Full menu, table service and real glasses at the Memphis beer garden this year

Full menu, table service and real glasses at the Memphis beer garden this year

Chaucee Stillman

Big changes at Kensington’s Memphis Taproom: The beer garden’s better!

Why the city’s OG outdoor brew haven switched things up in 2017.

danya

If you love Memphis Taproom’s beer garden and also love the Kensington gastropub’s full menu, good news. This year, you’ll be able to have both at the same time. Plus, whatever dishes you order will be brought out directly to your seat. And you’ll be able to choose from any beer on the tavern’s extensive list, and have it served in a real glass.

This is a major shift in policy for the city’s OG beer garden.

Since the backyard patio’s launch, eating options there had been restricted to the menu at its stationary food truck — mostly hot dogs of various types, plus a fried veggie dish or two and other snacky sides. Beer choice was also restricted to cans only (no glass outside). All of this was served over the counter, so you’d order and then do your best to make it back to the picnic table without dropping anything along the way.

But when the beer garden opens for the season on Saturday, April 22, the restrictions will no longer apply.

That’s because Memphis has new owners. Who are also the old owners. Founding partners Ken Correll and Paula Decker have bought out former co-owners Brendan Hartranft and Leigh Maida.

Correll, who also started up an operation called Diverse Catering in 2008, said he was excited about the change.

“Catering is a young man’s business,” said the 53-year-old publican. He’ll still do weddings and keep up with clients at Penn, he said, but in general, “my work hours will be spent running Memphis.”

In addition to trying out table service and real glassware in the beer garden, he’s working on installing a roof of corrugated metal, so the space is usable if it rains. That might not happen this year, he noted, but it’s definitely in the works. And though he’s happy with how things run at Memphis — which is still popular as ever, even though it’s no longer the only hip spot in the area — there may be other tweaks coming.

The ownership change is especially notable because although Correll had been involved with the bar since its start, Hartranft and Maida were the its public faces.

Memphis Taproom was the first restaurant the pair opened together, leading to a string of beer-focused, veg-friendly neighborhood restaurants around the city. They notched a place in Philly fried chicken history with the bird at Resurrection Ale House in Grays Ferry (now Devil’s Pocket), and tried to get Philly to embrace Montreal-esque hospitality at Bella Vista’s shuttered Coeur. As of right now, they run three successful spots: Local 44 and its adjacent bottle shop in West Philly, Strangelove’s in Center City and Clarkville in Cedar park.

Why divest from their first endeavor? Some things in their lives are different — they are no longer together as a couple, for instance — and it was time for a change, per Hartranft.

“The past nine years have been go go go,” he said. “I don’t want to run out of steam. I’m trying to have more time to spend with my kids, and also more time to focus on Local, Clarkville and Strangelove’s.”

But there’s no ill will between them and Correll — far from it. Hartranft and Maida still have Correll’s ear, and will help out with advice when needed.

“Ken’s making the decisions he thinks will take Memphis in a positive direction,” Hartranft said, “and that’s great. It will always have a special place in my heart.”