Consistency was something we strove for and made famous by our hurry up and wait attitude. I stood outside the train station staring at clouds that lazily strolled passed the moon; Dragons with tiny faces smiled back at me. Jayne Doe was on her way to pick me up and neither of us were on time. We ran on our own schedules that intersected some time around 11 P.M. This included Skinny Pete, who had already hit the bar around 7. He eagerly awaited our arrival. Texts included: “Where are you”, “Hurry up”, “I started at 7”, “Are you ready YET”. Impatient bastard, there was a fine art to our depraved methods!
Two honks and a wave, Jayne pulled up with a smile. “Let’s get moving!” she hollered out the window. I hopped in the car and we took off to find Skinny Pete. “What’s the plan?” I asked hesitantly. “We’re heading to one of his favorite low key places in Philly,” she said grinning. I shrugged my shoulders, it was up to them tonight.
When we arrived, Skinny Pete was leaning against the building taking a long drag of a cigarette. “About time!” he said with a laugh as he tossed the cigarette to the ground. I was at all too familiar crossroad. Barcade was in front of my face gleaming with energy, while Johnny Brenda’s stuck his tongue out at me. The Barbary at the opposite end quietly directed bad bitches in cutoff jeans indoors.
I had passed this building 1000 times in my nightlife travels. The powerful tide of Frankford Avenue pulled me in different directions; it quietly excused Handle Bar each time. “You had no idea this was here, did you?” asked Jayne. “No, and that’s probably the way they like it,” I replied.
We stepped inside and plopped down at the bar. The ceiling had a familiar ancient mosaic ceiling, while rope lights lined the walls. It was simple choices, for simple times. Skinny Pete was a regular at The Handle Bar. He had a deep appreciation for the straightforward things in life. “This is one of my many haunts,” said Pete. Jayne quietly stared around, her head in an apparent daze. At first she appeared quiet and apathetic, then a familiar ‘at home’ look emerged on her face along with a smile.
“Hey Chalk, can we get a shot and beer!” asked Skinny Pete full of energy. The man turned around with a big grin, “Yo, I know someone that works here! I’ll hook you up,” he said sarcastically while tossing a round in front of each of us. The name was familiar; It had rolled around and echoed off the walls of The Barbary…”Chalk, you need to meet Chalk”.
“Did you say Chuck?” I asked Pete.
“No, Chalk,” he replied.
“Like sidewalk chalk?” I asked.
“Yup, you know him?” smiled Pete.
I shook my head collecting my thoughts. Chalk was the name of one of the best bartenders around. People at other bars mentioned his name with the highest regards. I was shocked to have finally met the guy. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, man. I’ve heard nothing but good things,” I said to Chalk. “Well I hope so! I don’t want to know the bad things,” he laughed.
The three of us didn’t have a lot to talk about tonight; we were in good company though. I swirled my whiskey, staring at the Union stickers covering every inch of the large mirror behind the bar. A simple to-the-point liquor collection lined the wall. It contained all the alcohol you needed, instead of wanted. The bar quietly whispered a story to me; One painted by memorabilia that toasted the old world Philadelphia that Fishtown regulars forgot existed not so long ago.
There can be an under appreciation for simplicity sometimes. Trendy habits, ripped stockings, and potent beards paraded around this part of town. Instead, I was being treated to a home for the blue collar; the man who wants a beer and shot for $4. Call it a ‘Citywide’, I called it a happy meal. It’s soul purpose was to make the good times go and conversations drift effortlessly on. The Handle Bar was a safe haven to complain about life, sports, politics, or that hot girl you’re banging on the side.
The bottom line:
|Hours: 11 a.m. – 2 a.m.
Music: Jukebox | DJ
|Price range: $
Accepts Credit Cards: No
|Dance floor: No
Outdoor area: No
Coat check: No
Everything returns to a mathematical formula. Any bar can attempt to feed a divey crowd; as many do. The power of a bar comes from one part simplicity, two parts bartender, and the rest comes down to lighting and crowd. The Handle bar establishes itself with cheap drinks, friendly bar tenders and an eclectic crowd. During the day it caters to Philadelphia’s finest unions, serving as a proud home to many hard working individuals.
1102 Frankford Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19125