Philadelphia Taproom. And don’t forget your ID.
Felicia D’Ambrosio can be reached at Caspian@temple.edu.