Despite falling victim to an armed robbery last December, Fishtown’s Loco Pez still has its dedicated regulars – lovingly dubbed “Pezheads” – and inquisitive newcomers.
“The neighborhood was great,” General Manager Sergio Ruiz said. “People came out the day after the incident occurred and were extremely supportive.”
The cash-only bar and taquería, located at 2401 E. Norris St., was named the 12th best bar of 2013 in Philadelphia by Foobooz. The establishment not only draws Fishtown locals and college students, but also the occasional child.
“It was funny, when we first opened we didn’t think that we were sort of a family restaurant, but there are a lot of young families that move into the area – there were a lot of highchairs in the restaurant at one point,” Ruiz said with a laugh, highlighting the numerous families that come with toddlers in tow, although the hotdogs at Loco Pez are presumably not the boiled and sliced type.
The “street dog,” a hotdog wrapped in bacon and topped with pico de gallo, jalapenos, beans, ketchup, mayonnaise and mustard, pays homage to the Los Angeles street-inspired menu.
Loco Pez is a rough translation of “crazy fish,” which is a take on the name of the bar that used to occupy the space: Crazy Fish Saloon.
The name and its translation are playfully reinforced inside Loco Pez, with a fish tank surrounded by Pez dispensers – and some bottles of tequila – behind the bar.
The Pez dispensers aren’t the only vintage attribute. The décor adds ambiance with some classic Philadelphia sports team banners, all wrapped in gritty Los Angeles overtones.
“It’s a place where people come to really feel at home,” said Graham Gernsheimer, an assistant manager at Loco Pez.
All of the old-school knickknacks, including a recently purchased Metallica pinball machine, add to the quirky domestic feel that keeps Pezheads coming back for “feliz hora” for margaritas and nachos.
Ruiz and Gernsheimer said both the drinks and the food are equally coveted.
“It’s really right down the middle,” Gernsheimer said. “We have a large drinking contingent, and similarly we have a lot of people travel here just for the food. It’s a nice hybrid of the two.”
Owner Joe Beckham bought the space a little more than three years ago, and Ruiz and Gernsheimer said Fishtown has proven to be an ideal location for Loco Pez.
“Fishtown has been going through a renaissance for the past 10 years or so,” said Gernsheimer, a resident of the area for about six years. “Between us and a number of other establishments in the area, and the arts scene and music— we’ve really seen a change in the neighborhood prior to our opening and since we’ve opened.”
Although Fishtown seems to embrace Loco Pez, Beckham recently closed his other Philadelphia bar and restaurant, Alfa, located on Walnut Street, citing “skyrocketing rents on Walnut Street” in a comment on the restaurant’s Facebook page.
“We’re not sure what will be in its place, but it will most likely be a corporate store [of] some sort,” Beckham added.
Doors closed after a final New Year’s Eve celebration, marking the last hurrah for Alfa as nearby stores for brands such as Apple and Burberry remain on Walnut Street. Ruiz said Beckham’s plan is to focus solely on Loco Pez for the time being, as Alfa’s livelihood came to an end as new stores continue to create hustle and bustle for shoppers in Center City.
“I think what makes [Loco Pez] stand out is the really relaxed environment,” Ruiz said.
Kerri Ann Raimo can be reached at Kerriann.firstname.lastname@example.org.